We spent a few days this past summer in the town where Larry grew up (which is why this issue is a little late).
Erie, PA is kind of like the Rodney Dangerfield of lake towns -- it doesn't get much respect -- but I am willing to bet that that is about to change. Like Pittsburgh, where we live, Erie often suffers from a negative reputation that is way off the mark these days. But as we all know, reputations are hard to change, dating back to when we were young and our parents were so concerned with our "reputations" or at least in not getting one.
But to Erie we went and it was really nice. The lake is clear and clean now and sunbathers and swimmers are flocking to the beaches on Presque Isle to take advantage. We spent time at the peninsula state park and at the Erie Zoo and enjoyed both (but wouldn't have hated a little cooler weather. Geesh, it was hot).
In the evenings we had even more fun having dinner with family members and with some old friends, and these get-togethers were the highlight of the trip.
I realized as we were catching up with our friends that too much time had passed since we last sat down to share a meal and a conversation. When we were younger, we were so busy with children and careers and taking care of parents that we lost track of the special people we enjoyed spending time with. And I also realized that getting reacquainted with them reminded me of what quality people they were and that having them in our lives again will only enhance them.
But the question of the day for all of us, accompanied by a lot of head shaking, was always, "How did this happen?" Hmmm... "How did we ever get so old and have grown children? How could it be close to 41 years since I started college? What happened?" None of us had the answers, something that plagues everyone as they age.
While I was pondering all of these thoughts and before I sat down to write this column I received a phone call from a high school classmate of mine who I am sorry to say I don't remember. But my graduating class had nearly 1,000 students in it so not knowing everyone was just accepted.
I checked out my graduating class's website (complete with Aquarius playing in the background) and was getting ready to input my personal information into the classmate log when I noticed a tab for "in memory". Next to the tab was the number "93" as the total of those who have died in the class, or at least that are known about. Ten percent? I would have never guessed that there could have been so many deaths. I mean we are in our (very) late 50s now, but still, that surprised me.
There was a 40th high school reunion for my class last year and I missed it because we had a family event to go to, and also, because I have never had much interest in going to a reunion. But seeing the memorials to so many of my classmates I felt a whole lot closer to them all and wish I had been able to attend earlier reunions.
I even learned that one of my favorite classmates, a guy who moved back to our hometown to raise his family even though he was a professional actor and comedian, died four years ago of colon cancer. I didn't know because we hadn't kept in touch, but I still had to ask myself: "How did this happen?" I can still see him on the stage in high school, belting out a number in Pajama Game.
Later this year some of our friends from college are planning a mini reunion. It's been a long time since we all gathered together in one place and when we look around at each other and ask "How did this happen?" the answer will be because we wanted it to.
By Teresa K. Flatley