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Let’s hear it for nostalgia – at least, the better parts of it!

The individuals here were classmates, some with spouses or partners. The air was festive, old rivalries mellowed, youth somewhat restored, comparisons (physical and financial) kept internal, celebrating “We’re still standing” and we may not have qualified for this institution in this day and age, and we wouldn’t be able to afford it even if we did. “Sixty-Five is still alive!”

  1. SILVER! The committee did a remarkable job of publishing a bound, hardcover yearbook for the reunion, including a “where I am in life” statement by all who wished to submit one. My tack was that, with three children in college and four more on the horizon, my main function in life was “broker/financier for $560,000 of children’s potential college expenses.” I estimated using about $20,000/year times 28 college years – a gross underestimate. However, counting blessings, eventual reality was about one-third children’s work-study and loans, one-third grants and awards, and one-third Dad’s cyclical re-mortgages – which have proven good investments over time.

The only blue note was my other appearance in the yearbook. A classmate who had been a sports reporter created a “Sports Trivia” section. One question celebrated our freshman softball team’s winning the all-class dorm championship: “In our Freshman year who pinch hit and drove in the winning run with 2 outs in the ninth inning of the championship game of the intramural fast pitch softball league?” I was the answer to the second question: “Who did he pinch hit for?”

When I protested unwanted notoriety, the team manager referred me to “the rest of the answer” – he had identified me as “the only one brave/foolish enough to catch for ‘Bullet’ Don.” ‘Bullet’ Don was the only fast ball pitcher whose catcher played where catchers are supposed to play, crouching right behind the batter. The “brave/foolish” dissed the other teams’ catchers, who stood about twenty feet behind the plate. We were issued no equipment, and stood (or crouched) unmasked. Big advantage for ‘Bullet’ Don!

In subsequent reunions, I always bring up the topic and mock chortle, but as a conversation piece, not a terminal regret.

  1. GOLD! Remarkably, many of the same usual suspects attended, the small group of friends and associates I participated with in campus life.

Some of us (not including me) were even able to make the maximum contribution requested of us, a “fringe” social benefit in all college reunions. I can at least say I have over time paid back my scholarship, which began at $1,000 per semester, and topped off at $2,000 or thereabouts by graduation.

Among the festive gatherings, there was one somber one – a session with fellow ROTC graduates, near the recently created Veterans Memorial Wall. Five classmates had given their lives in Viet Nam, and one whose injuries led to his death may be added to the roll. My service had been in air defense, protecting the nation’s capital from enemy attack; I think they knew I was there, and they didn’t.

Again, this time in the presence of the team manager as well as the sports writer, I mock groused about the notoriety from the 25th yearbook. This time, the manager put the “poor me” attitude to rest for all time, asserting that ‘Bullet’ Don could not have been the winning pitcher without the “brave/foolish” guy behind the plate. That note is blue no more. However…

One very blue folly from that era emerged, luckily with no known witness other than the accuser.

On leaving the somber Veterans celebration, happy to have celebrated with colleagues and honored the fallen, I was confronted by a lone, long-forgotten classmate, John, who asked, “Are you the one?” He said, “No one believes me when I tell them I intercepted a punt!” He had me. In the worst play ever in football of any level, peewee to pro, heretofore undocumented, I admit to deserving the accolade.

My senior touch football team might have claimed another dorm championship, but for one blunder. For dramatic sake, let’s assume the game is ending and the score is tied; it may have been. The opponent from deep in its own territory lofts a high fourth-down punt. Defensive back signals fair catch – the correct play in most situations, not touch football, where a punt hitting the ground is a dead ball and cannot be played from there. Fair catch signal – “Brave”? “Foolish?” You make the call. You’re right, John – I am the one. You did intercept a punt. It bounced off of me.

Can’t leave this topic on such a negative note. There’s “brave” in there somewhere, at least I thought so at the time, preceding the playoffs. One of my classmates was a 6’5” somewhat scrawny varsity basketball center, no pro hopes in sight. After junior year, he switched focus to football, beefed up on a dozen eggs a day, and played at about 265 on the varsity offensive line. In the spring intramural season, he played wide receiver – an imposing target. I had him closely covered and was about to apply the two hand tag that ends the play. He lowered his shoulder. I feared being bounced to the far goal line (I weighed 140), so my two-hand tag became a two-hand grab. Big mistake. Luckily, I was able to breathe when he climbed off of me. But I had made the stop. Back to “Brave/Foolish.”

3.     High School Silver and Gold. Long gone and far away from my home town, the only reunions I attended were the Silver and Gold. Herewith a short summary of significant discoveries and observations.

  1. Silver: The plan was, Maureen and I would fly with Annie and Tim, drive them to San Antonio to visit cousins, then return home to the reunion. God laughed. My oldest son was hospitalized, cancelling Maureen’s participation. I took the kids down and attended the reunion alone and, after an awkward adjustment period… found myself enjoying the experience immensely. I had attended Maureen’s local tenth reunion, counting the minutes until it was over, and she probably would have felt the same among a group she had never met and might never see again. I hadn’t been a party person, and wasn’t even aware that there were places in my hometown open until 2 a.m., where I now was after-partying with about twenty classmates. The benefit for Maureen was, when I returned and was facing her twenty-fifth in two weeks, I told her go without me and she’ll enjoy returning to youth without having to introduce me all around, and she did, and she did.
  2. Gold: Numbers dwindling and mostly locals in attendance, and years since prior contact, I was content to enjoy a dinner with a few former neighbors also arriving from a distance, and can report only one revelatory observation on the aging process. There were three ways I could identify classmates: 1) Those who were “smilers,” still are, and the smile is still unmistakable; 2) Those whose parents were family friends and who resembled their parents were easily gene-pool recognized (and I was likewise identifiable from my resemblance to my Father); and 3) Those wearing name tags.

The reunion coordinator went to great lengths to provide a “yearbook,” with pictures when submitted, of surviving and deceased classmates. She printed this verse I had written in celebration of the silver anniversary, hyperbole and all:

LET’S GO FOR A STROLL

Let’s go for a stroll

Down Memory Lane

It’s been so long …

We may never come this way again.

Let’s waltz back in time

Our future’s unknown

Our golden tomorrows,

Our triumphs, our sorrows,

No need to be alone.

Your hand in my hand

The smile on my face

Your eyes shining bright

Ending the night

With one fabulous embrace.

My heart spinning wildly

Out of control

Let’s turn back the clock,

Let’s roll, and let’s rock,

And let’s go for a stroll.

Let’s paint the town red,

And purple and green.

Let’s come up with colors

The world’s never seen!

One moment in time,

Too soon flown away.

If you give me a choice,

I’ll raise my voice,

And I’ll offer to stay.

Let’s go for a stroll

Down Memory Lane

It’s been so long …

We may never come this way again.

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