Next Friday night, June 2, 2017, Putnam County High School Class of 1967 will be holding its 50th Reunion. From a class of 58, there were 6 classmates we could not find and 11 classmates who have passed away. We are scheduled to have 73 people — classmates and spouses or significant others — in attendance. And this “scares me to death”.
You see, while I attended school with these classmates beginning in grade 1 when we moved to Eatonton through grade 11 and have memories and experiences with them throughout each of the years, I was not there for my senior year, nor for graduation. I had left Eatonton at the end of my junior year. I remember the night that I should have graduated — I remember wishing I was there with my classmates — and I remember wondering how many of them thought about the fact that I was not there. And I continued to wonder that for four decades — did they even realize I had not been there?
I’ve spoken of my dear friend, Dennis, before. I remember the day that we had met for lunch and sat at a table outside the restaurant, watching life go on in Eatonton, for hours. We reminisced about life in Eatonton when we were kids and then as teenagers. We had talked about the people who had owned businesses and who had been married to whom, who had divorced, and who had fooled around on their spouses as well as we could remember. I remember asking him that day if he had even missed me during 66-67. Did he realize that I was not at school for our senior year? Did he wonder where I was? And, bless his heart, true to Dennis, he was brutally honest with me and said, “No, Betty. I was too busy living the life of a teenage boy to recognize that you were not there.” (I cleaned that up a bit from the actual words that he said to me.) In a way, I was devastated, but then, it was the answer I had expected.
Since moving back to Eatonton, I had spoken to many people who had never realized that I had not been there for my senior year. And I had spent decades believing or hoping that, at least to my classmates, I had been missed. I do remember that one classmate, Brenda, had told me when we had reconnected a few years ago, that at the beginning of our senior year, she had asked several people where I was and nobody could or would give her an answer. She said that she had even asked one of our teachers — several times — where Betty was. She said that she was finally told by that teacher to stop asking and to let the fact that I was not there drop. So, life without Betty in the class went on. As it should have. The fact that I was not there was of utmost importance to me, but was really no big deal to my classmates. And I’m not saying that in a critical way — it was as life should have been. Students finishing up high school are all about themselves and their futures. If someone suddenly is not there, they just aren’t there. It’s not going to change the way they live. But it had certainly changed the way I lived.
Things had been beyond bad at home between Dad and me. They had reached a point where he no longer allowed me to live there and I was “taken” to Atlanta to live. Upon checking my school records, it was determined that in order to graduate, I only needed a senior English class and a geography class, so I took those two classes and graduated on December 16, 1966 from an Atlanta high school. It certainly was not the type of graduation that I had always dreamed of — they mailed me my diploma. But, I did have a high school diploma and I was out of my house. I was not being abused any longer. And I did not have to fight with my dad every day. That was a good thing. But, it was not the life I was supposed to live. It was not the life that I had deserved to live. I was “allowed” to come to Eatonton for Christmas, but received the silent treatment from Dad the whole time I was there. Shortly after the beginning of January, I began attending Massey Business College in Atlanta and actually enjoyed my life, living in a dorm right off 14th Street. When leaving the dorm, all we saw were the long-haired hippies and I was fascinated by them. I met and made new friends, but still missed my friends from Eatonton. I asked if I could come home and attend my classmates’ graduation service, but was told no by dad and of course he had to add that “Nobody in Eatonton wants you here. Stay in Atlanta.” So, I did. The following September, I moved to Valdosta, Georgia, and began attending Valdosta State College. And here is where things went wrong again. (More to come on this aspect at a later date.)
A couple of years after moving back to Eatonton in 2010, I attended a class reunion and was petrified. I had not seen the majority of these classmates since I left in 1966 and I had no idea as to how I would be welcomed, or, if I would be welcomed at all. But, it was a good night and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyone. Five years ago, I attended another reunion and we had a blast. And now, for our 50th! What I haven’t figured out yet is how I pretty much came to be in charge of planning this, seeing as how I may have attended school with these folks for 11 years, but, in reality, I did not graduate with them. I am not a graduate of the Class of ’67, yet I was in charge of planning it. Somehow, this just doesn’t make sense. But, it’s done. We are ready for all 73 people to invade Joe and Melody’s on Friday night. All the planning that can be planned has been planned and I am not planning to plan anything else. (I just thought that sentence kind of summed up how drained I am right now. LOL) We have the food arranged; we have the name tags made; we have the class booklets finished and printed; we have a photographer coming; we have the frames done for use when we take pictures; we have the Memorial table items ready; I HOPE we have the Memorabilia tablescape ready; and I hope we have the carpooling arranged. All that is left to do is to show up and have fun.
And, that, my blogging friends, is why I am filled with anxiety. Although at the two reunions I have attended, everyone has been wonderful. But, at this reunion, it is going to be evident that I did not graduate. We have name tags with everyone’s senior picture on them; each of the gals are in their senior drapes and the guys are in suits. But, not me. It is evident when viewing my picture that I am NOT in a senior drape. I worry that there will be questions and whispers and that they will remember that I am not actually a member of the Class of ’67. All those old fears are coming back and the memories as to WHY I’m not in a senior drape are flooding my mind. I’m trying to think that it doesn’t really matter, that being there for 11 years ought to be enough to count. I’m going to take that leap of faith that everyone speaks about and just GO and have FUN and not WORRY. Yep, that’s what I’m gonna do. Right, Betty. You just keep on thinking that. Anyway, by this time next week, it will be a done deal. I will most likely find out that I have worried for no reason and that all my trepidation was unwarranted. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the rest of the week, just in case.
I’ll let you know how things went.
THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS: I have dreaded speaking about this period in my life. There is so much more to the story, but so far, I am not brave enough to talk about the rest. The goal when I started this blog was to be able to be open and honest and real about all of the things in my life that have haunted me for so many years. Since this period of time is one of the “biggies”, it’s stressful. My hopes are that at some point, I will be able to speak the truth. Not that what I’ve written today is not the truth. It is. It’s just that it’s such a small portion. So much is left out.
TODAY’S FEELINGS BAROMETER: I still need to figure out how to do this sleeping thing. I’m trying to eliminate the need for sleeping pills, but without them, I just flat don’t sleep. Period. But, with them, I seem to sleep for 12 hours. It’s either no sleep or 12 hours of sleep. It is just so hard to plan things that take place in the mornings. I missed church again this morning. Darn it.