There are no friends like old friends. It’s cliche, but of course true in that way cliches often are. The older I get, the more comfort I am finding in friends I have known a long time.
The fact is, I’m at that age where the “padding” between death and me is beginning to disappear. The baby boomers are retiring and moving into their golden years. That would be my parents and all of their friends. My wife has lost her mom and both of her “second moms” all in this past year.
When you start losing the generation immediately ahead of you, death seems to scream, “You’re up!” We probably have a while, but pretty soon our buffer will be gone and we’ll truly be the next in line. I’m not writing this to be morbid, and as I write I feel no despair. I’m just making an observation — one that I think explains the increasing nostalgia I feel as I get older.
It makes sense that feelings of nostalgia would intensify as we get older, since there’s more to be nostalgic about. But I’m talking about a very specific nostalgia and that’s the nostalgia associated with old friends. Here I am on this big blue ball, hurtling through space at a gazillion miles an hour. But I don’t fly alone. In my mind at least, I fly with a group of people. I did not choose this group, I just found myself part of it. As kids we all dreamed of what aging would be like. Some of us dated each other. Some of us (like my wife and I) married each other. Some of us beat each other up. Some of us did things together we still wouldn’t want our parents to know about. Many of us didn’t even know each other and yet we are part of the same group. Most everyone has a group like this. In my case it is the Davison High School Class of 1986.
Funny how your graduation year becomes part of your identity. You wear it on your varsity jacket. You shout it at football games and assemblies. You learn goofy poems about it and scribble them in each others yearbooks.
Love is fun, school’s the pits
We’re the Class of 86
You get that number carved into your class ring. That number defines you throughout your school days. What’s surprising to me is the way it continues to define us now. Not that we don’t move on. Thank God most of us do! And yet…
…yet it lives on. We do class reunions and I find myself talking to and caring about classmates I never talked to (and thus never really cared about) in high school. We are not only growing older together, we are growing wiser. There’s something ultimately adult about running into someone who used to beat me up in Jr. high school and shaking hands and saying, “What’s up?” and really caring what the answer is. The past is the past. And yet…
…yet it lives on. I run into Sue (Comber) Hamilton around town and every time I see her it brings a deep comfort to me. People who knew you back then know you in a way no one else ever will. Even the people who didn’t know you very well might have shreds of memories about you no one else will ever have. My wife and Kim VanSlyke are still BFF’s (“best friends forever,” right?). I don’t see Kimmie very often but when I do, she’s family. So is Sandi Alt. And Scott Christiansen. Of course, so is Christy Weidman.
We all went to high school together and saw each other every day. We stayed connected to a few, and lost touch with most. But now we at least see each other at reunions. And at the funerals of our parents. And what says more than that about the connection that is there?
We’re not just friends. In fact, in a class of over 400, many of us were NOT friends! But we’re classmates. We were grouped by providence into this class, and we’re flying through time together. And now, thanks to Facebook, we can reach each other in ways we never would have imagined in 1986. I’m having a blast getting to know classmates on Facebook that I never knew at all in high school. The connection for me is special and powerful.
Strange what time does to people. On balance, school was hard for me. I didn’t build floats, or cheer at parades (I was usually marching in them). I didn’t go crazy at assemblies or anyplace else, for that matter. I think I’m one of those people that, had I not married the class president, probably would never have gone to a class reunion. But I’m glad I married the class president, and I’m glad I’ve gone to reunions. It is amazing to see how people grow and change. It is exciting to watch life continue to unfold for people you’ve known (at least somewhat) since you were a kid. And it’s incredible to journey through life with the Davison High School Class of 1986.