24 October 2006


We went home last weekend.
Central Indiana is home. I've grown to hate cold winters, so returning there full time is out of the question. But a big part of me was carved out of the soil and the people of that area. Ours was a relatively small, mostly farm community.

One of the things that I loved about home was the sunsets. Returning from fetching something from the car, I snapped this photo and smiled. Rolling hills, green, green grass, and enough clouds to make the sky interesting..... sunsets are frequently gorgeous at "home". And although you can't see it in this photo, the trees really show off this time of year!

You may remember that I was plucked from home in 1966. "The Draft" seems foreign now, doesn't it? But it was a way of life for me and my peers. Graduating from High School, those of us that didn't get married and didn't go to college knew that our Uncle Sam would come calling soon. My Draft notice came exactly one year after I graduated High School.

I had spent all the life I could remember in the same bedroom in the same house. Mom and Dad stayed together, so my family life was also stable, if not solid as a rock. Being drafted, therefore, was a pretty big shock to this 19 year old that had known very little of what went on outside my sheltered community.

I don't know how to put into words how homesick I was. My heart ached. I don't mind telling you that during the first weeks of basic training at Ft. Knox, Ky., the only thing that kept me from crying myself to sleep was the friendship and support of a High School classmate in the bunk above me.
Thank you Dave H!

The first few ARMY years, I would drive home every chance I got, then run around the old stomping grounds trying to reconnect with friends. It was difficult. They had moved on to the next level in their lives, and I was trying to turn back the clock. It was unsatisfying for me, and probably puzzling for them.

It took a few years, but I realized the most satisfying way to come home was to announce the dates I would be there, so those that really wanted to see me could seek me out. That way, I wasn't interjecting myself where I wasn't wanted. I realized pretty quickly who my true friends were.

High School reunions have been somewhat like that. I went to several of them, and like my first attempts to reunite with old friends after being drafted, they left me feeling empty. The reunions would attract lots of classmates, but we seemed to talk AT one another, rather than TO one another.

The last few have been wonderful. I think now that we are more mature, maybe more secure, we are genuinely interested in what has brought all of us to this point in our lives.
But we've also arrived at a formula for our reunions that contributes to a more comfortable atmosphere: the "Mini" reunion.

We had the first of them more than two years ago, and only 7 people attended. Several of us that hadn't seen one another in years had gotten in touch via email, and we decided to meet at one of our classmates home, centrally located for all. As we left in the evening, our faces hurt from laughing.

If you have one reunion every 5 or 10 years, a large number of folks aren't gonna be able to attend, for one reason or another. Life is like that these days....... our calendars fill up all too quickly.
But if you have several "Mini" reunions in a year, more dates are opened up for people to attend. Those that cannot attend on date "A", may be able to attend on date "B". Over the year, if you attend two or three of these minis, you may see several people you haven't seen in years.

And that is what happened last weekend. Three people attended that I had not seen since May of 1965. Once again, it's hard to describe the feelings........ seeing these people after all these years.

My heart no longer aches. Can a heart smile? I think mine is grinning from ear to ear!
We have several minis planned for the future. I may not be able to attend all of them, but I'm sure as heck gonna try.

1 comment:

k said...

You know, I had no idea where this story was going. Beautiful sunsets and heart-warming nostalgia, then empty-feeling forced service, then distant-unconnections, then hugs-and-laughing meetings. Too much for one post (but soooo nice to not have a politico-slant!). I'm glad you know who your friends are. And it's great to know that your paths can intersect after decades and be right and fulfilling. Cheers!