Tuesday, August 3, 2010
ROUGH AS HELL, TWICE AS FRISKY
1960 EHS 2010 Scramble, Emporia, KS
The “Rough as Hell, Twice as Frisky”, best damn class of 1960 is approaching the end game. Almost one half of the roughly 200 members attended our fiftieth high school class reunion in Emporia, Kansas. The weekend edition of the local newspaper published the obituary of the 28th class member to pass on from this earthly life. He had traveled the world and donated his body to cancer research. As I traveled to the event, I wondered how many of us had achieved some level of comfortable living, how many are just getting by, and how many, as Thoreau observed, are now living lives of quiet desperation. I suppose folks could consider all of us in attendance as survivors of life’s slings and arrows at this point in time, the year 2010. We departed our high school graduation high on a wild eclectic mix of estrogen and testosterone to meet the world head on. The Vietnam War was at our doorstep as we ran interference for the Baby Boomer Generation just behind us. We used Jack Kerouac’s travel guide, “On the Road” and read about the new sexual revolution in Playboy. We witnessed Woodstock, LSD, civil rights marches and sit in’s, a war brought into our living rooms every evening, the pill, the rise of feminism, rock ‘n roll, the British invasion, a man on the moon, Watergate, the fall of the Berlin wall and Communism, HIV/AIDS, Y2K, OJ’s white Bronco chase, the Gulf War, Tsunamis, Katrina, and so much more, not necessarily in that order.
We marked time by experiencing such “I remember where I was when” moments as the JFK assassination, the Challenger explosion and the surreal horror of September 11, 2001. Our generation witnessed five decades of historical events such as the Vietnam war that left a smiling classmate's name etched in the black marble wall on the Washington, DC mall, the 1970’s recession and disco craze, the 1980’s Reagan era of economic stability and rising stocks, the 1990’s Clinton era of the stained blue dress and office of the presidency, and the world of terrorism that has defined the 2000’s.
Most everybody got a shot at life and we all had the free will to plunge right in and give it a go. Sort of like cutting open the gates of a Kansas rodeo horseback rider. You know it’ll be a rough ride with an excellent probability of being thrown down hard on occasion. That’s when the real testing begins, as you struggle to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again-- for fifty years. We finally begin to understand that there are many things in life beyond our control except one thing—the ability to control our response to those things. We’ve attended thousands of hours of additional schooling, served in the military, learned trades, married, had children, divorced, remarried, fought cancer and other diseases, received new body parts, lost hair where it belongs and grown it where it doesn’t, climbed mountains and corporate ladders in both directions, striving for success and finally transitioning to lives of significance—seeking redemption, finding depression or peace and perhaps in a limited few cases, experienced a failure to launch.
World events and technological advances are accelerating at a hyper overdrive pace. The end times signs are prophesied to occur at a rate similar to birthing pains that grow more intense and closer together as a new earth and heaven are created. Perhaps we were created to be instrumental actors in the grand orchestration of the unwinding of the universe. Perhaps we are simply another generation of cogs in the eternal wheel of fortune.
Growing up in Emporia, the neighborhood streets were lined with Dutch Elm trees on either side that literally formed a tunnel around the streets. Those stately old trees have since all succumbed to Dutch Elm disease and the streets are now exposed and unknown. And yet, as we drove around on a hot and humid July afternoon in a rolling yellow sweat lodge revisiting the home of our seventeenth birthdays, the Doucette in charge still had trouble holding down all the chatter of friends relating to one another. Just like every teacher who had the pleasure of trying to keep us from relating to one another for all those years up to 1960.