Fifty years ago we celebrated a high school diploma. Last weekend we celebrated surviving, sobered by a poster board in the back of the room that was filled with snapshots of 23 classmates that did not.
We're members of the Sylvan High School Class of 1962, together one more time. We're back in Atlanta, but most of us have other ZIP codes now. Our name tags included yearbook photographs from long ago, and we needed them to recognize people that were so important to us when we were young.
Our experience parallels class reunions everywhere.
We laughed about how many old people were there. We talked about teachers we had and cars we drove. We visited old friends and wondered why we lost touch. We talked about the old neighborhoods and how small the houses seem. We had trouble remembering what we had for breakfast, but in this setting we remembered old addresses and what our phone numbers used to be.
When we graduated we never considered who we would be in 50 years. We were young and invincible. Our knees didn't ache, and our futures were bright. Now we draw Social Security and look back on pasts that blew past us when we weren't looking.
Every class has a leader and ours was Gary Claborn. He was quarterback on the football team, president of the student body and commander of our ROTC unit. He has put aside those childish things, but the way he lives his life makes him a person we all respect.
Claborn helped organize the reunion and did it well. From the podium he recognized classmates who traveled the greatest distance, the couple with the most children and grandchildren and the couple who had been married the longest. He called to the front an amazing number of classmates who had served their country. We gave them a standing ovation.
The most remarkable thing Claborn did was remind us that the year we graduated the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed daily prayers in public schools. He suggested that we might have been the last group to recite the Lord's Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance every morning for 13 years.
"And look where that change has gotten us," he said.
An event 50 years in the making ended quickly. Few stayed around to dance to the oldies. The cash bar was still well stocked. People who no longer drive at night hurried home. We hugged and said goodnight.
And wondered how many of us will be around for the next one.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. He is also found at www.richardhyattcolumbus.com