Monday, August 22, 2016
Morning Thanks--a blessed cartoon
It's a great blessing simply to be able to attend one's 50th high school reunion. Not everyone can.
Within a year of our graduation, one of my classmates, a friend and teammate, was killed when his Corvette went head on into a ditch culvert and virtually exploded into a hundred fiberglass shards. There were no seat belts back then.
On a country road just outside of town, I remember passing that spot with a degree of awe I hadn't felt before because at that moment of my life his funeral was the only one I'd attended meant to honor the death of a kid, a kid I knew.
A number of our classmates didn't make the reunion. They were gone.
But a goodly number were there. I was apprehensive about walking in, and I'd guess I wasn't alone. Long ago, my mother had been shocked, she told us, at the 50th reunion of her teachers college class. In her endearing naivete, she'd walked into the restaurant and told the matre d' she was looking for her class reunion. He pointed her, graciously I'm sure, at a back corner of the restaurant. She shook her head. "Those are old people," she told him. What could the poor guy say? He must have told the same story for as many years.
Fifty years is a long time. Biblically speaking, we're not factory-made for a whole lot more--threescore and ten, saith Psalm 90, that stirring funeral ode Moses wrote. These days, the line requires some updating maybe because seventy, some say and I hope, is the new fifty. I was never all that good at math.
But in fifty years, people change--things sag, get round, and go bald, knees buckle, there's ear hair and jowls. Would I recognize people? How do you act a half-century later towards old men and women you haven't seen for a lifetime, some of whom you didn't really know all that well in high school's hallowed halls? Do you hug people you never would have back then? I didn't read the handbook on 50th reunion etiquette, which is why the scariest moment of the OHS Class of '66 high school reunion was simply stepping up to the door.
Where I was hugged. That was helpful. At least I had a clue.
So here's the review. I had fun, a great time. Fifty years is no trifle. There are, all around, more obvious scars and a scrapbook of dark corners that don't stay hidden too long when you're approaching seventy and the big story is bypass surgery or chemo. I sat--stood, really--through several intense recitations of long near-death moments, events that make almost anything else in your life fade and pale, save grandkids. I listened closely to those who'd suffered because at our age you can't look the other way when the grim reaper is close by.
A few of were terminally ill. We heard.
But the reunion was no dirge, and the place didn't feel like a funeral parlor. All night long, we laughed. I thought more about high school football in that one night than I have in a half century. A half dozen people called me by my German name from a German class I've tried to forget for lo, these many years. I relived a time in my life that I'd sometimes considered pretty much gone.
The reunion was over in one night, but I traveled up and back with a wonderful old friend and teammate, two long days of a trip I've taken a hundred times but never finished so quickly. The two of us had our own blessed time, a reunion in and of itself.
Time is relative, said old Einstein, and he's right, isn't he? I spent most of this weekend in a time warp, as if my life had a barely appreciable present, as if basketball games and submarine races were still my great inspiration. It was a good time, sheer romance to be back, even fleetingly, in a reunion that became a kind of blessed cartoon.
Many, many people I know can't say what I humbly can: I have been richly blessed by a wonderful childhood and high school experience. In a way, I lived in the home of Ozzie and Harriet.
I long ago stopped believing I could say with any exactness what the Bible means, but I can't help but think, having returned from a long and joyous high school reunion weekend, that most of that weekend I was doing what Moses asks in that great psalm about time--I was "numbering my days," remembering, valuing, counting them all as blessing.
I can't speak for everyone in OHS Class of '66, nor for everyone who's ever attended a 50th, but I had a great time, a blessed time, for which, this morning, the time warp in the rearview mirror, I'm greatly thankful.