“It’s all that the young can do for the old, to shock them and keep them up to date.”
G.B. Shaw, Fanny’s First Play, 1912
In Ralph Keyes book titled ‘Is There Life After High School?’ he admits he was rather short and shy and had a hard time getting along with his classmates. He let them know it in his popular book. When he decided to attend his first reunion he wrote “I was convinced that at least one of them would be waiting inside the door of the American Legion hall to hit me in the nose.” He was shocked and admitted he had a great time. It just brought him up to date.
The shock occurred when I stepped into the hall at my reunion and a classmate asked if I would sit next to him at a table. I had to glance to see his 1953 photo on his lanyard before I realized I had known him. As soon as we sat down he said quickly “Do you remember when we were on the baseball team and there were only two slots for the catcher position? You got the second spot and I got nothing!” He looked angry and suddenly burst out laughing.
He told me he dated a gorgeous classmate in our first year until a football jock took her away. In the second year he dated another beauty and the same jock picked her off. “Ah,” he said eagerly, “let me show you in our yearbook how handsome he looked.” He smiled half-heartedly and spurted, “Guess what, he’s dead!” I guess that was a shock to keep me up to date!
“It’s all that the young can do for the old” but what about the young that tend to shock the young? On a page in my yearbook a classmate wrote “To Willy, best of everything. I know you’ll get ahead in life…You need one. Dave.”
Here’s another whack. “Willard – I’ve really enjoyed your friendship, and hope you will always remember your fellow baseball player who couldn’t hit his buns with both hands. Sincerely, Gene.” He was one of our star jocks but unfortunately he’s deceased. It brought me up to date.
I had not looked in my annual book for decades. On a corner of a page Tom wrote “Brother Buzz, I hope we will remain friends through life.” Tom’s mother suffered from dementia and it took a toll on him. He began drinking booze heavily and early on in High School. I urged him to come to my home when he sobered up. My mom mothered him for over a year and he was able to quit drinking for a time. A few months before we graduated she died suddenly at the age of 38. I lost Tom, and his note in my book shocked me up to date.
On the next page of the book Ray, a baseball star, wrote “To Buzz, One of the finest pals I have ever had. Lots of luck in the future, your pal, Ray.” He lived in California when his wife died suddenly after 25 years of marriage. He often brought his RV to Phoenix and we would go to the Diamond Back games until he got cancer and died in his sixties. His family asked me to conduct the memorial service. I got there early and was not prepared to see him in an open casket before the service. He was wearing the same shirt, shorts and tennis shoes he wore at our last Diamond Back game. And yes, it was a shock!
After the service the sons and daughter stepped up to the casket with their grandchildren and placed a fishing pole in the coffer with his favorite bait and coupons for his best whiskey. I thought it might not be appropriate but the whole congregation was in tears. Another shock that kept me up to date.
One of the most shocking moments for a sister and brother in their 60s occurred when we talked about the eulogy for their grandfather who had raised them. They told me about his highly success in business, his doctoral degree at Harvard, a CEO and his high degree in the Masons. They went on and on about his achievements.
I asked them if they had any close moments with him. They looked at each other but could not come up with anything. The sister admitted he was rather stern and distant but they admired him dearly. They lived on the east coast and had their own company and their granddad was busy with his work in the west. So, they seldom got together. The siblings felt guilty for not connecting more often.
I asked the brother and sister if they could think for a few minutes to recall something that they might have overlooked. They sat there for several minutes and suddenly they beamed at the same time.
The sister said “When we were young teenagers the candy on the coffee table was off limits. When granddad started to go to bed he warned us to not get into that candy dish. Well it was a glass jar and a noisy lid but we went after it.
He had to have known we grab the candy as soon as he closed his door.”
The brother and sister were in tears. I asked if I could use that story and she said half-jokingly, “Maybe that’s all you need, Reverend.”
That awesome evoke was stuck in the past for nearly fifty years and G.B. Shaw had it right; we need to keep up to date.