To everything there is a season in the lives we live, and summer seems to be the right time for class reunions.
My LCC classmates, members of that great Class of 1969, and I know that to be true because Father Herr called us that (just as he did every one of his graduating classes that ever flipped those mortarboard tassels from right to left in late May), many of those represented by the 233 photos in my yearbook, “The Flame,” will gather Saturday evening to acknowledge the passing of 50 years.
Once upon a time, I was a reunion guy, attending the first four, beginning with the fifth, when we all still looked as if we should be studying for that geometry test on Monday.
As for my last reunion, the 20th, in the late ‘80s, the site was The Milano on Market, on the same weekend as Square Fair. I remember being quite conflicted as to whether to join my classmates because the musical headliner on the square was Blood, Sweat and Tears, fronted by David Clayton-Thomas, when I was young, one of my absolute go-to bands. As a Miami University freshman, I nearly wore the grooves off that BS&T album singing all the lyrics to “God Bless the Child” and “Spinning Wheel.”
However, I did choose to go to the reunion and passed on BS & T. Little could I have known when I was in that large upstairs room off Market, the same room I remember was the site of our proms, that I would actually see Clayton-Thomas later.
You see, still in our 30s and feeling frisky, the organizers booked a hotel room across the street from Milano for a post-reunion party. In all the noise and revelry, we hardly noticed in those wee hours an insistent knock on the door. Once the door was opened, there stood Clayton-Thomas beseeching us to keep the noise down. The band was overnighting there after the show. Good luck with that, I remember thinking when the Canadian crooner went back to his room. There was no diminution of the din, prompting, I would hear later, the band members’ sudden departure.
At this point, three decades hence, I suppose in the looks department, age has had its way, and we’ve regressed some. The validation of the fact that we’ve grown a bit long in our teeth is that the reunion was held in a building no longer there, followed by a party in a building no longer there, a party that disturbed the slumber of a musician who performed at an event no longer held, sort of a triple play of aging.
When I left that night in the early hours of a Sunday morning, I think I somehow knew that would close the chapter for me on such affairs. Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly have warm feelings for many of my classmates, especially those who I first met in Sister Joseph Andre’s second-grade class my first year in Lima in 1958. And, in smaller groups, I’m happy to reunite. Certainly, I do that every time I share a breakfast with Mike Schepp to talk about our 61 years of shared history. And, I also do that reunion thing every time I hoist a couple of longnecks with Patty Killian or chew some of that 50-plus year fat with Jim Penn.
However, the large-group gatherings just don’t appeal to me anymore. At my age, I’m old enough not to succumb to peer pressure, including from my friend Mr. Schepp, who’s on the committee, and I’m also old enough to feel as if I don’t need to apologize for my preferences.
I suppose if I did go, as many at these affairs tend to do, I’d probably dissect my life a bit, mentioning those who betrayed and those who stayed, sort of life’s won-loss record, all mundane matters, of course, except to those who’ve lived those days.
As far as what I look like about which my old ‘mates might wonder, well, pretty much the same as the headshot that accompanies my weekly musings, despite the fact that the photo is a half dozen or so years old. One of the benefits, and perhaps the only benefit, of rocking that classic horseshoe male-pattern baldness from the early 40s on is we types actually tend to age pretty well because we experience no thinning of the thatch later in life.
I also have maintained my weight pretty well and continue to present what my Lady Jane calls nice facial symmetry, as left-handed a compliment as has ever been uttered, since all that means is my eyes and ears match up pretty well. Apparently, Jane has made a study of such matters, so I’ll take that compliment and move on with my day!
So, this Saturday, when Jane and I will be exploring Ohio’s only National Park, Cuyahoga Valley, and seeing what I can gather information-wise to share in a fall column, I’ll certainly pause and remember my classmates, picturing them as they appeared in the yearbook in their photos that preceded those silly scribbles of my pals on the ads of businesses shuttered long ago, like The Red Barn, Pangles Markets and Superior Coach.
Saturday, as I step yet another day closer to the chief overseer of those final plantings at Gethsemani off Spencerville Road, Dan Gallagher, the younger brother of my classmate and pal, Mark, rest assured I’ll pause from time to time and remember my school chums. After all, it was our shared experiences that, in part, made me whatever I’ve become.
I’ll especially remember some of my best, now gone, especially Mike Blanchard, John Sunderhaus, Tommy Wehinger and Jimmy Fry.
And so the years have gone, 30 of them, since I saw an angry David Clayton-Thomas in a hallway outside a very noisy hotel room on what I knew then would be my final class reunion. After all, to everything, there is, indeed, a season.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.