In five days the Sierra Nevada mountains will rise before me, crested with the last of the winter snow. There might even be the smell of an orange blossom or two. The foothills will have begun their retreat into the browns of summer. And I will see people I have not seen for as much as 50 years.
A large group of my high school graduating class will meet to celebrate, morn, reflect and share the events of those 50 years-from the day we graduated to the day that we finally meet again.
Our paths through time have been diverse. Our thoughts, our families, our religions, our politics have morphed from the seniors that we were then to the seniors that we are now. Each of us will have a different story. Some may tell parts of that story, some may keep their stories to themselves. Some may just listen to the life around them. Some may come for answers. Some may come for questions.
But some may come to reach back to a time that has made each of us what we now are.
We were all from the same town. Many were born in the town, went to school together for 12 years. Many have known each other from birth. Some went to the same church. Some were part of families that stretched back years into the town’s history. Some knew each other well. Some barely knew anyone.
Our town was small. Maybe five thousand people. Our graduating class had 98 people. Whether we liked it or not, we were bound to each other.
Graduation separated us. Some married, some went to college, some went to work, some just wandered off. We grew new wings and our feet took us to different universes.
It is, I suspect, true of most high school classes that were as small as ours. It is probably true of larger schools in many ways.
The looming reunion raises excitement and apprehension for each of us. For me, it will be the telling of my story, at least in part.
I am proud of the work that I have done in those 50 years. I raised a daughter (who is rather magnificent. But that is a discussion for another day!), I was a housewife for a time, I finished college and went on to law school. My work as a Public Defender gave me great satisfaction. It was my way of saving the world, one person at a time. Or so my brother used to say.
I am, however, proudest of the last 20 years. I have not had a drop of alcohol since November 16, 1998. I am a drunk.
People have attempted to correct me and say “you are a recovering alcoholic”. That term just does not apply to me. It is too nice a phrase. I am not getting better or worse, I am just not drinking today.
I bring this up here because many of those I will be seeing in five days have no idea that I was a drunk then and still am a drunk. I was sober through high school, avoided alcohol (and drugs) in college. I wasn’t a ‘teetotaler’ I just didn’t want to be like my parents. They, unbeknownst to most of our town, were drunks. Father drank in the bars. Mother drank at home.
I didn’t want the stuff in my house. I did not wish to relive any of that.
Law school changed my habits. Drinking was a wide-spread social outlet. We (my friends and I) didn’t get drunk very often but the bar down the street from the school was a frequent hang out. A beer was 45 cents! That included all the popcorn and pretzels you could eat. We were poor, starving law students. Forty-five cents for dinner was fantastic.
By the time I realized that I was out of control I was drinking heavily every night. I didn’t drink at work but the moment I got home, the scotch bottle was open and letting go of the day was about to happen. Or so I thought. Instead, I became my parents.
The story is about the same for every non-drinking drunk that I know. I assume that there are quite a few in my graduating class who followed that same path in one of it’s various forms.
So forgive me this bit of self-indulgence. My aim is to make the space around me safe for those who wish to avoid the bar. I would also like to make it safe for the people at the bar. I do not mind that others can ingest alcohol with out the consequences that I faced. More importantly, I can be anyone’s designated driver.
We are all safer that way.
Here is looking forward to a warm greeting and shared lives after 50 years.