Lamar Selby knew how to enjoy life
One of the greatest things about growing up in a place like Yazoo County is that you have such an extended family.
There have been many people in my life who I’ve loved just like they were blood kin. Some of them have passed on. Folks like Mrs. Edwinta Long, Grace Harpole, Connie McMaster, and Percy and Swayze Plunkett to name a few who lived in the same little community.
I certainly felt that way about Lamar Selby, who died this week after a long battle with cancer.
Lamar and his beautiful wife Flo are two of my favorite people. They are the kindest people you could ever meet, and their enjoyment of life is contagious. Lamar Selby loved life, and he was smart (or lucky) enough to find a woman who loves it just as much as he did.
I always loved talking to Flo and Lamar. We’d talk about what’s going on in our lives, and I was thrilled when they’d talk about the good old days because we have a shared history.
My parents thought so much of Lamar’s brother Darrell that his name is my middle name. Flo and Lamar were neighbors to my grandparents. I love hearing stories about my grandfather who died when I was in the fourth grade.
Lamar was a natural storyteller, and I was thrilled when I found out that he had written many of his stories down. I liked his account of growing up in the Phoenix community so much that I read the entire 130-page book in one sitting.
Reading the history of life in rural Yazoo County during the World War II era was fascinating, but what struck me more than anything was his love for his family and friends. You could feel it in the way he described people.
That’s what made the strongest impression on me, but it didn’t surprise me at all.
In fact, I remember that when I visited Lamar to interview him about the book, we got to talking about our families and trading stories. Before long I forgot what I came for.
Mrs. Flo cooked a fantastic meal, and when we finished eating we just got to talking like the old friends that we were. My reporter’s notebook was forgotten in my back pocket. We got so involved in our conversation that we totally lost track of time. I looked up at the clock one time, and it was nearly midnight.
Now I’ll admit that I used to claim that I’d lost track of time quite a bit as a teenager when I was explaining to my parents why I was getting home late, but I think this might have been the first time it really happened. If we didn’t have to get up so early to get to work in the morning, we might have stayed even longer.
And I remember as we drove away from the Selby home that night. Jamie leaned over and said, “I hope we’re just like them when we reach their age.”
I just kind of nodded in the darkness at first because in my mind I was already thinking about how, like Lamar, I had married my best friend and after seeing what a great life they had together, I was already looking forward to things to come.
“I know, Baby,” I finally replied. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could be so lucky.”