Recently, I posted a blog about the death of my last aunt; it was titled The Last layer of the Onion. We had my aunt’s funeral two weeks before Thanksgiving. It was a beautiful, yet sad event. Of course, there were the tributes you would expect. Many people made comments about how my aunt made a substantial difference in their lives; they wouldn’t be the same person if it hadn’t been for her. I wholeheartedly agree with those comment because she had influence in my life, too. I still recall the first summer I spent in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis is about forty-five miles east of where I grew up in the country outside of Wynne, Arkansas. Aunt Mary moved to Memphis in her early twenties and lived there until her death.
That summer of 1968 I spent in Memphis was the first I had spent time in a place with a population considered to be a big city. I was seventeen years old, and I wanted to work at doing something other than working on somebody’s farm. Aunt Mary was gracious enough to let me spend the summer with her and her family. I was fortunate to find a job working as a customer service representative at an EXXON service station. My job was to provide full service to customers when they drove up to the gas pumps. Besides checking oil, tire pressure and pumping gas, I was also responsible for selling batteries, tires, and other automobile accessories. There were four of us working this job. We were dressed in uniforms, and we provided a level of service you don’t get at the self-service gas stations we see today. The summer of 1968 was just a few months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, at the Loraine Motel in Memphis. As I recall things were calm in Memphis during that summer. I also recall that I was the only African American working at this EXXON service station.
I’ve written a bit about Aunt Mary because I wanted to tell of just one instance where she provided help for me when I needed it. I’ve had other members of my family, aunts, and uncles to do likewise through the years. As I’ve grown older, there have been other people who have stopped along their journey to help me in ways that only they could have. I think most of us can say, especially when you reach my age, that we wouldn’t be who we are today had it not been for people who gave of themselves to help us. Countless numbers those personal game changers are gone now. But you know, they’re still coming. Often, they’re younger now.
This covid-19 year (2021) has been a remarkable one. I could list several things that have defined this year for me: however, I’m not going to. Rather, I would like to ask that you take my assertion at face value and think about the noteworthy things that have happened in your life. As you engage the image-making equipment in your mind, I have no doubt that you’ll understand what I mean. I also think you’ll understand what I mean when I say that my heart feels different this year. I’ll bet yours does, too.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.