On graduation from high school, we all head out into the world to make our way, or lose it. Some are blessed by our parents with a college education. Some of us make use of that blessing, others don’t. Some work our way through college. They usually make the best use of their degree, for they know the blood, sweat and tears that earned it. Others, like me, foolishly think that hard work alone will let us build a life worth living. In this day and age, that works only for a rare few. Cunning and wise planning helps a lot, but those little pieces of paper (or sheepskins, if you will) mean a lot to the other folks with little pieces of paper who do the hiring. Intelligence and hard work are worth less these days than those little pieces of paper. I eventually got a couple of those little pieces of paper, but they were too little, too late, and the wrong kind.
For the first few years after graduation, many of us tend to be interested in how our former classmates are doing, partly to see how our lives stack up against theirs. However, as we age and start to look back on our youth with a bit of nostalgia, we wonder about their lives not only from curiosity, but also from a bit of concern and fondness for their memory.
Within five years of graduation, a few of my former classmates were already dead. One was a former star athlete turned dope-head who was cleaning his apartment floor with gasoline and forgot that it might not be a good time to light up a cigarette (or joint). Another blew his brains out when he found that he couldn’t come to grips with his own homosexuality. Yet another died in an oilfield explosion. Over the years, others have died from cancer (usually the seemingly healthy types), a few in car wrecks, one from a ruptured spleen and others from various and sundry diseases and medical conditions.
The other day, the neighbor’s roaring motorcycle brought a kid to mind that I’d been in school with back in the day. Rod was always on a motorcycle when he wasn’t in school. He had a few brushes with the law in the process. He raced motocross professionally after high school, even racing on some European tracks. Wondering whatever became of him, I searched his name online and discovered that he’d eventually become the president of the American branch of an Austrian motorcycle manufacturer. However, he’d died at age 50 “after a brief illness,” surrounded by his wife and children. I rarely saw him without a cigarette in his mouth back then, so I suspect I know what got him.
I searched for the names of girls that I once dated and found that one had married and divorced twice and then died young. Another became a doctor, had five kids by her doctor husband and lives down south. Her brother became a doctor, too. What others I could find led mundane lives like the rest of us. Of course, many of the “boys and girls” that I once had classes with, now old geezers and geezerettes like myself, live close enough that I still bump into them occasionally, or at least hear of them through the grape vine. I always enjoy seeing them, even the ones that I wasn’t particularly close to at the time. It’s funny how old age draws people together that youth did not.
I’ve read several times that the first few high school reunions tend to be about showing off and making comparisons. They say that changes about the 40th or 45th. My 40th reunion was last year. It was held at a neighbor’s farm. I’ve never attended one yet, but if I’m still here when the 45th comes around (IF it comes around) I may go. It might be nice to see some faces from the old days, though they’ll be OLD faces by now. © 2014