Such has been the past month. Trying to find a way to see the lighter side of things can sometimes be a challenge. Trying to find something positive to focus your mind on rather than falling deeper into your desperate thoughts of doom and gloom. The pandemic, politics, violence, disease and inequities flood our everyday lives. Even trying to find humor to share is a futile effort at times. I have learned that “perking up” is sometimes easier said than done.
This past week I lost a classmate and a good friend. Unlike most of the people in the Class of 1970, he stayed and worked in our little town his entire life. He purchased a gas station with his brother and led a life of simple pleasures. I had not seen him in a very long time, and just by happenstance stopped by his station to say “hey”. It was really comical, as when he first saw me he didn’t recognize me. I gave him all kinds of hints, reminiscence, and events, but he still couldn’t put a name with the face. Believe me, him not remembering me right off was not offensive to me, and it certainly wasn’t because I looked so much younger. It had just been a long time since we laid eyes on each other. Finally, his brother gave him enough hints who I was that it clicked in and he immediately called me by my nickname “polo” (of course taken from Marco Polo, rather than the water sport).
We got a chance to talk for about an hour and it was wonderful catching up with him. He was the kind of guy that would literally do anything for anyone. I believe he personally took care of every elderly person in our entire town. He would get calls in the middle of the night or early in the morning to “please start my car”, “please move the snow out of my drive way” even “if you have a few minutes would you get me some groceries at the store?”Never in my life did I hear of him turning anyone down. The acts of kindness he showed to people everyday make me proud to call him my friend and classmate (I wish I had always been that kind).
When you grow up in a small town and go to a small school, your classmates become more like family than just people you see in class. Most of us spent our entire 13 years of public school together in the same little school buildings. Like most families, we didn’t always get along, but at the end of the day we were still friends and looked forward to seeing each other every day. We were in plays together, belonged to Future Farmers of America together, ate lunch together, played sports and were in band/choir together and we knew each other’s parents and siblings just like they were our family too. It was very common for us to be told to behave by one of our classmates parents, just the same as being told to behave by our own. It was just that kind of place to grow up.
On Friday nights after school events, we would hang out at the “gas station” or at the “top of the park” or maybe even go to the neighboring towns and drive up and down their Main Streets. We honked at each other, waved, yelled and would drive around the block so we could visit. Those that had girlfriends could be seen “cruising” too. They would be sitting as close to each other as possible (most of us didn’t have bucket seats, so having your girlfriend sit right next to you was the best! You could also tell when they were mad too, because the girlfriend would be hugging the passenger door). We thought we had the world by the tail. Most all of us had curfews, parents that waited up for us, chores to do and on Sundays we had to put on our church clothes and act respectable.
As I am writing this, my mind is flooded with past events that seem like they happened yesterday rather than 50+ years ago. Remembering the ornery things that we did and thought we got away with. Remembering the first cigarettes, drinks of beer, or first time to kiss a girl. Then reality hits…
When I lived away from my home town, I was disconnected enough that it did not impact me like it does now. Now I am living in the reality of my age. I guess, the true meaning of this blog is in the graphic below:
Goodbye my old friend, I will miss you. May God’s arms hold you and keep you in paradise. Till we meet again.