Post High School Reunion Debrief
There are days when I love my blog more than others. This is one of them. I’m going to write down impressions from my high school reunion.
As I said in a previous post, my classmates are turning 60 this year, and used that as an opportunity to get together again. My high school years were difficult for me, and my few surviving memories are an interesting mix, from defeat to rebellion to achievement, and so I had no idea what it would be like to revisit with these people again after so many years.
We arrived at 5:30, and immediately found two of the guys I grew up with, David Sapadin and Kenny Newman. Though I remember Kenny as a neighbor kid whose mother had a way of referring to me that played on my childhood insecurity about my looks, Kenny barely remembered me, or so I would guess from our level of interaction. When we were kids, he seemed tall and square shouldered. Now, he was shorter than me, softer and rounder. David looked almost the same as he used to, but filled out now, with salt and pepper hair and a mustache. Kenny had gone into architecture , David was a former air traffic controller who probably got hundreds of flights that I was on in and out of O’Hare years ago.
The people who were most familiar to me were the musicians. Guys like Tommy Wolliver and Ernie Waits, Marvin Kopman, Stu Kline and Freddie Bing. Ernie and Stu seemed the same. Tommy, fit and very grey, had mastered the guitar (he played drums in my basement when we were all first learning instruments, and his ability on the guitar surprised me.) Marvin still taller than everyone, still skinnier than everyone too, I think, and still with a broad smile and easy manner with everyone.
Ernie has music in his soul, and his heart is still big as a house, as is his sense of humor and play. All the guys were great, they did covers of 60s songs that were popular when we were in school, and nailed every one of them. Unfortunately, the volume was up even higher than it was in high school, so it was next to impossible to talk, and even more impossible to hear once we left.
Jeff Lyon, another musician friend from that era of my life, showed up and regaled my wife and brother and sister in law with stories of our misadventures as kids. Turns out I played his wingman on at least a couple of occasions, which was fun to hear. I felt a real heart connection with him in particular, and expect that we’ll stay friends now for the rest of our lives.
The band was awesome. The songs, deeply embedded in my psyche, still stirred me.
The women/girls…I hardly recognized them. Most of them have changed pretty dramatically, and though names were familiar, no memories came flooding back, except one, which the girl I shared it with, Linda, told me never happened. Oh well. Another woman approached me before we left and reminded me that she sat across from me in French class the day that JFK was shot and killed. What a sweetheart, I regret I did not get her card and once again can not remember her name. Oh well.
The little brother of a guy I went to school with, when asked how his brother was, got way too close to me and began telling too much information about his family dysfunction. It was embarrassing, and I couldn’t help think how awful it would be if someone in my family told a stranger the kinds of things he told me. Fortunately, my brother helped me escape after only 10 minutes of it. One of the coolest guys from high school now has a very obvious alcohol problem, I felt sad just watching him. Phil Bortz, big brother to my friend Barry, who wasn’t there, took an almost juvenile pleasure in repeating, over and again, “Where’s your glasses?”
The whole event seemed to be over just as it began. And now, it’s just a memory, a dream in a stream of dreams that I will remember for a few seasons and then it too will be gone. I had a great time, and it was fantastic to renew these old acquaintances and friendships.
It was also sad to see that life has been unkind to many of my peers, and that many of them have been unkind to themselves. I had a difficult time accepting how much so many have aged, and I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief at the obviously poor health so many of my classmates are now struggling with. My guess is that at least 20% of them are addicted to smoking, and over half the class is dangerously obese. A few of the people I spoke with have had bypass surgery, organ replacements and are on serious medication for serious problems. So I count my blessings that I adopted a healthy lifestyle as early as I did, because when I wish good health on others, it’s because I value and appreciate it in myself.
And with that, for the moment, all that’s left is to invite your comments and wish you well.
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.