It approaches like the dental appointment. It approaches like the unseen evil of a 1950s horror movie. It is the dreaded 40th High School Reunion. My wife and I both attended GHS and graduated the same year. We have "ducked" all those reunions in the past. The early ones we ducked to avoid the superficial black tie events. God help us. Black tie events in Galesburg? I think those early reunion organizers have either "mellowed out" or been lynched.
But the dreaded 40th approaches.
Were all old. Most are probably overweight. Time has been cruel and left its mark. We dont look 18 anymore. I checked our class homepage. Some brave or foolish souls have provided contemporary photos. I would not have recognized them. I even dated one or two of them.
We seem to excel in dying. The list on the home page is long. Too long. Ive asked a few friends by email whether they are planning on attending. Some "No." Some "Yes." Some write back and tell me I have to attend. Probably be good for a story or two. Im not sure I want to write that badly.
Im not too worried about being summed up as a failure. Im not (either worried or a failure). But frankly at this point in my life, Im not too concerned about the conclusions or biases of somebody I havent seen for 40 years. Although I hope that they dont feel obligated to try to impress me. Im not easily impressed. I am easily bored. I have less and less patience for the Fool. Life is too short. I guess Im getting cranky. If they hadnt already come up with "curmudgeon," perhaps they would have just for me.
If you have waded through a couple of my articles over the years, you know that I have become a fan of Carl Sandburg. Carl is done writing but his writing has stood up to time. Sandburgs horny-handed poetry and common man narratives often come to mind when I write.
Not in the context of class reunions, but Sandburg wrote in his autobiography, "Always the Young Strangers" (1953) about the pretty young women whom he recalled from his youth. Sandburg reflects "Of course, I could mention the drab and the tragic that came to some of my album women, but I knew them in their Springtime Years when a freshness of dawn was on them before time and fate put on the later marks."
Thats my dilemma. I am interested in renewing my acquaintance with old friends. But they are still 18 years old in my mind. They are untouched by time and still full with the unrecognized promise of hope. Once seen, they will age, wither, and the glow of youth and hope will drop like petals of a spring flower caught in summers first storm. Perhaps it is too high of a price to pay.
I asked a friend who had just had his 40th reunion. He was depressed with the event. His friends had aged. They had little in common any more. Conversations were launched and sunk. The girls he once dated were awkward to approach. Lifes sins revisited, or something like that.
He discussed this reunion failure with another friend who said that he failed to approach the reunion with the proper perspective. The reunion is not to renew old friendships. That mission is doomed to failure. You cant go back. Rather, you go to the reunion to make new friends, new connections. You are "networking."
If I cant rekindle old friendships. If I cant renew and share the common bonds of youthful misconduct and adventure. Then , WHY? I could crash any party and "network."
Do I want to know how many of my classmates died in Vietnam? Do I want to know how many died on highways, from cancer, from suicide? Statistically, about half will have been divorced and will carry those scars. Statistically about 1 in 4 will have had cancer. Do I want faces to go with these statistics? As someone smarter than me said (more or less), the death of 43,000 in Vietnam is a statistic. The death of an old friend in Vietnam is a tragedy. However, If his death remains unknown to me, he still lives a life as an 18 year old in my memory.
Probably the only classmate that I see with any regularity is one who became a mortician. Ive seen him too often in his professional role. My family, my in-laws, one by one have their last act as a consumer with him. Hes a nice guy, but Id rather see him over a beer than professionally. Sorry George.
But the dreaded 40th approaches. It ranks with death and taxes. It comes closer even as I struggle with this article.
I knew them when they wore a younger mans clothes.
I knew them when the blush of youth was on their cheeks.
I knew them when death was an abstraction.
I knew them when sorrow didnt get much worse than "breaking up."
I knew them when life was new, unknown, full of promises and excitement.
Maybe the 50th.