Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Faster than a Speeding Bullet!

The years slide by inevitably and inexorably and “gravity and the sun are mean forces!”
by Charlie Leck

It is quite a strange phenomenon to go 50 years without communicating with someone and then send off an email to him as if it was only yesterday that we shook hands and walked away in different directions.

Neil McMickle was a classmate in good, old Roxbury H.S. and, in 1958, we grabbed our diplomas and ran before someone realized they had made a mistake. He went off to the Navy. I ran in the opposite direction and found myself in college. He sailed into beautiful ports around the Mediterranean and other exotic places; I encountered and dealt with the rigors of difficult winters on the plains of South Dakota and Minnesota, trying to figure out ways to avoid and evade the growing war in Vietnam. We each married, had kids and found out we were lousy husbands and awkward fathers. He became a cop and I a fast-talking marketer.

He was one of the handsomest kids you’d ever want to meet. The girls swooned over him. It was something he had going for him! He should have been the stud of our class – the absolute leader of his mates – but he wouldn’t wear the robe and found the crown too heavy. I wasn’t handsome, but I was tall and strong looking. No one offered me leadership roles and I didn’t seek them. Neil and I were both loners and we didn’t have many friends – not even each other. When we left school, it was with a rush to get somewhere else – anywhere else and to put those high school years far behind us.

Now, we’re just two old guys. As Neil says, “gravity and the sun are mean forces!” He dabbles with astronomy imaging and I read relentlessly and write blogs.

I found the right woman, remarried and that has made all the difference. It sounds like Neil did too. He admits to screwing up his marriage to the delightful Janet Bigg. Lord knows I could have fallen in love with her, too. I struggled to win a desk next to hers in French II class. I felt more confident when I was near her. She had that kind of personality. She was a nifty person. (We used words like “nifty” a lot back then.) In my ’57 class yearbook, she scrolled some advice for me across her face: “Good luck in the future and keep that friendly smile.”

So, Neil, a kid I barely got to know, sends me an email and tells me the story of his life in a few hundred words. I had written to him first, asking him if he was going to the reunion and telling him it was great to picture him in my mind’s eye again – even though I had closed that door so firmly behind me 50 years ago.

Had I thought about him twixt then and now, I would have imagined he had gone into the theater or cinema or into something that could have taken advantage of his good looks. I think such attractiveness must be a burden for he or she who owns it. Most of us have never carried the burden. We had a few stunners in our class – Barb McCloskey, Dick Brown and Joyce Roesing. Jesus, they were gorgeous people.

Now that “gravity and the sun” have had their way, none of us need worry about it anymore.

“Ad Astra!” I say to Neil, “Ad Astra!”

“It was great to hear from you. Good luck to you and Ruth."

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