Thursday, August 17, 2017

30 Years

I saw Nancy in the produce section of the grocery store.

At the time, we had graduated from high school together, 25 years earlier and 90 miles away from that store.

We compared our fruit.  The last cantaloupe I bought was terrible.  Her watermelon was fantastic.
We spoke of the children. Hers had grown. Mine had too.
I asked about her brother, my one time TOLO date.
She talked about her
cancer.

I nodded sympathetically and hugged her awkwardly. 
I'm sure I said the wrong thing.  


I left that store thanking God it wasn't me.


Except then it was.
It was
me.

With
the 
cancer.




I recently went to my 30th high school reunion.  Many years ago I crossed paths with these people in the hometown I was born and raised in. From the Madison Elementary School playground to the drama of La Venture Middle School to the science classes in the Mt. Vernon High School S-buildings (RIP S-buildings), I experienced many of life's formative experiences with these people.  During my reunion I spoke with many classmates who were old friends.  Some, however, I spoke with for the very first time. We reminisced on the small part of life that we all had in common years ago and shared stories about the 30 years of life that had passed since graduation.


Partway through the evening I found myself standing in a corner having a lovely conversation with two other classmates who had also been diagnosed with cancer.   We were laughing at Dave's funny radiation story when I saw Nancy's face again.  The slide show playing in the background included photos of her and other classmates who had died much too young.

I suddenly felt very grateful to be there in that room.



One minute the inside of my head was screaming at me, "Can you believe you are
standing in the
CANCER corner?"

The next minute I was yelling back, "Yeah, can you believe I am

STANDING. 

HERE.

At my 30th reunion,
In the cancer survivors corner.



Reunions are hard for me.
I never know the right thing to say.

I wish Nancy could have been at our reunion.  I wonder if I had known that produce section conversation would be the last time I would ever speak to her, would I have made more of an effort to listen to and understand her? Would I have known the right thing to say?   I looked around the room at my classmates who came to the reunion that night. I did enjoy talking with them.  I was glad they came to the reunion.  I looked up again at the slideshow of those classmates we had lost.

I wondered




**********************************

I've had this blog in process for weeks now, since the day after my 30th class reunion.   I haven't posted it because it wanders a bit and I didn't know what I was trying to say.  I didn't know what story I was trying to tell.  And I could NOT bring myself to write that last sentence.

"I wondered how many of us would be alive for the next reunion."

I didn't want to write it because it is terrible, depressing and not at all helpful.  It's something I worry about a lot.  It hits a bit close to home.  But then today, I received word that another classmate had died. I remembered his face and how he made me laugh.   I pictured the next reunion slideshow and it was terrible and depressing.


**********************************


I saw my classmates at my recent class reunion.

We  graduated from high school together, 30 years earlier and 5 miles away from that restaurant.

We spoke about our lives.  
We laughed at the past.
We hoped for the future.



Reunions are hard for me.
I never know the right thing to say.   


Nancy's Obituary


3 comments:

Kristi Cundy said...

Melissa... once again your heart felt words ring true and are full of meaning and feeling. I've often thought and felt some of the same things, minus going through your cancer experience. It was wonderful to see and visit with you and our other classmates. I always feel I say the wrong thing, stick my foot in my mouth or not share/ask enough things. Thank you for making us think and for continuing to share your thoughts and feelings with us! Thank you for being courageous! I'm sorry for those not here anymore but I'm thankful you are still here!

Kathy pederson said...

This is amazing Melissa. It was so good to see you and I PLAN on seeing you at the next one.

Kelli Cleave said...

Our corner will grow next time with n
ew diagnoses and we will continue to care and share to help each other through life. together, reunioning and loving this thing called life. Love and hugs to you my birthday twin and friend! :)