It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 45 years since I graduated from high school. I was reminded of this fact last week upon receiving a post card from the committee planing the big high school reunion next July in Port Huron, Michigan.
Not all that unusual perhaps except for the fact that I really never graduated in 1967 but a year later after taking night school to make up for the credits I was missing after having dropped out—a few months before the big date—to travel the world and find the me I thought had gone missing.
When I would hear tales of friends high school reunions I would often wonder whether the guys and girls from my alma mater had ever gotten together and planned a tenth or a twentieth get together. It seems I had fallen off the radar and for all intents and purposes, that was just fine with me. What would there be to talk about anyway. Would I be honest—whatever that means—and let it all hang out or would I just sort of blend in and enjoy the blast from the past ride remembering the good times over a beer or two.
Anyway, the post card led me to a website that had been set up to gather us all together again. I logged in and quickly searched for a few names that I remembered and was shocked to find my youthful best friend listed under the classmates who had since departed. Under Mike’s name and picture was no additional information other than the fact that he was dead.
And if the truth be known, I’d not given any of that much thought during the past few decades of family, work and the rest of what I would call enjoying what each day has to offer. Sandi and I have been married for 33 years, have four great kids and two fantastic granddaughters with another on the way. We’ve had our mountain tops and valleys and lots of living in the spaces in between. There have been some trying times—times of heartbreak and times of pure joy. We have spent our fair share of time in emergency rooms and doctors offices and have seen dear friends get divorced. On the other side we have lived long enough to spend quality time with our kids in their own homes for Christmases, Thanksgivings and many, many trips to our favorite beach hangouts.
I can’t say for sure why I am so moved—if that is the right word—by the fact of my friends demise. I guess I have always thought about those people as having had a good life just like the one that I am currently living. Not about things that take us from life, but about things that give us life.
I don’t remember ever meeting Mike, just that he was always there in some way. As kids I would either be at his house or he would be at mine—although that is not really reality either. His family life was much simpler than mine—I did everything I could do to get away from my house and his parents seemed to be of the sort that welcomed any and all to theirs. As most kids did, we had sleep overs where we would sneak out after dark and wander the streets looking for something interesting to do. Mind you, this was before pot and coke and crack—we just thought it was a big deal to be out and about without our parents knowing what we were up to. We’d walk to town and hang out at the “White Castle” and I guess pretend that we were grownup—nobody wanted to be a kid during the late fifties and early sixties.
We had our bikes and paper routes and ball teams and bowling on Saturday afternoons. We had pocket money and that was all that really mattered.
I think that by the time high school rolled around I was part of one crowd and Mike was a part of another and so our paths didn’t meet as much except during the long summers at the local lake side beach which was just a few block away from both our houses.
His parents finally divorced and I don’t remember much about us after that time. I was somewhat college bound and Mike worked in a beer and wine store that had a great deli. I made new friends and moved away and that is all that I can say about that.
I have always had a semi-philosophical attitude about all that Post Huron stuff. As Bob Dylan said, “We were both just one to many mornings and a thousand miles behind”. That is until today. Today I found out that Mike is gone and I guess with that information a part of me has disappeared as well. Granted, it’s a part that only exists in my shaky memory of those days but none the less real in a semi-surrealist sort of way.
I was thinking today that seeing someone live out something in a movie seems much more real than actually having that same type of experience in “real-life”. Our lives don’t have a moderator or a sound track moving us from one event to the next and explaining the complexities in between. We live and then we reminisce about what we have lived. It is an abstract sort of awareness of time and space as if we were never really a part of what we experienced. Been there/done that doesn’t do our lives justice.
In the end I guess I will leave it to the poets to explain to me what took place on that day in time. In the meantime, I will go on enjoying my wife, kids, grand-kids, etc. all the while reminding myself that not everyone has it as good as I have.
Enjoy the ride.