20th reunion
Wednesday August 27th 2008, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

My friend Michelle of the Monterey shawl fame, talking to me once about high school reunions, told me she’d gone to all of hers: that at her fifth, people were still showing off.  Some showed up in limousines.  At her tenth, some people were still finding themselves. At her twentieth, they were the selves they’d grown up into.

I missed my first few, wanting to go, but being thousands of miles away, it just wasn’t going to happen. But I kept saying I was going to my 20th.  Nothing would stand in my way. I would go.  And I did.

It was worth every penny of the airfare: I got to see friends I hadn’t seen since graduation, and  I have kept in touch with some of them ever since, never again to let them disappear from my life.  And I got to see…a guy who had tormented me my first two years of high school, and then after that we had pretty much ignored each other’s existence as we went from class to class.  I was surprised our senior year to find out he was turning out to be an okay person after all, though on my part that was simply a quiet observation from a distance.

And at the reunion, there he was.  I took a chance and called him on the early-on behavior and the torment I’d gotten over the things he’d said, and he apologized.  We’d been, what, fifteen years old then? What had we known about anything?  Twenty years long of needing–well, not needing really, but only in terms of any future interaction with each other–that out-loud reconciliation.  And we got it.  I found myself delighted that he actually lived now not only in the town just north of mine here, but that his commute on his bicycle took him within two blocks of my house here every day.  Wow. Small world. And we’d had to fly to Maryland to find out we were both right here in California.

He’s apparently moved back to Maryland since then, but one of his brothers was here in the area too.  I found out because today the headline screamed about the Cisco executive, such a nice guy, with such a sense of joy in his life, on a business trip to Detroit: shot and killed.  A city street, and, apparently, a life for a wallet. The face in the paper looked vaguely familiar. The name did too.  When I read “grew up in Potomac, Maryland,” I gasped: that would be MY high school!  I turned to see if there was an obit with more information. There was.  He was.  The family’s names.  Oh goodness.

And the only reason I have any right to do what was imperative for me to do under such horrendous circumstances, to reach out with a quiet note of condolence that is going out tomorrow to a widow with two small girls to raise unfathomably alone now, is because I made peace with her brother-in-law eleven years ago.  Even if she could never have known anything about any of that.  I did.

Going to that reunion had given me the right, now, to care out loud.  The note is written and ready to go.

I had no idea, when I was booking that ticket.

8 Comments so far
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You have an extraordinary life Allison. Everything always seems to come full circle. I don’t know if the rest of us just aren’t paying attention or if you are just so unique.

Comment by rebecca jc 08.27.08 @ 8:59 pm

I just love your stories.
I have never gone to High school reunions. Partly because I teach right across the street from my old high school and many of the staff members in the district are people I went to school with. My husband and I are high school sweethearts. That was the best thing that ever happened to me back in 1970. I don’t see myself going to the 40th reunions in 2010.

Comment by Carmen 08.28.08 @ 4:33 am

I went to my 25th a couple of years ago. The class has downsized these gatherings considerably, and this time it was just drinks and hors d’oeuvres at a fancy hotel, with a DJ who played the music at a decent level, so we could all converse. Oddly enough, it was to my old elementary school alumnae that I gravitated. The previous reunion, I had made peace with the fella who tortured me through much of my school career from kindergarten on up. At this reunion, he was the first person I saw, and he greeted me joyfully and lumbered over for a hug. Hubby and I ended up sitting with him most of the night, and every time I cleared my plate, Danny bounded up from the table and within minutes had brought me another. We have both come to the conclusion that we might have been friends, if not for the way our Catholic school experience had twisted everything so badly. Another fella I didn’t get along with back in those days caught up with me, too, and seems a cheerful, friendly guy now, though mystified as to why his parents up and divorced after 40 years of marriage. There were a lot of people in my class who were in that boat. A strange phenomenon indeed, and those in that position really needed to talk about it. Gabe was telling me about the holiday contortions — two dinners on Christmas day, so he could see both parents. Dad and the girlfriend come to one, and Mom comes to the other, after Dad and the girlfriend have left. Yow! But it is nice to see that after 25 years no one is showing off anymore, and old feuds are no longer important. I now find myself looking forward to my 30th.

It continually amazes me, Alison, how everything that happens to you seems to come full circle in such a way that you end up being a comfort and a blessing to someone. Your classmate’s family is in my thoughts today. What an awful thing to happen!

I’ve been reading here often, just haven’t had time to write much due to my mom having a major health crisis. Things are settling down a bit now, so I may actually have time to say something now and then!

Comment by Paula 08.28.08 @ 5:47 am

I missed my 20th, but have stayed in touch with some, and thus have kept tabs on several.

What a senseless murder. I’m sorry it touches your life, even remotely, but I’m sure your card will bolster the family left behind.

Comment by Channon 08.28.08 @ 6:26 am

My class was one of the smallest classes to graduate from my high school. I graduated in 1991 and we have never had a reunion and I dont see us having one in 2011 for our 20th either. Hope everybody enjoys their reunions, and hopefully I can figger a way to get my classmates to meet eventually!

Comment by Danielle from SW MO 08.28.08 @ 7:12 am

I went to my 5th and my 10th reunion. At the 5th, everyone was busy bragging about their lives and what they had accomplished thus far. At my 10th, everyone had kids, mortgages, many responsibilities and just wanted an evening of fun which it was.
I was not able to attend my last one in 2005. The class list was shocking. My 3 best friends in school had passed away (we lost touch). One gal in particular who I would have loved to reconnect with passed away two months later.

No matter what…….I am attending the next one.

Glad you were able to reconcile and can once again reach out to the family in a time of need.

Comment by Joansie 08.28.08 @ 7:17 am

That’s amazing and sad and beautiful in a way, really. It’s fortunate that you were able to make peace with him before he unfortunately left this world.

Comment by Sarah 08.28.08 @ 7:22 am

oh I so understand – this has been our last month – his parents grew up with my hubby ….

hope the link works – I suck at this –

I like to think that perhaps random acts of kindness (like you do all the time) help balance out some of the random acts of violence – small steps but steps never the less.

Comment by rho1640 08.28.08 @ 12:54 pm

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