Thursday, April 16, 2015

Those Were the Days, My Friend

Tonight I am feeling old, in a way I have never experienced.

It all started yesterday morning, when I learned that a high school classmate of mine had been killed in a tragic bicycle accident. He and his wife were just out for a bike ride when a drunk driver crested a hill left of center and mowed him down.  His wife saw it all happen – in fact, she had to take evasive action to keep from being hit herself.

Now, this classmate was someone I don’t think I had communicated with since our 10th high school reunion, so I certainly couldn’t say we were close.  And even back in school, we weren’t super close.  But I knew him reasonably well, and he was a very likable guy.  One of those all around good guys that everyone likes because he really didn’t give them a reason not to. I remember that the first boy-girl party I went to was at his house. His parents let him hire the garage band of a mutual friend for it, making him the coolest guy in the 8th grade, for a while.

Maybe all that’s why it hit me so hard.  I feel true grief over this loss.  The loss of someone I haven’t spoken to in over 25 years. 

Because of this grief, I became nostalgic and pulled out my high school yearbook.  I graduated in a class of something like 435 or so, but of course I didn’t really know all those people.  My guess was that I really knew about a quarter of them.  So I went through my senior yearbook and sure enough, that was about right. The ones I really remembered, could recall some personal item about, added up to about 125.  But as I wandered through the pictures, reminiscing about the people I was looking at and the occasions where the pictures were taken, I was overwhelmed by how many of those faces are already gone. 

My alumni page on Facebook lists 27 known deceased members of my class, and an even dozen of those are from that subset that I really knew. I can’t really say why Kelly’s death hit me so hard.  I’m sure it was partly the immediacy of it. This time I knew within hours.  And the tragic nature of the accident makes it unspeakably worse. 

All I know is, tonight it seems I am feeling this loss and all the others. Looking back at high school pictures brings moments of joy interspersed with moments of great sadness at the faces I can never see again. And it makes me feel old, down deep in my soul.

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