When next you walk into your favorite coffee spot and see a table of old men deep in discussion, pause for a moment and realize, there but for the grace of God go you. My old friend Thad Kelly passed away earlier this week, and I drove to Jackson, Mississippi for the memorial service.
On Thursday morning I met three of my oldest friends for coffee at the Hilton Hotel. The first to arrive was Pat McNease. I met Pat when I went to the gym at Murrah High School to sign up for the football team. It was my first day in Jackson. Pat played quarterback and was a team captain. We have been friends ever since.
Next to arrive was Tommy Carpenter, whom I met when I was in the fifth grade and I had just moved to Cleveland, Mississippi from the Panama Canal Zone. Tommy is a year younger than I, and he and his family moved to Jackson two years before I did. The last of our group, Red Moffat, came a little later, limping on a cane as a result of recent knee surgery.
When everyone was present, I started the conversation by asking McNease how it felt to be living his lifelong dream of watching Ole Miss march toward a perfect season. He summed it up in a word—terrified. No matter how well the Rebels are playing, he keeps waiting for the other shoe to fall. He went to the Alabama game in Tuscaloosa, and planned to go to Gainesville for the Florida game. He said that he might be terrified, but he was gonna be there, just in case.
Carpenter and I are MSU graduates, and we bleed maroon and white. The kindest thing said about our dogs was, “What in the hell is wrong with Auburn?” Like Rodney Dangerfield, we just don’t get any respect. One of the few positive things about being picked to finish last in the SEC West, is that anything you do on the win side is more that was expected.
Moffat is not an avid football fan. He’d rather be playing bridge, so he suffered though the football conversation. Once we finished with the pigskin talk, we moved on to the political landscape. Carpenter opened by allowing that while Donald Trump was an arrogant ass with a bad comb-over, he was saying some things that were resonating with a lot of people. McNease, who is just to the left of Che Guevara, replied that Trump only resonated with the right wing nutsos, like the Tea Party.
Pat and I share the opinion that the vast majority of Americans are young and basically happy campers, and do not share the gloom and doom scenarios of the right. After a spirited exchange, we all agreed that it was unlikely that any of us would live to see any of these problems solved, and that our main interest was seeing Social Security and Medicare left alone. Moffat muttered something like, “I’ll double that thought.”
With football and politics resolved, we touched briefly on the current hospital list. With the exception of Thad’s demise, all of our other friends were still on the green side of the grass. Carpenter reported that Kiley Thames had been admitted to the hospital, and that he planned to visit him after coffee. We all wished Grails a quick recovery. The subject of DNR came up, and we all agreed that we were in favor of it, and all had signed the necessary paperwork, but really preferred euthanasia.
On that happy note, it was time for Moffat to go to physical therapy, Carpenter to the hospital, McNease needed to plan his trip to Gainesville, and I headed to Canton to Thad’s funeral. As everyone said goodbye, I think we were all aware that these coffee meetings were becoming “iffier and iffier.” We’re all getting a little long in the tooth.
So the next time you see a table of old men arguing about football or politics, smile to yourself and be thankful that you haven’t reached that stage in life—yet!