“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
                                                         Maya Angelou

They buried Abraham Monday. He was 86.

It was the fall of ’75, and with my father down-state, Fenton and Ermine sponsored me into the Knights Of Pythias. Excited, elated, feeling I’d finally arrived, I joined not only the fraternal order so revered by our dad, but an assembly founded on the principle of friendship. It was there that I first met “Al”.

Certain people you notice right away. He had a warmth, a twinkle in his eye, and always wearing black, he walked—No he strode— with a quiet confidence that made his friends feel safe. How lucky was I to be among them!

We had a special bond. Twice my age when our paths first crossed, he was not only a friend, but a father figure. I loved him. Like my Dad, his was a world of black and white; there was no gray. If Al liked you, he LIKED you; if he was your friend, he was not only your friend, but he’d fall on his sword for you.

As life went on—three dozen years, to be exact—-our dynamic never changed. He was a friend, a father figure, and quite often, a confidant. He’d say in but few words what others couldn’t convey in a paragraph.

It was always the same—

Bumping into each other, perhaps at Jack’s, his face would light up, he’d thrust out his arm…and just when I’d think the hand-shake was over, he’d pull me in and kiss me on the cheek.

If my weight was down, if my tie was straight, it would be “It’s good to see you…your Dad would be proud ….” Then, turning to his wife, he’d proclaim the obvious: “Nayome! Did you see who’s here?” “Yes, Al…I see,” she’d reply. Always.

If my weight was up, it’d be different. Glaring, he’d take the back of his hand, tap me twice on the stomach, and muse: “Uh huh…Uh huh.”

He was a man of passion, whether beaming as he watched me win, or staring as I dropped the ball. He’d look at me—sometimes with pride, sometimes with his “You’re better than that” wince—but always with love. Above all else, though, he was a man of incredible loyalty, asking only honesty in return.

“Don’t give me no booshit now,” he’d admonish. (I never did).

I sat in the front row, reflecting…grief tempered by gratitude. Memories flooded my mind, memories of a most beautiful man. I smiled, though. Tears hit my cheek but I smiled, and remembered:

He’d pulled me aside oh so often over the years.…

Like the time of my first lodge dinner dance: “Do you have a place to sit?” he asked. Or when I became an officer, and needed a tuxedo. “I want you to go to my friend,” he insisted. Or the question he’d shoot me in salad days and beyond: “How’s things with you?” All of them—each of the inquiries—was always followed by his same disclaimer: “And don’t give me no booshit now!”

The chapel emptied slowly Monday. Family and friends said goodbye not only to a man they loved, but to a true, chivalric knight— a man whose armor truly would always shine.

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