Ohio Road Trip – Day 5, 6 and 7 – High School Reunion

Main Hallway at Valley Forge High School

Finally, I had a day of down time on Friday.  That gave me a chance to chill out for the morning, editing pictures I’d taken, doing email, and going over notes I’d made on the trip so far.

My sister Lynn and her husband were gone on vacation while I was staying at her home but Angi was spending nights there watching the dog and house-sitting.  I had some pleasant visits with Angie in the evenings.

Angi and Lynn preparing the kitchen for demolition.

Lynn is renovating her condo and ordered a Pod to put all of her 1st floor furniture in.  I was there when it was delivered and we connected live, via Facetime on our iPhone/iPad so she could see the placement of the pod and get it in just the right spot.  What amazing technology!  Then I called my nephew, Dave to come help me move furniture out and surprise his parents when they got home.  We got most of the 1st floor furniture out.  I didn’t realize that they were going to completely gut the whole 1st floor, because by Sunday night – EVERYTHING was out – carpet, cabinets and all!  I’m glad I was there to help with the heavy lifting.

I wanted to get some good family time in with Dave and Angi, so Friday was devoted to them.  Dave and I went to Winking Lizard.  We had brautwurst on a pretzel bun for lunch with a surprisingly good pumpkin ale.  Later, Angi asked me to go out to a club to get some dancing in.  I was dying for some West Coast Swing so we agreed on going early to get me some dancing, then hit her club late to bust a move on the dance floor at her new club.

The WCS was not very good, though I did get a very good dance in with Tina Price.  The whole place was a bit geriatric and the music as old and worn out.  Still, I got some dance time in and was happy for that.  And thanks Angi for suffering through that!

Next, we headed down to Cuyahoga Falls to the Red Fox bar where Angi proceeded to bust a move all night long.  Thankfully, the club had all ages there and I fit in just fine.  I don’t do very much freestyle dancing.  I do partner dancing.  Getting up and dancing by myself is something that should be easy for me, but it isn’t.  It’s hard for me not to grab a hand and do a spin with a partner.  I know and love all the music that the DJ was playing so once I got up there, I just tap-stepped until I got the knack of it then just bopped away.  We had a great time and finally got home around 2:30 in the morning.  Fun night, Angi!  Thanks for hanging out with your Uncle!

Angie gave me lots of music to copy too. Most of it was Remix’s and Mash-ups that I hadn’t heard before.  Loved it! I’ve got a whole lot of thumping going on inside my Tahoe these days.  Now I can out-thump the kids at the stoplight!

Cindi, me and Pam. Cheerleaders!

Saturday was the big day – the whole reason I went to Ohio in the first place: my high school reunion.  My high school, Valley Forge, was having an open house at the school to celebrate it’s Golden Anniversary. Many of us met there at 3:00 for a walk through the halls, the auditorium, the lunch room and gym where we spent so much of our time growing up.  I was amazed at how well maintained and how well the building has held up over the years.  It was in tip top shape and it looked like it had been well cared for over the years.  To me, that’s a tribute to how much we loved that school and valued our time there.

Gerry, Joe and Cindi get the party started.

Our class president and 3 other classmates put this whole thing together, including renting the American Legion hall, hiring a band and preparing food.  Over 150 of us showed up.  I became the official photographer and tried to grab pictures of everyone who attended.  I don’t think anybody stopped visiting or talking all night.  We had to shout over the volume of the band that was playing so by the next day, most of us were hoarse with raspy voices.

I probably didn’t remember most of the people there, but slowly throughout the night, their faces did begin to register with me so I went back and visited with them.  I was quite surprised at how many people I did recognize and how many people I could instantly remember their names too!  40 years later and I could shout out their name after not even thinking about them for that long.  Amazing!

The party shut down around 12:30, but Cindi, Les and I were still pumped up so we drove over to The Lamplighter, a local bar that Les refers to as The Tramplighter.  Ha!  You’d think at 1:00 in the morning, a dive bar like this would be getting pretty sloppy, but a live band was still playing.  Low and behold, they rocked our socks off!  The band should have been playing at a biker bar and maybe this was that same crowd, but what they played was Classic Rock songs that blew me away!  They played Joe Walsh, Joe Cocker and lots more, wailing away on guitars and keyboards and really putting on a great show! Loved it!

