She is one of the first ladies I met at my new job at Naval Supply Center-Oakland. We were Accounting Technicians that needed some human interaction after working with numbers most of each day. She was the type that could keep you laughing all day long. The only woman that I know would grab a potato chip from your hand just as you were about to put it in your mouth. “Gimmie this and thank you” would be her only comment. Then she would turn around and give you money to go get another bag from the vending machine. The two of you would share along with others during the next break time. Never a dull moment when Mrs. Bryant was at work.
My wife and I became good friends with Mrs. Bryant and her husband, Mr. Bryant. Our musical taste, sports, food and drinks were similar among other traits. We all loved playing bid whist. Over the years, we had some knockdown rise and fly games. We’ve met many other friends and family of theirs. It didn’t take long to find their friends and family to be just as real as anyone who has walked this earth. Yeah…we like to call them “Real People.” The kind that would give you their last dime to see that you had what you needed for whatever. People that you could count on being there for whatever the occasion or circumstance. And oh yeah, Mrs. Bryant could cook and love doing it too.
The Bryant’s always reminded me of home. Both the down-home (Arkansas) of my parents and our beloved Milwaukee. They were a joy and fun just to hang around. We all talked a lot of smack. The houses were always full of laughter. Don’t get me wrong, we were still up on the latest political and social topics. When needed, we could be as serious as an alley cat about our responsibilities to family and mankind. We all could carry on a conversation about any and everything. At the end of it all, we always learned something else about the topic and each other. We still realized that life has a lot to offer when it comes to humor. The love for each other was never forced, it was natural. Eventually, they moved from North Oakland to Sacramento. We would drive to Sacramento to visit on holidays and other occasions. They would come for Bar-B-Ques and affairs to our home in Oakland. Again, always finding time to crank out Bid Whist Boston’s against one another. To say we were competitive players would be an understatement. I moved on to Procurement leaving Mrs. Bryant in Accounting a couple of floors above my new department. Mr. Bryant worked at Alameda Naval Air Station. They both commuted separately to their jobs but loved living in the Sac. Real people, the salt of the earth as they say.
Mr. Bryant was a mason who died of cancer some years back. It was years after he retired from Naval Air Station as a supervisor. He wanted me to join the Masons with him. I refused because I’d seen too many horrifying secret initiation movies. He couldn’t and wouldn’t tell me anything about the initiation process. It just goes to show you where my mind was at the time. It was an honor to be asked, and I should have joined him and his group. I met some of the fellows he grew up with as a kid in Sacramento. Not surprisingly they were friendly people too.
It was sad to see the life being sucked out of such a vibrant individual in the end. Don’t feel sorry for him he took it like a man. The only thing I remember him complaining about was the chemotherapy treatments. He said something like, those treatments are more than a notion. All the energy is sucked out of you afterward. Finally, he lost his battle with cancer. I still miss him.
Ms. Bryant was saddened as one would expect of a widow. That, even though the writing was on the wall. She married another guy, Mr. Coleman. From our perspective, he picked up right where Mr. Bryant left her. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about conversations, Bid Whist, or whatever. The only difference I see is where we all were 49er fans. He showed up with his Oakland Raiders gear. Oh well, you can’t have everything.
A good number of years have passed as time waits for no one. We still drive up to Sacramento on holidays, having gone to Reno, Blues, R&B Concerts together. They continued visiting us at alternate get-togethers to sling those cards in Bid Whist Games. Yep, Coleman brought his own personality to the group despite being a Raider fan. He is “Real People” too. He has also been good for the now Ms. Coleman.
But then, there comes a time. Everybody’s got to go through it. Over the last year, her health began to fail. After a Stroke-Aneurism she started to complain about the taste in all food. Finally, the doctors put her in a hospice status. Her conversation has changed, not too much laughter in her house these days. Joy has been replaced by sorrow. The Bid Whist table hasn’t been used for quite a while. She was bedridden and in occasional pain. There was a sporadic number of people stopping by to see Mrs. Coleman. God took her this week.
Me, always full of words on any occasion, while visiting could not find my voice in her presence. That is primarily why I chose to write this piece. I never imagined it would end in this particular way over the last twenty-seven or so years. Although God selected the day; he left us all to remember when. But then, we all must be aware, our day will come sooner or later. It’s probably just as well that we don’t know when, where or how. Now that it’s happened to Mrs. Coleman, I will say goodbye while whispering in her ear. The same words I whispered to my father as he lay in a casket. “You were real people. I will always remember the good times.” I told my mother and a few others the same thing at their funerals. For me, that is the ultimate compliment, sort of like a lifetime accomplishment for being a nice person. No one needs to tell you. You just know when you have met “Real People.” They don’t come around that often so cherish the ones you know of today. Please keep the surviving Coleman & Bryant family in your prayers.
Peace & Blessing…stay vigilant for our American rights. Make it a 2018 day in which Jesus Christ would be proud of you,
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We are in a continuing effort to publicize my book, Gracie Hall-Hampton, the Arkansas Years 1917-1953. It examines an era of Jim Crow that many in our society may have forgotten occurred against people of color. Meanwhile, we celebrate the publication of my latest and fifth book, Misguided Intentions. Click on the publisher-Authors page at https://outskirtspress.com/MisguidedIntentions
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Copyright 2011 Codis Hampton II, all rights reserved. A bi-weekly blog for your enjoyment