The Afterglow of Reunion

Warren Lincoln High School Class of 1967 50-Year Reunion Planners
Iris Underwood, Marty Halaas, Marilyn Haley, Sue Bendert
On this quiet, sunny Sabbath, my husband and I sat under our patio umbrella with a plateful of leftover potato salad and watermelon. Our conversation drifted to Stony Creek Metro Park, my 50th high school class reunion the previous Friday.
          No picnic is complete without Mom’s legendary comfort food, so I had seasoned a double portion of potatoes, onions, celery, and hard-boiled eggs with sincerity, just in case thirty classmates and spouses showed up.
          “After all these years, I had no idea what to expect,” I said to Mel.
          In 1992, he chose not to join me for my twenty-fifth Lincoln High reunion. It seems like yesterday, yet a lifetime. Back then, there was still hope for our firstborn’s deliverance from addiction. Our house sheltered two active teenaged daughters who dreamed of their independence. I dreamed of grandchildren. My parents and parents-in-law dreamed of great-grandchildren.
          “I wasn’t much different from my classmates then, ” I said. “We were all fairly fit, no gray hair, and self-conscious.”
          He smiled.
          “And I’m not much different from them today. I’ve put on some pounds, my hair’s grey, and I don’t care.”
          Gentle on our minds, we recalled the fine day and laughter under the park's pavilion. Marty, our reunion planner, grilled hamburgers and hotdogs for more than sixty graduates, dropouts, and their spouses. After burning social media’s circuits since January to track down our graduating class of 1967, flipping burgers was Marty’s ultimate reward.
           “Hey, I’m retired and can do what I want,” he said.
People echoed this mantra throughout the picnic in conclusion to mingled memories, family updates (particularly grandchildren count), and travel plans. Most of us are empty nesters and have buried parents, siblings, and children—not much remains to tie us down.
Al, my senior year boyfriend who I hadn’t seen in fifty years, invited us to visit him and his wife in Cheboygan. She smiled and nodded. Their hospitality caught us off guard.
Since Marty forwarded me the list of paid classmates to write nametags, I knew two weeks ago that Al and his wife had paid for the reunion dinner Saturday night. They didn’t note their attendance for the Friday picnic, however.
In the afterglow of sweet reunion in our backyard, Mel asked, “You didn’t know Al served in Viet Nam?”
“No. I heard nothing from or about him all these years. That’s why I was thankful to see him. His family was good to me when I needed them most.”
“So you didn’t know he lost a leg to agent orange several years ago?”
“No. I was shocked to see the prosthesis.”
Dear Reader, as the afternoon warmed to an ideal eighty degrees, we absorbed the nutrition of human fellowship and God’s faithfulness. We talked about Patrick, the younger brother Al lost to lung cancer—a common grief he and Mel share.
 Mel then suggested we stay the night at Presque Isle Lodge sometime in August and drive to Cheboygan in the morning.
“Good idea,” I said. “You’re retired now. Let’s do what you want.”