Joe packing furniture in the pod

Sunday, my sister and Joe had returned home and were busy packing up boxes by the time I woke up.  I watched my church service on streaming video, then Lynn got my butt in gear helping move furniture and boxes out to the pod.  The next thing I knew, the entire kitchen was empty and Joe was pulling up carpeting in the living room.  That dude doesn’t waste any time!

Barb had organized a final get-together for our reunion on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 at Pasta Lear’s, an little italian restaurant.  About 40 of us showed up for that.  We sat out on the patio and enjoyed the beautiful Fall weather while we ate our pizza and had our wine.  Without the loud music, we got some great talk-time in and had one last time to visit with friends we hadn’t seen in years.

Me, Linda and Rick at Pasta Lear's

When I got home in the evening, Lynn and Joe had completely gutted and cleaned the 1st floor!  No cabinets, no flooring – NOTHING remained!  It was amazing what can be done when you put your mind to it.  The construction begins this week on their totally updated kitchen and living room.  It’s going to be so nice!

By Sunday night, I was really missing Patty and missing home.  My mom had invited me to stop over in Lexington again while she and my dad were in Boston, but I really had seen enough of that area and I was anxious to travel a little farther down the road if I wanted to get home in 2 days.  I decided to skip Lexington and head for home.  I packed and prepared for my trip home, then hit the hay early.

Mike (between me and Linda) was my best friend growing up and was the leader of The Brandywine Estate Boys in High School. He recently passed away.

Looking back on my reunion, I’m so glad I went.  Granted, I was a bit piss-y for missing one of my favorite WCS events,  Boogie by the Bay out in San Francisco, but this was so much more important.  These are some of the friends and acquaintances I’ve had the longest in my life.  Some of them I’ve known for almost 50 years.  Some, like Mike Stribling, John Moenich, and Pat Gallager-Scott have passed away and are no longer with us. Others have fought cancer, survived tragedies, gone though divorces, and overcome struggles.  Some are as fun as ever, some are successful in life, family or business.  Some are not.  Some were also as strange as ever.  But when it was all said and done, these are my people and my memories that have affected my life in one way or another.  From one of my best ever lifetime friends, Cindi, to a speckling of my old neighborhood buddies that we called The Brandywine Estates Boys, to growing closer to special people like Tom, Linda, Barb and Jim.  I loved seeing them all, and I pause to honor those who have passed on.

Class Reunion of 1971 during Open House at Valley Forge High School: Bob, Mark, Diane, Tom, Cindi, Wayne, Susan, Linda, me, Barb, Gerry

As I write this, several days later, I’m still getting over what I’ll call a melancholy feeling.  Who knows when we’ll all get together again.  Who knows who may not live to see another reunion.  Accidents, health and other commitments may mean that this will be the last time I see these folks.  While my heart is filled with joy from this special time together, it’s also a reality check that our time in this life is ticking away.  Our faces are getting older.  Our families are grown.  Our careers have reached the retirement age.  Yet our zest for life and our inner peace seems to have made us all the more solid and resolute.  We know what is important in life and what is not.  We know how important it is to connect with each other and we know how our hearts ache when we have to say good-bye.

With Cindi,four time breast cancer survivor. Cindi and I have been best friends since 5th Grade.

So today, I find myself choking back tears and fighting to keep my head up.  I guess what happened to me, is that I slowed down and stopped to see how far we’ve all come, and realize that we are also moving closer to the end of our lives.  Not that I expect to croak in a  year or two, but I realize that at age 58, I am all closer to dying than I am to the day I was born.  I just wasn’t expecting the reality check in the middle of this celebration among friends.

As John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

About Wayne to the Max

Active writer, dancer, traveler, Christian and father, aviation enthusiast, photographer, music lover and a DJ, hiker, Harley driver and fine wine drinker. My digital photo artist page: www.WayneToTheMax.com
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