Don’t you agree that class reunions are weird? You can never go home again, you know. The 5- and 10-year reunions can be mildly entertaining. We show up, still remembering how we felt as undergrads or high schoolers, not too far removed from it. Everyone laughs and recalls funny incidents supported by yearbooks. Hugs and screams of glee ensue as we recognize friends we haven’t seen since graduation. We look for that old boyfriend or date who made our heart skip a beat while we cling to the arm of our spouse who may or may not have attended our high school/college. After that, at least in my experience, it’s not much fun anymore. The same cliques gather together across the dance floor, and it’s just too much trouble to act interested in piercing the thin veil that holds them all together. We’d rather just exit that world once and for all and walk back into the “real world,” the one that contains our spouses, our children, our jobs. Things we could barely imagine when we were in high school or college.
There is one reunion that never happened for me, unfortunately. That was the reunion of my law school class of 1984. We didn’t even have a yearbook. When I walked into my criminal law class on the first day of school in the fall of 1981, I never dreamed that I’d form friendships I’d enjoy for the rest of my life. I went because I was an English major in college and I didn’t want to teach. And, I was in love with a man who was in dental school and would remain there for the following three years. So, what better way to bide my time than earning a law degree? Amazingly, I’d been accepted to St. Mary’s University School of Law, and here I was, entering the school with a crim law book and a yellow highlighter. The first surprise was my cool, young professor. He was cute, funny and smart and held the attention of all of his first year students. I found out later that he lived in the same apartment complex of my boyfriend. He even partied with us, sharing pitchers of beer in the Pecan Grove on Fridays after class. I made friends with a girl from Kerrville who took the best notes in shorthand and seemed to “get it.” I became friends with a Vanderbilt grad from Greenville, Texas, whose father was a lawyer like mine. I became better acquainted with a group of guys from my hometown, Cuero, we were four Gobblers in all. And, we all were friends with a number of other guys and gals from all over the state, who were getting a law degree at different stages of our lives. We had to attend classes together. We chose to go to lunch and dinner together. We enjoyed partying together on weekends. When our three years of law school were finished, I married my college sweetheart. Most of my law school buddies attended my wedding just three months following graduation. We posed for a law school picture. And that was that. We never had another reunion.
Of course, some of my girlfriends and I have stayed in touch, even starting a supper club that still meets to this day, some 32 years later. But many of us have only a vague idea where the others are, and have not been in touch at all. No reunions, no graduate directories, nothing. Last year about this time out of the blue I got a call from a friend who lived in Dallas. I hadn’t seen him since my wedding, but we’d been close friends in law school. He asked if my husband and I could meet him and his wife for lunch in San Antonio as they’d be here for the weekend. We met for Mexican food on the patio on the first weekend of May, when the breeze was still cool and we could enjoy our margaritas, chips and guacamole outside under an umbrella. After 31 years, we hugged, laughed and chatted nonstop for 2 1/2 hours. I basked in the glow of happy remembrances, his voice taking me back to that special time so many years ago. We, along with our spouses, pieced together our recollections and remembrances, and caught each other up on the births of our children, they even had one grandchild! Our laughter was contagious and it seemed like no time had passed. Towards the end of our meal, my old friend quietly informed us that he had advanced stage cancer. He was undergoing an experimental treatment, but had no idea if he was actually being treated or given a placebo. My happy heart suddenly filled with dread. I felt so sad, yet so thrilled to be sharing this time with him. We all reluctantly pulled ourselves away from the table and headed back into our real lives. We hugged each other and I whispered to my friend, “I’ll be praying for you.” He thanked me warmly.
Late last week I received an email that my old pal was in hospice care. His family was praying that he’d go quickly. Today the news came that he’d passed away. I felt so sad that all these years had passed without much contact between us. Then I realized it was because we’d each lived lives full of work, family, children and grandchildren. Yet, last year he’d taken the time to come and say goodbye. And to say that he’d appreciated our friendship, brief as it was.