Saturday, July 19, 2014

Where Are they Now?


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


Sunnybrook Farm said...

I don't care anything about high school, it was just a very small amount of time and some of the least important that I ever lived. I have spent time working with people that mean more than kids that I had to go to school with.

Chickenmom said...

Went to my 40th HS reunion in '02. Thank God for name tags....

Gorges Smythe said...

I can see that in some situations, SF. I went to school with some of those kids from 1st grade, though, and others from 6th and 7th. They were a part of my small-town life for quite a while.

LOL! I imagine so, Cm!

JaneofVirginia said...

I have never been to any of the high school or college reunions. I am still friends with three of the people I cared about from high school and four of the people I cared about from college. I have tried to always move forward, and not go backward, and this has worked for me.

Wade Herod said...

Well I'm 68. I finished HS in 1965, in a little town living with an uncle and aunt. Never went to class reunion either. The HS I went to closed its doors about 5 years after I graduated. A victim of integration. The building is still there.

So I finally went to the last reunion I heard about some 5 years ago. It was a general reunion, with folks that went all the way back to the 30's. Talked to a guy there that graduated in 1932. He looked in good shape. The most astonishing thing though was my bus driver was there. And she was eating the BBQ that was offered at lunch. I seem to remember her to be in her late 30's way back then. Amazing. The reunion was held at the school.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

I've been to one reunion, maybe we'll go again someday. Tom and I went to school together so we know the same people. I stay in touch with a few of them but we do get the newsletter. A few of our fellow classmates are no longer living either but sometimes we don't know why.

Gorges Smythe said...

I guess I don't consider remembering old times with old acquaintances exactly moving backward, Jane, as long as we don't try to bring back those old days by doing something foolish.

Sounds like an interesting time, Mr. Herod!

Some, I've never heard of again either, Kathy.

Sixbears said...

Good luck on the job hunt!

I haven't gone to a reunion for some time. I kept in touch with those I care about. The rest . . . there are reasons for not keeping in touch.

Gorges Smythe said...

Thanks for the well-wishing, Sixbears. I know what you mean about keeping in touch. There are a few borderline folks that it might be interesting to chat with, though.