“Tommy’s selling used cars, Nancy’s fixing hair. Harvey runs a grocery store and Margaret doesn’t care ...”
I was sorting through files when I ran across an old newsletter from a high school classmate. The chatty missive mentioned our upcoming 60th reunion and asked for ideas on how to celebrate the occasion.
I called Betty (our class chronicler), and left a message. Though we all knew each other well, the heritage and commonality of the town kids went back further. We country kids came from several widely dispersed one-room schools, and knew each other mainly from softball games and various other occasional get-togethers. Betty and I, however, went way back. We belonged to the same country church.
Later that evening, while watching an ISU men’s road game, the phone rang. During a timeout I listened to the message. The voice on the message sounded tired and was hard to understand, but the area code on the caller ID assured me that it must be Betty returning my call.
“Betty, I just wondered how everybody is and if there are plans to celebrate our 60th,” I said when we spoke.
I heard her sigh. “Well, Gary, I did reserve a room at a restaurant just in case, but I don’t know. So many members of our class are, well falling apart.”
Betty (herself dealing with heart issues) started through the litany of illnesses. “Aaron will probably come. He still lives in the area. But Jake has Alzheimer’s. I doubt if he would be able to go ... And Susan, poor Susan. She is in a rest home. The last time I saw her she didn’t even recognize me. I couldn’t help but cry.”
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That news especially hit home. I had dated Susan at various times during both our sophomore and junior years. Our relationship had alternated between fun and stormy, but had ended with bitterness on my part the night she tentatively broke up with me, followed by a letter to me that ended it all.
Betty went on. “And Robert, he’s in a hospital in Kearney with double pneumonia. They have a tube in his nose. They may have to put one in his stomach I heard.”
“What about Bill?” I asked.
“Well, he remarried and they moved to Texas. I doubt very much if he would come back.”
“Then there is Helen in Virginia,” Betty said. “She hasn’t come to any reunion since, well I think it was our 15th.” Helen and I had dated some our senior year and occasionally the year after that.
I was anxious to hear about some classmates with good health. “And Sam, I haven’t seen him or talked to him since the 50th reunion. I’ve lost track of his phone number. Do you have it?” She did, and also Richard’s number. “And Lynn, is he still in Hastings?”
Betty chuckled. “Yes, he finally retired from his janitorial job.” Lynn had been my classmate for grades 1-3, the only time in eight years that somebody was in my class.
“What about Pete?” I asked. Pete was our star athlete, good at basketball, and even better at football (a fast, shifty running back). My feelings for Pete during those years had alternated between admiration and envy. That had changed to concern when he and Jane had to have a shotgun marriage when both were age 16.
“Pete came back for one of the more recent reunions,” she said. “He still is living in California. And Jane still lives in western Kansas. She might come.”
“What about the rest of the girls?” I asked.
“Beula still lives out in western Kansas,” she said. She had married a boy in the class one year ahead of her, our starting quarterback for two of the four years I played football.
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“And Alice is in good health as far as I know,” she said. “Maybe they could drive together.”
Alice was a co-valedictorian and was regarded as a book worm by the guys, an indication as to how shallow we all were then.
“Minnie didn’t come back for our 50th,” Betty said. “The last time I saw her, she was so heavy, she could barely move around.” Minnie was the college graduate from our class whose achievements I most admired. Reared in a poor family, she had lifted herself and her children into the middle class.
We got caught up on our respective children and grandchildren. We had talked for some time and the hour was getting late.
“Well, I’ll definitely be at the reunion, Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” I said, the idiom rolling off my tongue as if I was still a teenage country boy.
I hung up the phone and the song that was made a hit by the Statler Brothers went through my mind, the beautiful but melancholy words etched in my memory: “And the class of ‘57 had its dreams. We all thought we’d change the world with our great works and deeds. Or maybe we just thought the world would change to fit our needs. The class of ‘57 had its dreams.”
• Gary Maydew is a retired accounting professor at Iowa State University and is an occasional contributor to The Gazette.