“A True Friend of Mine”


She always called me “Bang Goes Old Betsy” after Davy Crocket’s rifle. It was a term of endearment, nothing more, and I can hear her even now chuckling as she said hello. Melody Ann Blake eventually Ollison became my friend right after college when I was seeing a brother of the father of her little boy. My dating ended quickly, but in Melody I found someone who easily traversed the white/black divide that was Portland, Oregon in the late 1960’s.

Melody’s son was biracial, white from Melody and black from his dad. His dad was from a large warm extended family, and Melody had stayed close to them even though she had never married their son. She had a terrific sense of humor and we enjoyed each other’s company immensely. After I left the little apartment house for the houseboat, Melody took over managing the eight units, since she had moved in after I had become the manager. I remember her most for her ability to make molehills out of mountains. I was fairly overdramatic in those days, especially about romance, and she was always ready to ground me.

We lost touch after I moved to the country, though she let me know that she had married a kind and hardworking man and felt settled in her life. I didn’t hear of her again until I read in the newspaper that she had been murdered by an adult stepson. I never learned the details, but I attended her funeral. I said goodbye to a decent woman with a wicked sense of humor and without a mean bone in her body. A real friend.

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