Mr. Entertainer Captured Our Hearts
As I opened our door to answer the bell, I saw a man of small physical stature standing there. "Hi," said the older-looking black man "I'm Fred, your new next door neighbor. I just wanted to introduce myself and say nice to meet ya both." He became not only our next door neighbor, but one of our dearest, most cherished friends. We must have looked like a reverse Oreo Cookie trio, but we three never noticed. Fred LOVED jazz---Basie, Sinatra, May, Hampton, Miller, all the old "classic" jazz artists. He loved to hoof it, sing, and tell off-color jokes. We talked baseball---especially the Negro Leagues; about Jazz joints like the Savoy and the Cotton Club in NYC. He had a smile that would melt away any troubles you had on your mind. He LOVED life and lived it fully. He grew up in a time when white America was less accepting and respectful to black men. But he "paid it no mind," as he often said. He just went about his business, securing the friendships and hearts of so very many people. It seemed that Fred was deeply rich in friendships, and love, respect and admiration. We often shared meals together. He loved my chili, homemade soups, and special market bought hotdogs. Fred organized a bunch of his friends to meet each other because he wanted us to feel as blessed as he felt. We met for monthly breakfasts and called ourselves Fred's Angels. We all wore angel pins when we gathered at those breakfasts. He considered mom and me "family" and wanted us in on the discussion when he became ill and what that all would mean. Fred and my mom spoke EVERYDAY. I shoveled his driveway of snow in winter and swept the leaves from his patio in autumn. When the time came to move to hospice care, Fred confused the staff by introducing us as his wife and daughter. We saw him every chance we could, spending time joking, bringing him his favorite bubble bath or ice cream flavor, a photo album of images from the birthday party we threw... Anything to share what we could to bring a smile to his tired, but loving heart. When Fred passed away, a light went out within our souls... I hope he's smiling in Heaven and happily dancin' freely to Frank Sinatra's Street of Dreams.