Reunion party and trip home
By Cynthia Smith
We drove in the afternoon to a pub six miles from my friend's apartment, so we could get photos of her on the tractor her husband had restored before he died, and it would be driven by their son, as he led the group on the memorial ride's journey later that day. I was surprised to see that our crops of beans and corn seemed to be more ripened than the fields surrounding us in Iowa. I also saw some gorgeous maples that already had changed to reds and oranges.
I felt excited recognizing as many former classmates as I did --- but stymied by the few that did NOT ring any bells in my brain now! After all, our class was so tiny - only thirty-some made it to graduation. ONE of our surviving teachers who lives some 45 minutes away came to celebrate with us.
He taught typing, booking, skills needed to become office clerks back in the 1950's He boarded with another teacher at my grandma's home - she always kept teachers that were single -- either 3 females OR 2 males. Hers was never a real boarding house. She fed no one. I guess the proper term would be "sleeping rooms". My little brother crossed the street from school to her house every day for lunch at Gram's - usually a peanut butter sandwich.
Happy hour was underway when we (Shirley) and I arrived. My friend has Parkinson's, STILL has an Iowa drivers license BUT doesn't drive at night. She intends to surrender her license next year but passed her exam last June. Two of her adult children drive her when needed, or her assisted living home has a van that will take her places.
Because our party was the same day as a Memorial Tractor ride in honor of Shirley's deceased husband, we spent some of our driving going back and forth (six miles) to the assembling spot of the ride, so pictures could be taken of Shirley and her two children, who had arranged that honor for their dad, Louie. These rides are common among farmers in Iowa who have restored tractors - as a group they drive the back roads and stop for lunch and choose a charity for any donations made to the ride. I'm sure this activity takes place in other states, not just Iowa. Here in Wisconsin, I've seen similar groups.
The class had a very LOOSE gathering, no speeches, just chatting with others at the Country Club. Found out one of our class could not attend as he has become wheelchair bound with multiple sclerosis. Many of us had battled cancer and were still around and active. Another classmate had an aortic aneurysm repaired and now dealt with congestive heart failure. After all, we're nearing eighty, so some health issues are expected.
But no one seemed to be down and out - stories of fishing trips to Canada, trips taken to visit grandchildren in the Smokies, IRELAND, Washington DC, Seattle, made it clear that there was still life in the old bunch! You cannot imagine the number of shared photos. I don't think there was a single hand that didn't carry a camera or phone taking pictures all night. (I did NOT manage to take off those ten pounds before the party, so wore a loose shirt in an attempt to camouflage added inches.)
We heard about which graduates were going to quit farming and turn their acres over to a son now - or a grandson. Nurses from our class now either worked on call only - or did volunteer work on a local level.
To a man/woman each person expressed gratitude for where their lives had taken them since graduating. Although I attended a bit grudgingly, when I drove home to Wisconsin the next day, on a shorter route on Highway 18, I was so glad I had been there!