For the past two weeks, I’ve been worried that I would walk into my 50th high-school class reunion and find a bunch of people with walkers and oxygen canisters, like my parents used in their later years. My wife, Jenny, scoffed at the idea that somehow my classmates had gotten old and I had not.
When we entered the banquet room of the Hilton Garden Inn in the suburbs of Kansas City Saturday night, there was not a walker or oxygen bottle in sight. More than 160 classmates and 90 of their spouses were there, and most looked about my age. Some of them still work, like me, and everyone kept their grandchildren’s photos in their wallets.
I admit I was wrong; Jenny was right. Some things never change.
Maybe, I got the wrong idea because of the information posted online in advance about the reunion. The material noted that 87 members out of our 555-member graduating class were deceased.
It sort of scared me. I felt even worse when one of the reunion organizers called a week ago to invite us to join several people at her reserved table.
“Three more members of our class died in the past two weeks,” she said. “I hope we don’t have any more because I just sent the reunion class book to the printer.”
Golly, I thought, I had better be careful. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hang out with the 1963 class of Raytown High School.
But as it turns out, I was glad I did. I concluded, though, that sitting at the reserved table wasn’t all that special. Next to me was the widow of the renowned high-school football coach. The coach was a surly, self-absorbed guy who didn’t think much of me because I wasn’t good at sports.
Fortunately, she had no idea who I was, but when I mentioned I had been editor of the Rayflector, the high-school paper, she said her husband never liked the paper and liked the yearbook even less. I quickly went back to eating.
Seated next to Jenny was a distinguished-looking man who is the new husband of Karen, one of my friends in high school. Karen, a retired school principal living in Las Vegas, said she had been divorced for 20 years, but had spied him across a room at a bridge tournament and decided to make her move. He is a retired developer and lawyer, who said his class doesn’t have reunions anymore because he graduated in 1944. He said the last reunion he went to was his 62nd.
At a table nearby was a classmate who was always entering pageants in high school. We used to joke about her winning the Betty Crocker Cookbook Queen contest or some title close to that. We stopped joking, though, when she went on to be chosen Miss USA in the Miss Universe pageant.
The thing that really struck me was how few Raytown High School classmates still live in Raytown – only 24 of 465. The rest of us moved on, with more than 200 beyond Missouri and Kansas.
Anyhow, we had an OK time. I bet there are going to be walkers and oxygen bottles at my 60th. With a bit of luck, they won’t be mine.
T. Wayne Mitchell, Gazette publisher, can be reached at 662-534-6321.