Friday, February 5, 2010

Requiem for a True Heavyweight

I have not yet decided if Karen and Lee are among the two most determined women I know or whether they are simply both insane. Both of them are fellow members of the W-H Class of '85. They have assumed - with Karen having manned the point thus far - the responsibility of putting together what at first blush seemed to me to be an event long on impossibility and short on probability - a 25th class reunion.

My jaundiced view on such a thing is predicated in substantial part on the fact that to my knowledge no such formal gathering occurred at any time during Years 1 - 24. Presumably people in our class have done a good job of staying in contact with one another over the course of the past two and one half decades. Speaking for myself, I have/had not done so. The artifice of social networking notwithstanding, other than Karen (who I have seen on an infrequent albeit recurring basis) and a couple of other folks, most of the people I knew back when we was fab I have either not seen at all since graduation or - perhaps - on one or two occasions.

It is a good thing - in my humble (and yes I know it is unsolicited) opinion that significant efforts are being made to ensure that at some point here in '10, the members of the Class of '85 reunite. As I was reminded of this week, we are certainly not getting any younger. Not so skinny maybe not so free and sadly not so many as we used to be.

One year ago today the biggest of the bigs in our class died. I remember being on Day Four of the then-new (now-former) gig when Mark called me to tell me that Stu had been killed in a single-vehicle car accident. Apparently - although I neither asked nor was I told as it is of little moment and not my business - Stu's heart betrayed him. As a young man in his early 20's it had been weakened by illness, which he battled back from against exceptionally long odds. As a young man still in his early 40's, it apparently ran out of energy to power him. The irony of all of what occurred is that Stu's heart was always bigger than his body. Just ask anyone.

For reasons not entirely clear to me this morning the image of Stu that is transfixed in my mind's eye is of him behind the wheel of my very first new car, which was a 1989 Volkswagen Fox. I remember meeting Dave, Mark and Stu at a party at someone's house someplace in Edison one Saturday night in the Fall of '89 with my brand spanking new ride. And I remember both Dave and Stu actually being able to look down at the vehicle's roof while standing next to it while I thought, "Gee it seemed so much bigger on the showroom floor." For the entirety of the time I owned that car - and I drove it into the ground seven years and a quarter million miles later - the only person I could recall driving it other than me - and later Margaret - was Stu.

He decided that night -the very first night he had seen my car - that he and Dave were going to test drive it and for the better part of ten or fifteen minutes these two enormous men (if you stood one on the other's shoulders you would have had about thirteen feet worth of human and both were solidly built gents - one a former high school basketball star and the other the medal-winning heavyweight on our school's wresting team) drove up and down the street in my little Fox. Stu had an ear to ear grin on face the entire time - looking just as silly as you might imagine a man well over six feet tall and in the neighborhood of three hundred pounds would look crammed inside the driver's seat of a tiny car. The two of them were the original insane clown posse that night - having a blast just being silly.

Life takes us where it takes us and not too very much longer after that night it took Dave to marriage, family and Maryland and it took me to marriage and family as well. Over time, I simply fell out of touch with Stu. At the time of his death, I would guess it had been well over ten years since I had last seen him. I never did not think of him as a friend. The arcs of our lives settled into different rhythms. Our heads simply ceased being above the tree line in the same place and at the same time.

Five years ago I not only would have laughed out loud at the notion of a reunion I most likely would not have attended it. One gets a better appreciation for life the longer one lives when there is a larger body of work to examine and to reflect upon. At some point in 2010, our class of '85 will have its first reunion. And those of us who attend shall spend some time renewing some old acquaintances and seeing some friends from an era long ago and far away. Even if all of us who remain from '85 are there, not all of us who should be there will be there. Glasses will be raised in the honor of those we have lost - like Stu - and regrets will be expressed at having not gotten together soon than Year 25.

And at night's end, the carnival will pack up and leave - off to its next destination. Same as it always has but not exactly so. It will be minus one daredevil in fact.

Moonrise, moonrise
The light that was in your eyes
Has gone away

Daybreak, daybreak
The thing in you that made me ache
Has gone to stay.

-AK

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