By now you know where I was last week. Fr. John spilled the beans, of course. I traveled back to Akron, Ohio for my 50th high school reunion.
Archbishop Hoban High School was an all-boys Catholic high school (since become co-ed) taught by the Brothers of the Holy Cross (Think Aquinas only a bit smaller). We had 252 graduating seniors. There were about 80 classmates at the reunion with their wives.
I took the tour of the building before mass to see all the improvements that have been made. The school, after some tough years, has made a wonderful comeback thanks to the efforts of administration and alumni.
At the school’s request I presided at Saturday evening mass in the school chapel. The singing and prayer responses were every bit as strong as ours at Holy Trinity. Dinner followed at a local party house.
I wondered if there would be some big “life lesson” awaiting me that weekend . . . some dramatic news about a former rival, some hugely successful person, a headline story of fortune gained or lost. Nothing like that happened. It was all very simple and real – – –
** We had gotten older. Some fellows (good friends 50 years ago) I didn’t recognize, others brought immediate memories . . . Wayne Hopp, a little cheery guy, would turn back to me each morning in homeroom to share some class news.
** We all got t-shirts with our class motto (“Who Cares?!”) printed on the sleeve. We were at the beginning of the turbulent ’60’s and ’70’s. We thought ourselves oh so clever back then. Many of us had dabbled in Hippiedom and its various excesses. Since then I’d say most of us had in fact learned “to care”. The wives and the children were instrumental in our transformation.
** Someone who cared from the beginning was Mike Kempel. He was a Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class in Viet Nam. He was killed as he carried three fallen soldiers to safe cover and was awarded the Silver Star.
Mike and I had made our First Communion together at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. He was a quiet, kindly fellow who never called attention to himself . . . until he died saving his brothers.
** Another classmate, Steven Bligh had just lost his wife of 45 years. Their 3 children were raised and living far away. Steve was somewhat lost as he wandered the party by himself. Finally, some of our “Who Cares?” classmates grabbed him and sat him down with a beer and some conversation.
** As I said, it used to be a blue collar all-boys school. So we weren’t the smoothest guys when it came to girls. Those with their own cars (only a few of us) were fast starters on the dating scene back then. But it seems the boys got their courage up and found their partners in life. The wives seemed genuinely happy to be a part of the evening.
As we filtered out there were no promises to “meet up again”, just handshakes, smiles, and “great to see you’s”.
I’m blessed to have 4 or 5 friends from high school that I still see when I travel back “home”. But I’ll never see most of those people again. That, in itself, is a thought worthy to reflect on.
Terry’s killer smile. John T’s gift of getting us together. Wayne’s excitement over the Cleveland Indians, Steve’s sadness without his wife, Dave’s quiet helping hand, Roland loud with too much beer . . . guys, it’s been quite a ride. I’m privileged to have known you.
Dear God. You made each one of us as a unique expression of your glory. You put us on the earth to share your joy in the beautiful world you created. You call us to be like you in the way you love. You gave us your Son to be one of us and show us the way. Jesus told us we are your children and you are our Father. And we will be with you in the great mystery called heaven.
Thank you so much!!