It was the quinquennial gathering. In the reunion infancy it would occur every 10 years, but since anniversary 25, it now is an every 5 year event. Baby boomer Yellowjackets from around the country begin to energize and swarm, and for two hot August nights they swarm to Kansas City to experience a rebirth. It is the return to the hive. Like spawning salmon, we swim upstream, and return to remember, to laugh, to cry, to share, to relive moments of glory. Who could ever have know when we sang these words together for the last time as a group, graduation night, June 5, 1969, that they would be so prophetic. At least for me.
“Hail oh Center High School, We will all be true, to the colors high above us, Gold and Blue, Memories everlasting through the coming years, we will always treasure them Through Laughter and through tears”
And so it was this past weekend, the swarm of Yellowjackets, Center High, Kansas City, Mo. class of ’69
1969, We are the class of ’69. We loved being able to say that. Or at least I loved saying it. After all, those from the class of 1869, have long passed. And the graduates of 2069, well they are not even a twinkle. So we are the only living class of ’69. The world should cherish us… I certainly do. We were special, we remain special, just slightly older than we were, but we are constant in age as the class of 69.. I must confess I did look around the reunion room and wonder where all the “old folks” came from. But boy did I love being with them for 2 days.
1969, the end of the 60’s. That was who we were. It is who we are. So much I could remember… “Abraham, Martin, and John.” Vietnam. Man on the Moon. The Beatles at Municipal Stadium. The Chiefs. The A’s. So many memories… so many things forgotten. And then it is reunion time and the stories revive and come alive. Some stories grow as legends, some are just a reason to smile, and seemingly with each notch in the 5-year reunion belt there are more stories that might include tears or trigger grief.
One of my memories was of Saturday afternoons.. particularly as the weather would become more inviting for indoor activity. I still hear the voice of Jim McKay, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport, the thrill of victory….the agony of defeat…the human drama of athletic competition.” The thrill… the agony… it is a part of my lexicon. And so it is magnified, or more correctly given renewed life and realized mortality with the passing of each reunion event.
Though many choose to join the event, there are so many who choose not to come. They are actually missed. I know because even the most “obscure” fellow graduates are included and welcomed and enjoyed. People choose not to come for many reasons… I pray that feeling awkward in the group would not be one of those reasons to choose not to come. This is one loving and inclusive group of “friends.” Even if only for 2 days, every 5 years.
Through Laughter and through tears.
I must say, it seems that laughter does abound when we gather. I am so joyful as I join to share moments with friends now, that have been friends for life. Friends that include though not exclusive too… Ric, Curtis, Joanna, Don, Sydna, Paula, Clay, Pat… folks and friends who have endured and supported my nonsense, my quirkiness, and my love and my life for decades.
Through Laughter and through tears. The thrill, the agony…….
And to see friends that I graduated with who were only acquaintances in 1969. And now because of social media like Facebook, there has grown a special “love connection” It was beyond special to see some friends who have invaded my heart in only the last year or two. Ann, Pam, Lynn, Gary… thanks for becoming a part of my present day joy. (And Scarecrow, I love you most of all…. you know who you are!)
What a glorious time for me. I am not much of a social butterfly, except in this moment. “remind me who you are” let us share our history. As vaguely remembered as it might be, it IS remembered.
Because even if we had nothing else in common. We had shared hallways and carhops.
Through Laughter and through tears, The thrill and the agony…
So I have shared my laughter, and my thrill. My laughter and the thrill… What of tears and agony?
For the first time in my life I faced my sense of mortality. Don’t get me wrong.. I have experienced the grief of my Mother’s passing in the last year. I came home in 2009, to find my wife dead, drowned in our bathtub. I know terrible and sad events. I have just begun to understand the grieving process.. But for whatever the reason… mortality never affected me… until this weekend.
On Saturday morning, between reunion events, I visited the VA hospital in Kansas City. I went to visit one of my classmates who had become a Facebook friend but had disappeared from my sight about 2 years ago. I had know idea why. Garrett is very ill. I looked in his eyes. We spoke for an hour. He “was” me. A seemingly healthy middle aged guy. Now he clings to life in a 105 pound body. Garrett is the first “me” I have ever looked in the eyes to reveal my mortality. And I agonized for him. Even if he did not ask me to agonize. Because there but by the grace of God, go I.
And Saturday night, I wept openly and without shame at the reunion while I visited “the board”. I grieved for my friends who could not choose to attend the reunion. And so, “the board”, the memorial board… I grieve for the passing of friends I will not see again on this side of the curtain. I was a man of sorrow. And I realize that in five years we will need a bigger board.
I am sorry I missed seeing you at this reunion Angie…
Memories everlasting, Through Laughter and through tears
The song lives on..
May you live on also.