Was it coincidence or something more, I wondered, last weekend as I sorted through some of my father-in-law’s old pictures with two of his daughters and a granddaughter.
As we were sorting through the stuff, laughing at photos from when we were much younger, someone pushed an old newspaper clipping my way. When I unfolded it, I was staring at a column I wrote 30 years ago on the occasion of my 10-year class reunion.
What was odd is that my 40-year class reunion is this weekend.
Why in the world, I wondered, has my father-in-law kept a column I wrote three decades ago tucked away among other keepsakes?
The old column was about classmates who passed away too young, primarily one named Bruce Ford.
About a year ago at a family reunion with my father-in-law’s late sister’s — Libby (Vance) Caldwell — family, I learned that my wife’s family is somehow related to the Ford family. One of Libby’s four daughters is deeply interested in genealogy, and a year ago at the reunion some of the paperwork she displayed documented the relationship between the two families.
Don’t ask me exactly how they are related, but I saw it in black and white.
I have known several of the Fords most of my life, but until that afternoon at the Fall Creek Friends Church, I had no idea there was a connection between the Ford family and my wife’s family.
Maybe that’s reason was the reason my father-in-law, Bill Vance, has kept the column all these years. Maybe that has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Either way, it was odd that I stumbled across a column I wrote about my 10-year reunion one week before my 40-year reunion.
At this year’s reunion I have been asked to say a few words. I’m not sure sure why I was asked speak, especially when you consider that near the end of chemistry class in high school, the teacher went around the room and announced awards for each person, with the awards named for things related to chemistry. I got the award for being the least active.
It’s funny the things you remember when reflecting on those school days of old. For instance, my junior or senior year I took a typing class. I figured it would be an easy grade, and that other than to write a college paper or two, I would never use typing again. As it has turned out, I have used the skill nearly every day of my life since 1983.
It is also funny how incidents from the present can give a whole new understanding to incidents from the past.
A few weeks ago a grandson my wife and I are raising decided he wanted to go somewhere with a friend who had just received his driver’s license. By just received, I mean he’d had the license for like 30 minutes. Since we know the friend well, we told the grandson he could go for a little ride. But when he informed us they planned to be gone most of the evening, we said absolutely not. He said was going anyway. To shorten the story, he took off walking. Let’s just say I was displeased.
A few minutes later I was on the phone with my Dad and told him about the incident. Despite my frustration, he laughed. Then he said he remembered when one of his kids pulled a similar move.
I couldn’t do much but laugh with him.
Yep, one morning very early in my senior year I decided to sign out of school — probably largely because I was not happy with the way things were going in my love life — and told the receptionist I had a dentist appointment. I must not have looked very convincing, because unbeknownst to me, she called the dentist. What I did not know was that my dentist’s office was closed that day.
When I arrived home for lunch, like I did most every day my senior year, my parents were waiting in the living room. They looked especially serious, or maybe furious would describe it better. I wondered what could be wrong, figuring that since I had walked out of school with no problem, everything was fine. About a minute later I found out the receptionist had called my parents. An argument ensued.
So I went to my room, packed a few things, and took off. I was gone four or five days. It was really fun, and I even went to school to every day. But by the end of the weekend I was out of money, my parents had my car (the one I paid for), and I had been told by a school administrator that I could not play sports if I did not live at home. Despite all that though, the truth is that I had realized during those few days that really, I could not get along at the time without my parents’ help.
So, when they left for church Sunday morning, I crept into the house and nervously awaited their return. After some serious grounding, my senior year turned out great. And my parents were behind me the whole way, never missing a function I was involved in, just like they had done since kindergarten.
There were some dumb times in high school. There were awkward times. There were ornery times. There was about every kind of time I can imagine. But despite a few bumps in the road, my high school experience could not have been much better. I was blessed with great friends, and have more wonderful memories than should be allowed.
I suppose that’s why we have these reunions — because they remind us of a time of innocence, exploration, and wonder, no matter how naive we may have been.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.