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Reflections on a High School Reunion

A couple of weekends ago, I attended the 50th Reunion of my High School graduating class. Bloom-Carroll, Class of ’73.

First, let me tell you a little bit about the town and our school.

Carroll, Ohio is a quiet little hamlet that sits on US Rt. 33 about 25 miles Southeast of Columbus. The town looks basically the same today as it did 50 years ago, except the Highway Department has put in a new convoluted exit off or Rt. 33 to accommodate the Lancaster Bypass and keep traffic moving at 70 mph. Cartographers didn’t waste much ink adding Carroll to their maps

The town is known for James (Jim) Jeffries, a former World Heavyweight Boxing champ from around the turn of the 20th century, who came to be known as The Great White Hope at a time when the new champion was the great Jack Johnson.

Carroll High School stood alone for many years, but Bloom Township was added to the district and we became Bloom-Carroll High School. Our colors are Purple & Gold, and we are the Bulldogs.

In recent years, we have become quite the athletics factory in our area, producing state championships in baseball & softball, and reaching the state finals in Football & Basketball. We even had a “Player of the Year” in Ohio and First Team High School All-American in softball. We have an alumnus who won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers a few years ago.

But back to the Reunion. I’ve have never been a person who cared that much for reunions. I figured if I wanted to stay in touch with someone, I would stay in touch with that person specifically. After all, I figured all we had in common was time and place. We were all about the same age and we lived in the same school district. Beyond that, not much else. It’s not like a family reunion where there is another quality that overrides all the rest, Love. So for many years, when the thought of reunions came up, I wasn’t interested.

Five years ago, my iceberg façade began to melt. By this time I was 62 and I knew that as we got older, the possibility existed that some of us might pass away. After all, I had suffered a heart attack myself a few years prior. There were a couple of guys who I was friends with and wouldn’t mind seeing them again. So when the 45 year reunion came along, I dragged my wife along and attended. Not a great turnout, and neither of my two friends were there. However, I was able to reconnect with some others from my class.

Then this past winter I was contacted by the chairman of the 50th Reunion Committee. I was definitely interested. After all, 50 is the big one. It’s a real milestone in any endeavor. 50 shows “staying power”. And it’s a nice round number. So I was invited to a planning meeting back in March. The chairman gave me a class roster that I looked over. The first thing that struck me were the 20 names on the last page, separated from the rest of the list. I knew those names. Those were the classmates who were no longer with us. They weren’t just names on a list to me. They were people I rode the bus with, people I marched in band with, people I interacted with on a daily basis. Two names jumped out at me. These were classmates who never made it to graduation, killed in a car wreck our Junior year.

We had a graduating class of 113 people. 88 are still living, and of that total about 50 of us attended the reunion. Some I knew on sight, some I had to check the name tags, but after doing so, I could look at their face and into their eyes and say yes, you’re that person. We took a class picture, and the photographer told everyone to squeeze closer together, I said that would have been a lot easier 50 years ago.

We stoked the embers of rekindled memories, but it’s impossible to really catch up with people you haven’t seen for 50 years in a few short hours, especially if you’re trying to connect with as many as you can. We pulled out our cell phones and proudly showed pictures of children and grandchildren, and found ourselves talking more about them, than what we had ben doing for the past half-century. I was surprised to learn that most of us are still working full-time jobs.

I thought back to that evening 50 years ago, when we walked across our football field on the June evening in 1973 when we received our diplomas. We were taking our first steps then on our journey of life. Life is a crucible, and over the years we have been scarred in many ways; physical, emotional, spiritual & marital. We wear those scars today as a badge of honor that we have endured this far, but know that there are more scars to be earned, and that tonight was just a rest stop on our journey of life.

I asked myself and others a question. We’ve hit 50. Where do we go from here? The organizing of the last few months has been geared to this event. All the planning has led to this moment, and now we’re here, and soon it will be over, and then what. Are we going to go back to the solitude of our individual lives, or try to stay connected. We’ve decided to meet informally every other month during the interlude between now and 55. But 55 won’t have the same feel to it as 50 and how many more names will be added to the last page of the class roster? One thing is certain: that list will only get longer over time.

The biggest takeaway from this weekend was that because of my family’s  military background, Bloom-Carroll was my longest tenure at any one school. And the people there were a different kind of family. We had been with each other every day, five days a week, 9 months a year for 4 years. We could be honest with each other. We could share intimate feelings, thoughts and pain with each other. We rediscovered people that we really didn’t hang with in school but saw them in a different light today, as we shared with each other.

The Greeks have three basic words for love. Eros – which we equate as the romantic love of another person, such as one’s spouse, Agape – which is best described as unconditional love, such as the love God has for us, and we have for our children, and finally Philia – which is often described as brotherly love. We get the word Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love” from this. I don’t think this type of love is explored enough. What I experienced this weekend was that brotherly love. I felt connected on a different level with these people. A bond with them, different from all others.

These jolly days of priceless worth,
By far the grandest days on earth.
True to friend and frank to foe,
How dearly we love Carroll High.

We shall strive to keep thy name
Of fair repute and spotless fame.
Thoughts of thee bid darkness fly.
Dear Alma Mater, Carroll High.

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