Edward Pratt: Benchmark birthday marked with classmates

I recently attended an awesome birthday party hosted by my McKinley High School Class of 1972. If you’re doing the math, stop. I just turned 60 years young.

I am proud of my age because, as they say, “I am still north of dirt,” and there’s something good to say about that.

The party was a well-decked-out affair because we were asked to wear our finest attire. After all, the cheer leading up to the party was, “How many times do you turn 60?” (It didn’t resonate with me.)

I put on my blue suit and wore, for the first time since elementary school, a bow tie. Wearing a bow tie with a tuxedo doesn’t count. The bow tie was that something different I wanted for the occasion.

Luckily for me, my daughter was in town and was able to tie the bow tie for me. I don’t know how to do it.

“Google how to tie one. Google can show you how to do anything,” my wife said. Well, I tried it once and got so confused I threw the bow tie in a drawer, and to this day, I don’t know where it is.

Now, back to the event. There was great music, lots of libations and some catching up with friends.

I quickly went to the bar and asked for two drinks. One of the drinks was a well-known whiskey (it has “crown” in its name) and ice. The other was a glass of wine. I told the female bartender I would be back because I had to see if my wife really preferred ice in her whisky. She laughed.

I returned to the bartender a short time later to ask for another whiskey and a little ice. “My wife is just throwing this stuff back. I’ll try to make her stop,” I told the bartender. She laughed out loud.

As I surveyed the crowd, I saw a group of people who had gone through a lot of emotional and physical issues and come through the other side. I saw guys I played sports with. We are all a lot slower now.

One classmate was recovering from a stroke this year. Another was ferociously battling cancer. Still another was a longtime cancer survivor. There were all sorts of things folks had overcome — bad marriages, the death of children and grandchildren. You name it; everyone there had had something.

One particular classmate had been working hard to get to the event. “Bert” was concerned how she would make it. The last time I had seen her, a number of years ago, she was at my house for a party with the same group.

That was the first time I had seen her in years. She had had a leg amputated. Yet she was the same boisterous, cheerful person I had always known. It was uplifting to see her doing so well.

Her exuberance lifted me at my own party. All of her life, she has been someone who could make you laugh. Losing her leg had not changed that.

For this recent party, her life had changed a bit. This time, both of her legs had been amputated. She was being assisted by one of her close friends.

Still, Bert was the same person I had known all these years ago. Still smiling, laughing, talking a lot and willing to joke with anyone who came close.

Several of the guys — me included — came over and danced with her. I won’t describe how we did that, but suffice to say it worked — and to the joy and laughter of Bert and the crowd.

She would write later on her Facebook site: “I must say this past weekend was one of the best times of my life. The class of 72 did the damn thing special. Thanks to everyone who tried to make my stay enjoyable. I love you all.”

Bert made turning 60 a pretty good thing.

Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is epratt1972@yahoo.com.