By Joe Rector

It’s been 50 years since my class graduated from high school. Just like students in the 2020 class with their proms and graduations, we’ve fretted over having to cancel the celebration of such an important event. Things look up just a bit right now, however, in that the class will meet in mid-September at an outdoor facility.

I remember how enthused Mother was as her 50-year reunion neared. She’d been the valedictorian that year and wanted to see folks that had all but disappeared after graduation.

My interest is just as great as hers was. The most fun of any reunion is watching folks as they enter and trying to figure out who the hell they are! The images of old friends and classmates from back then don’t always gee-haw with what stands before us. Many of us have grown larger foreheads; others have put on more than a few pounds over that time; most of us now sport fleshier jowls and necks. Only a few people have aged little. One friend, Ken Mills, still looks as he did as an 18-year-old.

Another interesting aspect of a reunion is discovering what folks have done over the last half-century. So many classmates excelled in the classroom. They studied hard and sported top-tier grade-point-averages. Others, like me, survived most classes and squeaked out of high school. It was only after beginning to pay for our education that we took classes and studying seriously. I’m curious as to what professions others chose and what roads they’ve traveled during those work years.

Several of us have spent most of our years married. My brother Jim and his wife celebrated their 49th anniversary a week ago. A couple of classmates married immediately after graduation and have shared life with their partners even longer. At earlier reunions, we talked about our coming children or teenagers. This time around, the reports from proud grandparents, and, and perhaps, great-grandparents, will be the focus.

Of course, we’ll fall silent at some point and grieve for the loss of classmates. Some died during our time in high school. Others lost their lives much too soon, and as happens with folks our age, some have passed in their later years. It will be difficult to wrap our minds around their deaths because, to us, they are still young, energetic individuals who hold hopes and dreams for the years to come.

After that 50th reunion, Mother’s class met each year. She lamented about the steady loss of classmates every time they met. As we too will realize more vividly, each year pushes us just a bit closer to the end of our times on this planet with the people whom we’ve loved and with whom we’ve have shared so many good times.

Maybe next year, the classmates with whom I was the closest will meet at someone’s house or at a public place. We can catch up on the last year, not the last 50. One thing is for sure: if we do meet again, we’ll gather someplace that allows or serves alcohol. The surprises and disappointments and losses will a bit easier to numb. Plus, embarrassing stories told about us won’t sting quite as much.

I’m excited to attend this 50-year reunion. I’ll wear my mask and social distance as much as possible so that I protect myself and others. At the same time, I’ll laugh and share stories from those “good ol’ days.”