Just one more time

Angel's Rest, Pearisburg, Virginia

Angel’s Rest, Pearisburg, Virginia

I got news from home this week that another friend from high school had passed away after a prolonged illness. He was 54. I don’t know if I’ve seen Clyde since I graduated and the truth is we were acquaintances, but never close friends. Still it’s a sobering thought when someone is taken too soon. Fifty-four is way too soon.

The news of his passing made me thing of other high school friends who are gone…Mike, Eric, Nancy, Randy, another Mike, Sherry, Martha…there are more but those come to my memory first. And there are those who never made it across the stage to graduate…Freda, Fairbanks, Cathy.

I’m not trying to be morbid. At my age and being the youngest or next to youngest of the cousins on either side I’ve been to a lot of family funerals. Life and death happens.

Still, we always seem to be caught off guard. Even when death is expected.

I find myself looking back to those times in high school. No, heaven forbid, not wanting to live them over. I wouldn’t mind feeling and looking like I did at age 20, but I have no interest in re-living the past 35 years.

But the memories are precious. Memories of a time when life was more carefree and fun. Even in the weirdness that was the late 1970s (post-Vietnam, pre-Disco…need I say more?) those were good times. Times I don’t want to forget.

Maybe I’m thinking all of this because I’m currently in rehearsals for a show about high school kids. No, I’m not one of the kids. I’m the cranky old uncle. Don’t laugh; I have accepted my role as a character actor.

The show, which I think I’ve mentioned, is the musical version of “Footloose,” and it’s playing July 26, 27, 28 and August 2 and 3 at Dogwood Dell.

Unless you live under a rock, you know the story. Chicago boy moves to small town Iowa where an overzealous pastor has convinced the community to ban dancing because of the believe that it, along with presumed alcohol and drug use, ultimately lead to the death of four students, the pastor’s son among them.

But young Ren prevails and the dance goes on. If I just spoiled the ending for you, you need to get out more. The dance becomes a great time of celebration of life.

I didn’t go to my high school prom. Let’s just file that under stories that may or may not be written under the title “I was a dumbass teenager.” Which, of course, is a primary reason for not wanting to re-do the much of the past 35 years.

I think I would like to have us all together just one more time. Young, healthy, carefree. Reunions are great, but the conversation can be awkward and there’s always someone missing.

Still, one more lap around the Dairy Queen. One more away basketball game (of course I didn’t play, don’t be silly).

One more chance to sit at the base of Angel’s Rest and know that’s our mountain. It watched over us all through elementary school, middle school and high school. It watches over us still.

It is not being melodramatic to say that those memories, those people, and yes, that mountain, helped to make me who I am today.

Which, for the next five weeks anyway, is the cranky old uncle.

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