« inflectibility | Main | eight days a week, and then some »

Many returns

Your Humble Blogger spent the weekend at a wedding and the surrounding events. The people getting married are Gentle Readers (and occasional commenters) at this Tohu Bohu; one overlapped with me at college and is therefore an Old College Buddy within the meaning of the act, while the other is a year younger and does not so qualify, although she and I (and my Best Reader) have several subjects of interest in common, things like, oh, Scripture, heresies and how to beat college students without leaving external marks. I am fond of these two, and it’s always nice for me when people of whom I am fond marry each other, making for happiness that increases by squares. Well, some people would call us all squares, but that’s neither here nor there.

Much of the weekend was spent with Old College Buddies and their spouses, some of whom are also Old College Buddies. There was also a large contingent of what one might call Younger College Buddies, that is, persons who went to college with people who went to college with people who went to college with YHB. Our social set has (or at least has had) some mechanisms for strengthening such links; there were people there from the class of seventy-cough and from the class of ought-sneeze. Well, and the early one is an outlier, but there were multiple representatives from the class of eighty-wheeze. And, not coincidentally, I suspect that at one point the majority of Gentle Readers here were in one room.

While YHB spent much of the weekend enjoying thinking about the Wedding (which was lovely and moving) and much of the weekend chasing after the Youngest Member (who was lovely and moving rather quickly), much of the weekend was also spent thinking about an Old High School Buddy who died earlier this week. This is a woman with whom I spent many happy hours in the High School theater world, and those of you who have done that know how pleasant such friendships can be. I have not seen her in twenty years and more, and will not now see her until the endtime, if ever. There is no longer a chance to catch up. This week I found out that she has three children and a loving husband; she won’t know how my life turned out, where I find my happiness.

It was a deliberate choice I made, after high school, cutting myself off from the friends I had made. I left town to go to college elsewhere, and felt that I would be happier, perhaps that I would be more free, severing those ties. And, frankly, keeping them was hard work, and to me hard work is something I prefer to leave to other people, who are so much better at it. So my Old High School buddies—the ones I ate lunch with five times a week, the ones I played cards with in Physics class, the ones I led at speech tournaments, the ones I rehearsed with and played with, the ones I bullshitted with and the ones I sang tipsy songs with, the one I went to Prom with and the one I asked to marry me, the one whose car had no air conditioning and the one who drove like a maniac, the one who was terrific with a pool cue and the one who could tap dance, the one I carried over my shoulder and the one I fell over on—were part of my past and not my present, and I have no idea what happened to any of them, except one that was particularly dogged about staying in touch.

Well, and another, who happens to have a blog, but we went to different high schools, so we are not technically Old High School Buddies. From good old Washington High School, home of the Rams, it’s just one fellow, and we average one telephone call a year.

Which is all fine. I have regrets about the decision, but I don’t know that it was the wrong one at the time, nor do I fool myself that the other decision, the one to keep in touch with some or most of the old gang, would have been without emotional cost. If I did try to fool myself that way, I would be reminded by events like this past weekend, where I am thrown back in to contact with people I know, or used to know, in social situations much like those we used to enjoy. And I like these people—let me be clear about this, I do like these people, without exception, my Old College Buddies, this is not a case where we are socializing now because of that connection but didn’t like each other at college or anything like that—and enjoy their company, and yet it is very difficult. It takes me a long time, some hours at least, before I can ease back into the old rhythms of conversation, and it takes me even longer to ease into new rhythms of new conversations.

Those are the ones that I really fully enjoyed. People talking about their current lives, their current thoughts and concerns and pleasures, the universes they perceive and how all of those universes match and how they don’t. Much of that was “talking shop”, the various academics talking about their departments and their students, because many of us who were impressionable at the same time were impressed in the same way, so many of us went down that long and winding road. And then, those of us with children (not as many as one might imagine) spent time talking about the universe those of us with children inhabit, with its dangers and frustrations and delights. But as I come home to central Connecticut, what seems to be sticking with me is not the facts or views of those people but just the sudden, almost revealed knowledge that I like these people, that they are not just of my past but of my present, and that they can be part of my future as well, not as I say without the cost of a good bit of awkwardness, even of hard work (dare I say it), but to the advantage of a stronger and deeper sense of myself.

And, eventually, when one of us is again struck down, suddenly or slowly, perhaps with a sense of grief unencumbered (or less encumbered) by that alienation from my own past.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

Post a comment

Please join in. Comments on older posts will be held for moderation. Don't be a jerk. Eat fruit.