Web writes: Although a confirmed Christian and a retired newspaper reporter/editor -- testifying to a broad experience -- I was not prepared for what awaited me at a high school reunion.
Hope and excitement was building as I drove my Aveo north on Interstate 5, bound for my high school’s 60th class reunion. Sixty years! Migosh, I haven’t seen a lot of those folk in 25 years. Moreover, for some of those not close to me, it has been 40.
I wondered whatever happened to those chickadees who were our class queens. I wondered what they look like now that we were truly old. I also wondered about some of the high school studs who were such gridiron gorillas back in those golden years when football was king on the Harbor.
Moreover, and most of all, I wondered whatever happened to my high school chum, Jerry Tipit. I saw him briefly at the 25th, but since I hadn’t seen him or heard from him. However, I heard off the oyster dredge he became a math professor at Seattle University, and got into some sort of brouhaha at the university there, and, although tenured, got demoted from department chair.
Now, Jerry wasn’t Roman Catholic, and Seattle U. is. I have to wonder whether that had something to do with it. However, that was a long time ago. Since then, I know he continued on at Seattle U., and by this time, I assumed, he was retired. Nevertheless, I missed him at the last two reunions.
We have so many memories together. Chums we were -- not only in high school, but in junior high and grade school, as well. His mother, Hattie, was a friend of my mother, and between the two of them we couldn’t get away with much. Hattie was a no nonsense nurse, and quite outspoken. And Jerry and myself were loaded with alleged nonsense.
One time in dice baseball -- a parlor game where we rolled the dice for baseball plays -- Hattie walked into the room where we were playing and said to me, “Oh, the bug has bitten you, too, eh?” Another baseball memory was Jerry and I charting our sandlot baseball home runs. We’d make mental note of where the ball left the park and by how much the ball cleared the fence. Then we’d go home and diagram it. By the end of summer we had impressive, cluttered charts.
Another time I was at Jerry’s and we took turns playing the piano for his mother. When I got through, Hattie said, “Jerry, just looka dat. He plays so well. So what’s wrong with you, anyway?”
Jerry responded, “Aw Ma, he just plays the notes and without the heart!”
And I thought to myself, he’s right. Please Hattie, don’t do this to me.
Another fond (yes, fond) memory was of when Jerry and I had a fist fight on a street corner, and he gave me a whuppin’. That was in grade school.
In another incident, I bamboozled him in a one-on-one basketball game, taking him apart. Another time in baseball he hit several balls out of the lot at Finch Field when I couldn’t seem to hit one out of the infield.
Another time we collided head-on in a neighborhood sandlot football game in “Wellington Coliseum” (on Wellington’s vacant lot) when we were sophomores in high school. No pads. He was acting like hard-charging pro fullback Marion Motley, carrying the ball, trying to bash his way to another first down. I wasn’t about to let him. So I charged him foolishly when he had a full head of steam. Everybody else had enough sense to get out of the way. But not Jerry and I. We bore down on one another.
Whump! What a collision! We both were knocked backwards and almost unconscious. He lost the ball. It just went buggity-buggity on the sod between us. Neither one of us bothered to recover it. Nor did anyone else. We both muttered a couple of obscenities, got up off the ground, and staggered home in different directions. That ended the game. Moreover, that was our last teen tackle football hurrah. You see, we were getting too old and big to deliver such severe hits on one another without pads.
A few years later when we recalled it, we both laughed so hard that tears streamed down our faces. Wonderful memories -- even be the events a tad foolish.
Another time we “took custody” of Jerry’s parents’ Buick and drove up to Olympia for an Aberdeen-Olympia prep basketball game. Afterwards we decided to go to The Spar -- an eatery, bar and gambling joint which was a similar to one of the same name in Aberdeen -- and got a surprise. The Spar in Olympia was arranged almost the same as the one in Aberdeen, except the restrooms were in a different configuration. Well, dear reader, you guessed it. We all barged into the ladies’ room instead of the men’s. Screams rent the eatery’s inner calm as at least one woman vehemently protested our entrance.
We ran bent for leather out the restroom door, through the restaurant, and out into the alley to the car -- all the time trying to keep from wetting our pants -- as restaurant patrons laughed uproariously.
Ah yes, memories.
I could hardly wait to meet ol’ Jerry and relive some of our shared memory-yarns. Although I am diabetic and should refrain from mixing alcohol with my meds, the memory share, no doubt would’ve been over a drinky-pooh or two. And we would’ve laughed uproariously.
That was one of the things I was looking forward to. As I found the Highway 12 entrance ramp blocked by an accident and several police cars at Elma, instead of mounting the semi-throughway, I took the old road through the small town of Elma half way to Montesano before re-connecting with Highway 12 at Satsop.
Progress taking this route was slow, and by this time I was getting a little clock worried. Time was eating me.
Nevertheless, when I finally got to town and out to reunion central (the Grays Harbor Country Club). I still had plenty of time. I entered the club’s lunch room and received a shock. Everybody looked so old. Could this be us? I enjoyed the social hour, moving from one chatty group to another around the room Jerry wasn’t there. I was disappointed.
Finally, I cornered Dirk Jefferson, a handsome sun-tanned former chum from Seattle who used to see Jerry quite often. He stared at me, “Didn’t you hear?”
I was braced for the worst. I was ready to hear that Jerry had died.
But no. Dirk assured me that he was still alive -- but suffering from a severe case of Alzheimer’s and living in a rest home in Seattle. “Not doing too well,” Dirk said. “Doesn’t recognize people.”
From further chats with Dirk I learned that ‘twould be no use going to Seattle to visit Jerry. His recognition was defunct. Dirk admitted he hadn’t been to see him in 2-3 years.
I almost got sick to my stomach. Sad. Depressed. It took the edge off the rest of the reunion.
I remember making tentative plans for an outing the next day up to Lake Quinault and the Olympic Peninsula rain forest with another from my class. He lives in Chicago, and wanted to reconnect with his soul forest.
However, depression, plus a glance at tasks awaiting me at home forced me to scrap the whole thing. The worst part of it was I had no way of contacting the guy, to let him know I couldn’t afford the time to do it. He was staying, I guess, at another hotel/motel. And I didn’t have his telephone number. He tried calling me at mine – twice, I was told -- but the clerk couldn’t find me in my room or in the breakfast nook. However, I was right there in the hallway. Terrible. I blew it.
I hung around an hour or two in case he called back. He didn’t and I dragged my depressed soul into the car for the 155-mile drive home.
Later I got to reflecting that the people I wanted to see either had died, were incapacitated like Jerry, or flat out didn’t come. That added to my depression.
There was some discussion on the floor at lunch about holding a luncheon every year or two in some place close to the main north-south drag (I-5), instead of in Aberdeen. But I was on such a downer that I almost decided to never attend another one.
If it wasn’t for the stellar efforts of one of our class sisters, our hostess, I might so decide. She carries on, however, despite the fact her husband is at her Aberdeen home dying a slow death. Multiple Sclerosis.
Many others are similarly falling apart, I am told. Arghhh. Yes, we are getting that old.
Maybe it’s time to turn out the lights.
The next morning, however, I awoke in Portland in a semi-cheerful mood. God did that for me. He stirred my glad cells. Though, It didn’t eliminate my depression completely, His presence let me know that I still have “miles to go before I sleep” -- in other words, lots of work to do before I croak.
Moreover, I’m so glad to have Him there, in my corner. Lots of folks, you see, have no relationship with the Lord, and they don’t have that cheer that the Holy Spirit so often swells to me.
I am thankful. Praise God.
(© 2012 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)