By Steve Goldfinger
It was a poker game we were really looking forward to. Sure, we had had a few during the year, but this one was to be special. It would be just like the games we had been able to arrange when we were medical residents because Lloyd was coming to town. And Lloyd never missed a game.
Lloyd was exceptional in many ways. Not the least was his becoming the first African American to be appointed to the house staff at the MGH. Lloyd was a superb doctor and human being, and he survived with dignity in a city rife with racism. This was probably no different than in his native Chicago, but, at least, there, he was at home. There, he had brothers with whom he could endure and aspire. Boston had to have been different. He must have had his share of diversions when away from the ordeal of residency. The only two I remember were his zeal for the Cleveland Browns (he would drive 650 miles to that city for a game) and for poker.
We were not card sharpies, only five or six guys at it for beers, laughs, and low- stake betting. We invented our own versions of poker with wild cards galore and betting sequences unheard of.
And so, all was ready that day, April 4, 1968. The game was to be at my house in the evening, and the beer was cooling in the refrigerator.
At 7:05 that night, Martin Luther King was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis, and the infamous shooting forever earmarked the nearby Lorraine Motel for its place in history.
So there we were, five of us assembling for the poker game, Lloyd included.
And what did we do?
What did we say?
Lots of trivial things that I cannot remember. But not a word about what had to be cemented in our individual and group consciousness that night, to the exclusion of anything else.
Not a word.
How could this be?
Were we trying to brave through the game we had so looked forward to, not wanting to spoil it (as though it hadn’t already been utterly ruined)?
Were we reluctant to talk about racial hatred when we were so embodying a kind of camaraderie that we mistakenly thought absolved us from having to face reality?
Were we just too damn young, and despite our growth in another world, too totally inept at being able to reach out when that reality screamed at us?
We have no good answers, only shame.
Since joining BOLLI after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side. He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) as well as the Book Group.