I received a voice message last night from a high school friend of mine who I haven’t seen in probably 10 years. Her message said, “Jules… it’s me Lisa T… remember from high school. God, I hate this. I wish I could see you in person to tell you this. I’ve got some bad news. Please give me a call.”
I felt like I was in the front car of the old Texas Cyclone and my stomach was in my throat. My first thought was our friend Dena had died. She’s struggled with obesity her whole life and well… it just isn’t healthy for her, so I naturally assumed. Although I don’t talk to them, there is some sort of comfort in believing a part of my past… these people who were at one time very good friends of mine and who hold fond memories for me, are still on this earth looking at the same sky I am.
When I called her back, the news was about Dena. However, it wasn’t about her death but her brother’s.
He was on an upswing in his life after fighting off the demons of drugs and alcohol… bad choices and prison. He died in a construction accident yesterday about 2:30pm. This is the sad part of his death. By the time he finally was able to get himself on a prosperous track, his time was up and he was called back home.
I’m three quarters of the way through my life… in the Autumnal phase. I suspect I am now at a time in my life where I will receive calls like this on a more frequent basis.
Rest in Peace, Russell.
So I just went to a high school reunion with a good friend of mine who I’ve known since before she graduated in 1986. Her fiancé had the flu and couldn’t make it so I was the stand in.
On the way, we stopped at her grandmother’s house to visit. My friend got a call from work and she was forced away from the visit for about 30 minutes. When she finally came back her grandmother (a rather crotchety and ornery 80-year old woman… who i now absolutely adore) said, “you should marry this one instead! I like him. Democrat just like me!”
And there you have it. My first endorsement and from the powerful AARP caucus.
[Diest takes pencil and paper out and with tongue sticking out to one side starts scrawling drafts of publicity posters. “A-A-R-P endorses The Deist!”]
A very good and long time friend of mine asked me to go to her high school reunion recently. She grew up in a small town and her class only had 93 graduates. Knowing that only a small percentage of the alumni would show up, the organizers invited the graduating classes from 1977 through 1987. There were about 15 to 20 students from each class along with their dates or spouses.
It was a great people watching venue. Not knowing any of her classmates my imagination was running wild as I saw people who were genuinely happy to see old classmates. On the other end of the spectrum, there were others who looked like feral cats… the circumstances of life having put them in survival mode over the years. They leaned against the wall in the shadows of the room just watching. It’s amazing what 20 years of living will do to us, right.
Something I noticed that really struck me though was the way the black alumni from this small town high school were treated during the reunion.
It was overwhelming to see their fellow white classmates who they hadn’t seen in 20 or 30 years embrace them throughout the evening. Genuine, strong, deep hugs… looking at each other eye to eye… smiling, laughing, reminiscing and then embracing again… men and women alike.
They danced… and sang… and held hands… and remembered more care free days.
I wonder what the 20 year reunion of the students at Jena High will be like.
The Jena High school song
photo by Brent Stirton, Getty Images