Before I began college, a long long time ago, I entered a program called HCOP (Health Career Opportunities Program) at Bethune Cookman College. There, I have dated myself twice. Once by referring to my Alma mater as a college, which is now a university and again by recalling a time where I aspired to be a doctor. But anyway, in this program I studied in preparation for college under the tutelage of Dr. Herbert Thompson who, once a year, hosted a barbecue for his students at his home just down the street from the college. It was at the 2002 hosting of this event that I was introduced to Ramona Thompson, his wife, who made the mistake of stating “you all can come back anytime you like”. Although this is a common and welcoming departing statement, I took it quite literally. From that statement grew the loving relationship that I share with the Thompson Family. We all grew very close. So much so, that at one point I referred to them as my “surrogate family”. But I am jumping ahead of myself. There was nothing more that I enjoyed than spending time with the Thompson Family. When I got a cell phone my junior year I’d love to get that call from Mrs. Thompson asking me to come put something together, or telling me to come eat. She would warn me about the female company I kept and always encouraged me to do whatever. When I would come over to the house I would usually find her watching Harry Potter or some black and white film. But she would always make time to inquire about me and my life. One day in particular sticks out in my head. It was 2004 and I was pledging Omega Psi Phi fraternity. The pledging was hard, but fair and made a thin man out of me. On this particular day, during spring break, I’d decided that it had been too long since I’d seen my family. My line brothers and I went to visit my family against the wishes of our pledge master. Our pledge master didn’t want us, me in particular, to visit the Thompsons’ during out pledge process because Dr. Thompson was a professor at the college and they feared that our battered appearance would prompt him to incite a hazing investigation. We went anyway. I was first in the door at the house and Mrs. Thompson was where she usually was, sitting at the breakfast nook watching television. Her eyes peered over to me and she hollered out, “Oh my God! What are they doing to you?” You’re all skin and bones”. She was genuinely concerned for my well being. After convincing her that I was okay, she fed my entire line a feast of great food. Upon leaving she hugged my neck tight, looked me in the eyes and said “Be careful ya hear?” to which I replied “Yes, ma’am”.
In closing, I will tell this last story. There was a day when The Thompsons were having a barbecue, a crab boil, or some kind of food-centric event and I was asked to come help set up. At some point during the set up Mrs. Thompson said something to the effect of “you’re like a son to me” which had me all excited. So much so that I was explaining to guest that Dr. and Mrs. Thompson were my “surrogate parents”. After about an hour of this Dr. Thompson pulled me aside and said “I don’t think you are using that word right. Stop saying that”. I never questioned it, and did stop saying it. But now, many years later at the sunset of Mrs.Thompson’s life, I think we were both right. The Thompson’s never meant to replace my biological family, they were just added in. I will always love and miss Mrs. Ramona Thompson.