I'm creeping around Facebook the other day and get a message from Laura Macey, a friend request. Okay. Who's Laura Macey? I head to Embers and there are 5 Lauras in the book. The old friend request dilemma. Do I know you? Are you the friend of a friend of a friend who's friending all the common friends' friends? I message back and it's Laura Scilieri, of GAA and twirling renown. I remember GAA well, mainly from the rehearsals during which I manned the wood wind section of the accompanying band for countless hours. Friends. Of course. Then I visit her page. Turns out she has written a book and the protagonist is a person just like many of our classmates, struggling with the issues of going to reunion after a great many years. Interesting coincidence. I'm going to get a copy. There is no question about not going to 40. I was just too involved in other things that required my presence. There's also no doubt about 45. Not after all that has happened. Now 30, that was another thing altogether.
I was prepared to go to 30. My wife and I had gone to 20. We were still in Rutherford, so no big deal about getting there and going home afterwards. But my wife's annual physical didn't go exactly as suspected. Her heart doctor (she had an attack about 4or 5 years prior) heard an odd echo. A follow up revealed a small mass in the left upper lobe of her lungs. Both being smokers at the time, it was time to pay the piper. We were thrust into a medical world in which we were involuntary travelers and we were scared. Therapies in the late 90's were not so plentiful as they are now. The cutters ruled the day. Now, targeted beam radiation probably would have been used. The short version of the long story is that aspiration biopsy was inconclusive and surgery was scheduled and performed. The surgery was a success but the patient died. That was the end of a 24 year relationship. I was metaphysically catatonic for 6 months. I remember taking her remains out to the foothills of Colorado and spreading her ashes as she wished. In Evergreen, where and almost when Judy Gingert died in a car accident. I only found out about that later. It happens. It just couldn't happen to me.
A 49 year old widower, suddenly alone facing an uncertain future going through the predetermined stages of grief like reading a textbook. It was a strange time and I found myself trying to grasp at the past. I only found out about that after the fact as well, from my future wife, who had lost her husband a month earlier. As a nurse, she had been trained in the psychology of grief and mourning. We stumbled on to each other on an AOL (that was all there was at the time) chatroom dedicated to widows and widowers all trying to cope and find a support system. Rebound? Maybe. It really didn't matter because it worked and is proving that good luck can strike twice. We married at the dawn of the Millenium and I ended up in Evansville, Indiana. I inherited a family, moved my web design business (it's the Internet, stupid, it's everywhere, or so I thought) and all was good in the world once again. I remember sitting in the old homeroom in WVHS just before the summer of 1967 calculating how old I would be in 2000 and wondering what I would be doing. It wasn't this!
What all this goes to prove is that nothing is guaranteed, nothing is for certain. When you are 62 years old, there is solace in the past, and much more time is spent in retrospect. Well, more for me, anyway. My personal experience with mourning certainly helped me put things in a different perspective. With that time and the experiences I had here with my wife's class reunion activities (documented on their website, www.reitz67.com , how could I not make plans to be at the 45? I have always felt that my high school days were some of the finest of my life. And the other thing is the sad fact that we're not getting younger, folks. That's what my continuing classmates search has shown. Don't throw away the opportunity to see your classmates at least one more time!