It was about 9 p.m. on Jan. 2, and my wife and I were playing a card game called bullpockey (not the real name but close) with five others in a friend’s big house somewhere in rural Ethel.
This was a motley group that stumbled into friendships years ago when none of us had gray hair and we were all thin and energetic. We played softball, ate and played cards, and watched football games together.
Now, we meet to eat mostly and we are not as thin, nor as energetic, as we used to be.
We have seen our children be born, grow up, get married and bring home grandchildren. We have rallied to one another after the loss of parents, siblings and, in one case, a spouse.
Sitting there that night, I thought about our special bond that has ignored race. My wife and I are the lone African-Americans in the group. Everyone else is white. That dynamic has made all of us sensitive to one another and in the way we look at society.
Time has creased our faces, but it has not dimmed our spirit or how much we care about one another. I did notice, though, that we do take considerably more pills.
Here is a snapshot of my group:
Jim was a co-worker at the old State-Times and Advocate newspapers. He was instrumental in my becoming the first African-American editor at The Advocate. He also was there to help me at one of the most self-destructive moments in my life.
His wife, Denise, has always been one to say whatever is on her mind. Some of her comments can lead you to say “What?” or “Huh?” But if she didn’t do it, we would think something was wrong. She is one of the most giving people I have ever met.
Barbara was a news reporter who generously helped me improve my reporting skills by letting me tag along on some of her assignments. She would later, as an editor, oversee the best news series I ever wrote. Her son, Rusty, now a lawyer, is like an ex-officio member of the group.
We all circled around Barbara a couple years ago when her husband died suddenly and when she got the news that she had a life-threatening illness. We rejoiced when it went away. At last week’s event, she told us that the disease had returned and that she would be getting treatment over the next few months. We will be there for her and pray for her right on through it.
Steve is the owner of the house in Ethel. He can joke with the best of them and has a great way of nudging his wife, Jan, with just the right zinger. He is one of the most unassuming and good-natured people you will meet. I was impressed how, the other day, he said with conviction, “I feel I am blessed to have all of this,” referring to the rural property where we were.
Jan is a great spirit. She laughs and makes us laugh with some of the things she does and says. One that has haunted her for years is the time we were playing a board game that asked her to give the street’s name, as in the name of a street. She said “Yo, bro” as in a “street” name. There is no one sweeter than Jan.
And, the other person is Eva. Well, I married her 31 years ago. She cooks great stuff for the get-togethers, and she is the person who will laugh a lot and who will also offer up some very colorful language at times. I think she likes me a lot.
As for me, I am kept around because I provide a pretty good mess of barbecue ribs.
I have other friend groups, and I enjoy all of them for different reasons. You will read about the others in due time. But, for Jan. 2 and Jan. 3 of 2015, this group was as good as it gets.
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is email@example.com.