Kickass, the doorstop dog, yields the floor to the keeper today as he—the keeper sorts through a couple of Black deaths: that of Congressman John Lewis, and the other of Bob Shepard, the keeper’s old Army buddy. a Black life that mattered so immeasurably for so long in the lives of the keeper and his family.
The reaction to Lewis’s death is to pause in respect for his brave and relentless struggle to identify the awfulness of pervasive racism. The keeper’s reaction to Bob’s death is this: Damn you, Shepard, for dying! Damn you for leaving us all in our cocoon of Whiteness after such a long and joyous time when your presence erased racial lines as if they were nothing more than chalk marks for sidewalk hop-scotch!
The heart attack you used to bail out of our cross cultural relationship was incredibly selfish on your part, and to leave us without means of a replacement was downright inconsiderate.
Damn you, Bob Shepard, I loved you like a brother, from the first day on that snowy Korean hillside with artillery fluttering overhead like killer bees, through the Chicago Tribune days and your soul-food campaigns, the halcyon weekends at the Westfield cabin and on to the sad funeral in the little Chicago South Side church with your cowboy hat on the alter like a grand symbol of farewell.
You left us without a real Black friend, Shepard; and personal and cultural circumstances have done nothing to fill that void. The keeper would take on some of the blame for that, but it is easier to lay it all on you and your selfish dying. It is one thing to embrace Black-lives-matter as a social concept, it is quite another to do it without the warm, cross-race companionship you provided. That circumstance is behind a common awkwardness now in the writhing of a guilt-ridden populace intent on reviving long-delayed basic human decency after a century of Jim Crow segregation; too many of us lack true Black friends, and death, as the ultimate social-distance measure, sure as hell doesn’t help matters.
So, goodbye John Lewis, and damn you, Shepard!