A Time to Celebrate: My 40 Year HS Reunion

This is a different kind of essay, and a very personal one. It was previously published on our class Facebook page. I’ll be posting about my time at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival soon.

This past Saturday [November 10, 2018] was the 40th Reunion of Valencia High School’s Class of ’78. It was a special evening, full of fun and remembrance. It was a celebration which, less than a week earlier, I wasn’t sure I would make.

A fortnight prior I was in Canada, at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. While there I had some health issues which ended up with me going to the ER. The doctors wanted to perform an angiogram, but, against their advice, I checked myself out, and armed with a bottle of nitroglycerin tablets, left the festival early and flew home. If I was to have a heart cath, my preference was to be near my wife and have the surgeon who had worked on me before, perform the procedure.

The Monday afternoon before the reunion, I had an angiogram, my third in the past three years. Thankfully, albeit, somewhat frustratingly, this one didn’t find any issues and didn’t require adding any more stents to my existing collection.

Spend any time with me and you’re bound to hear me say “Every Day is a Bonus Day,” and this was never truer than Friday and Saturday nights. For those in attendance at the Embassy Suites on Friday or Joe’s on Saturday, the odds are, when you looked at me, you probably saw either a stupid grin on my face or my mouth open, a bit in awe.

Fifteen years ago, Kurt Vonnegut, in a speech to students at the University of Wisconsin, said, “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” I try to follow at least this bit of Vonnegut’s adjuration, and our class reunion went beyond nice; it was awesome!

And I am grateful, not just to have been able to make it, but to everyone who came. Many of those who gathered at Joe’s live locally, but many traveled great distances. “Thank you” doesn’t begin to convey my appreciation. I want to give a special shout-out to our Senior Class President, Mark Halverson, for everything he did to make this an unforgettable event, Tom Bennett’s work on the video, Joey Gomez for offering up Joe’s, and Matt & Fran Sturms for all the photos.

Two score years ago in Placentia, we, the class of ’78, shared a fixed point in time and space. Since then our lives diverged, playing out in hundreds of different scenarios. Over the ensuing decades, we have experienced joys and sadness. No one who walks this planet for 40 years is without pain and loss, be it parents, siblings, children, spouses, lovers, friends, divorce, illness, financial hardship, etc. As a class, we have lost too many of our members. I still tear up when I think of Lori; and when Mark introduced to me to Pat Burke’s brother Mike, I felt adrift, not sure of what to say, and began to shut down; one of the few times when my smile left me.

Still, joy was the prevailing emotion of the weekend, and my only regret was there so many people there that I couldn’t spend time with everyone. My brain was overwhelmed by the number of classmates, and not all the names and faces clicked with long ago memories. Sunday, I opened our yearbook and mentally berated myself for not recognizing several people. If this happened to you, please accept my apologies.

You impressed me with your joy and happiness, the richness of your relationships, and your warmth and friendship. I was humbled by the number of people who told me they enjoyed reading about my adventures, and I felt a new kinship to several alumni, sparked by travels earlier in the year to the Holy Land and reinvigorated interest in my family roots. The most humorous anecdote of the weekend was provided by Chris Hansen. He will have to share it, but Ruth and I are still laughing ourselves silly over it.

The party may be over, but there a couple of related items to look forward to. A member of our clan lives in Arizona and couldn’t attend due to familial responsibilities.   Current travel plans will have me in her neck of the woods next month, and I hope to pass along several hugs from her friends. A trip to the Bay area is planned for the New Year, and with it, there may be a chance to share an adventure with an intrepid classmate.

The reunion was an opportunity to embrace a common connection, celebrate our shared heritage, and renew the bonds of friendship. Whatever the future may hold, we can all proudly proclaim: “We are Tigers Forever!