Syringes with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are placed on a tray.

“Let’s get together with Robert,” the recent spur-of-the-moment phone call went out. It was the first one like it I had sent out to this circle of friends in more than a year.

While I had met a few times with a professional group of friends, what was planned for this day was quite different. This meeting was going to be with friends that have ties dating back several years before the first moon landing.

Our group is like the quote, “Good friends are like stars, you don’t always see them, but you know they are there.”

Everyone in this group had embraced what we needed to do, because of the deadly COVID-19 threat. We were well-aware of the special toll it had taken in the Black community and especially in our age group.

In fact, we had lost a dear friend to COVID-19 and we all knew a family member or friend's family member who had lost someone to this beastly serial killer.

Aware of those issues, one friend decided that she was not ready to be part of our group that day. We understood and appreciated her reticence. However, in less than 10 minutes, a group of four were on the way. The meeting was set at a local tavern in the mid-afternoon hours to embrace our McKinley High Class of ’72 classmate who had lost his house to fire.

What once was an ordinary thing for us to meet at least once or twice a month for the past 25 to 30 years, had not happened since March 2020, when COVID-19 had wrapped its deadly arms around the world. Social media and phones were the best we had, but that was not what fit us.

There were some preconditions for the group gathering. Each person had to have taken the required COVID-19 vaccinations. One in the group was just days from taking his second shot, so we were good.

The shots were not laced in politics for us. The shots were about life, which does not wear a political party. Each of us encouraged our classmates to get the vaccine.

It was great to see the friendly faces and hear their voices. There was a lot of catching up to do. The laughs were nonstop and louder than normal. Phone calls just don’t rank with face-to-face chatting.

Younger folks sitting at other tables around us took notice of our joy. Heck, this was like an emotional Super Bowl for these old friends.

We laughed about most everything, which caught the interest of folks at another table. They wanted to know more about us. “Who are you?” a young woman asked. And, as usual, we were so happy to tell them how long we had known each other. They were amazed that we had been friends longer than they had been alive. I think they were also amazed that we had most of our teeth.

In another setting, a newspaper reporter interviewed one of our classmates about how she had found out about the date and location of a COVID-19 shot distribution. She responded that her McKinley Class of 1972 has a hotline that gives provides classmates that type of information.

The amazed reporter asked if we still get together after all these years. I wasn’t there, but knowing her, I know my friend smiled proudly when she responded, “Yes.”

We are not just classmates. We are true friends with shared experiences of life, tough economic times and a devotion to beat the hand that was dealt to most of us.

We were so satisfied with our tavern gathering that we scheduled future meetings for the next several months. We expect our circle to grow along the way and, who knows, we may have a big Christmas party.

The late first lady Eleanor Roosevelt pretty much summed up my classmates — no, my friends — this way: “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.”

Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman, at