Always and forever, Mike

IMG_1150Being an Old School New Kid, a man of a certain age, is most apparent in my relationship with my son. Most of my contemporaries became parents in their 20s and early 30s. My father was 19 when I, the “honeymoon baby,” was born. It’s an entirely different ball game, though, becoming a father for the first time at the age of 47. One minute he was this beautiful little infant in my arms. Then, as many of us parents do, I blinked. Now he’s 18, a Millennial, child of a modern family.

As with many young men of his generation, he is locked into technology; apps, iPhones, laptops, video games, social media, etc. Heaven help him if he winds up in an area where he can’t get a cell phone signal. He finds it amusing that I like artists like BeyoncĂ© and Bruno Mars. Yes, I like some rap music, the early artists such as Kurtis Blow, Sequence, the Sugar Hill Gang. My son, however….anyway, it’s a kick when I see him dancing to my old-school jams and disco music. It’s also ironic that when he was a baby, his favorite group was the Andrews Sisters (yes, one of the famous singing groups from the 1940s), to which my dad said, “The kid has taste.” As for cars, he is totally in love with the Tesla, and yet he thinks my dream car is cool as well: a champagne pink 1958 Cadillac.

These days, with five published books under my belt, I now have some cool-dad status, and he and my husband show their support for my business as an independent author in different ways. This brings me back to the time when, at the age of five, he acted as a self-appointed agent for my published collection of poetry. When I think of my relationship with my father, I appreciate passing that on to what my son and I share now, and to the man he is becoming.

Before I continue on with my review, here’s a shout-out of appreciation to Wyatt O’Brian Evans, for whom I have the honor of being a guest columnist at WYATTEVANS.COM. Issues and topics pertaining to those standing at the intersectionality of Black and LGBTQ are something he is passionate about, and he is truly a Renaissance man.

When it comes to LGBT men in fiction, there is one segment of the population that is frequently overlooked–the long-term male couples, ones who are 20, 30, 40-plus years in. And if you’re a Black male couple who fits this bill, you’re practically invisible. Being Baby Boomers at the time of Stonewall, there are more of us around, but writing about such couples is another story. Such brings me to the late Mike Warren’s poignant, loving novella, Always and Forever.

Keith Summers and Joseph Allen are a Black male couple living in Washington, D.C., about to celebrate Joe’s 60th birthday. Joe is a retired veteran of the Air Force, Keith a retired government employee. Their relationship has stood the test of time, having been together for 35 years. Their lives have become role models of love and hope in the community, generating a huge social media presence. They have a tight-knit circle of friends, some with their own issues.

At the beginning of the story, Joe and Keith are being interviewed by a reporter from a local LGBT newspaper about their lives: how they met, what’s kept them together, their contributions to the community, etc. A touching moment is shared regarding the letters Keith wrote to Joe during the times Joe was deployed in the military, ending with “Always and forever, Keith.”

Joe’s lavish birthday party is treated as a red-carpet affair. However, he’s unable to enjoy it because he suffers a heart attack shortly after their arrival. While agonizing over a triple-bypass operation necessary to save Joe’s life, Keith is faced with the antipathy of a homophobic sister-in-law and a jealous friend. Relief over the success of the surgery eases Keith’s mind, and he and his friends are ready to rally around Joe for his recovery. Until the unexpected happens…

Many of you out there of a certain age, especially my brothas and sistahs, will remember a song released by Heat Wave in the 1970s titled, “Always and Forever.” I can easily visualize Mike Warren playing this song while he wrote Joe and Keith’s love story. I have read my share of novels where white male couples and interracial male couples found love. This one touches my heart because he told the story of two Black men who not only found love, but stayed together. He made the invisible visible.

I remember, in my early 30s, meeting a Black male couple who’d been together since before I was born. Thinking of them, of Mike, and how precious life and love is, Always and Forever is well worth a check-out at your local Amazon/Barnes & Noble library.

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