looking back at “courage”

My writings are similar to my life. I seldom get it right the first time. There are notable exceptions; my marriage for example, but all too often I look back at what I’ve done and wish I could have another try.

At my family’s behest, I’ve begun to collect all the scribblings I’ve come up with since Sammy Bigbie and I first started planning our cruise around south Florida almost eight years ago. Before that time there was little collected and much of what I’ve put on paper (if I can still accurately use that term?) since that time won’t warrant rereading by anyone except some genealogically inclined old man, probably named Powell, with no full-time job in, let’s say, the year 2158 AD.

In momentary retrospect, there are a few glaring exceptions. Some of the stuff I’ve written might actually be interesting or entertaining if I had been able, or taken the time, to tell a more complete rendition and accounting in the various episodes. Since much of my work, this piece included, has been directed towards a captive group of only friends, family, and high school classmates, I’ve taken great license in leaving out key happenings and motivations. In my mind, I’ve been telling myself……..”why write that down? They know what I’m talking about! They were there! They lived through the same experience!” Did any of you really need to be repeatedly told what was “on our City’s western border, reared against….”,  that Frankie Moskowitz’s two-toned “56” Chevy convertible was the lead get-a-way car in Florida’s largest ever case of kidnapping, or that the bigest danger of ever entering the Cat Cave came, not  from being trapped by a series of  rock  falls, but  from being cornered by a gang of grease balls! (To demonstrate my delima: just ask a complete stranger or even one of your own kids to tell you what that last sentence was all about!)

My point, hopefully, being made; I need you to let me fill in some blanks from the past.

In June of 2013, a few days after our 55th Reunion at the Hilton on Singer Island, I bared some hidden feelings by offering “my sincerest appreciation and admiration” to a few unnamed classmate attendees and those that had accompanied them. Even in the closing sentences of that writing I mentioned no one in particular because, at the time, I was convinced it was not “the proper thing to do”. That was certainly an accurate assessment but, with the passing years, there is no longer any reason why I shouldn’t finish a long overdue tribute to four remarkable individuals. I hope you will agree.

courage (as originally written in June of 2013)

And now back to the real world.

For over a year now we have been able to plan and look forward to something special. We were destined to spend a wonderful weekend attending our reunion. It was masterfully staged and the compliments to the classmates in charge have been voluminous and sincere. I echo those sentiments and hope we dont, in fact, wait 5 more years to meet again!

In the meantime, I have some reflections that are of a personal nature and probably should not be expressed but I need to get them out and hope they are received with charity.

The word courage is not usually associated with attending a class reunion. When we celebrated our 10th at DuBois Park in Jupiter we were all 28+- and the only courage it required was the decision to wear a bathing suit. For our 20th at the Breakers Hotel we were all into status and success. The guys placed self-promoting adds in the reunion program touting their entrepreneurial prowess and the ladies broke out those second diamonds and starved themselves for weeks to squeeze into that little black dress. I dont remember courage being required by anyone to attend this gathering.

By our 25th in Port St. Lucie and our 30th in Ft. Lauderdale we were all aware of the classmates we had lost and of some in failing health. We also knew or heard rumors of others financial failures, marital distress, problems with children or parents and all of the other challenges life holds in store. We were aware, but at these reunions it was fun and frivolity! The classmates that had chosen to attend were all at the top of their game. Everyone was radiant and self-confident and the word courage was still confined to the dictionary.

The setting for our 50th was not conducive to personal interaction. In many ways it was Cecil B. DeMille and a cast of thousands. The affair reminded me of any number of conventions I have attended only this time the delegates just happen to be old acquaintances. There was no tour guide but sometimes I felt like there should have been. Like the other lemmings, I dutifully trooped over to the little house on Flagler Dr. in back of St. Anns and gathered on call in the old library but something was missing. As with most of our other reunions, we had reached the high point on Friday night when we had lingered at the tables after the cocktail party and just talked. It was one on one and meaningful but even then you never sensed that it took any semblance of courage for those you spoke with to even be in attendance.

Flash forward to a few days ago. The 55th was a perpetual Groundhog Day of Friday nights! It was fun on top of fun. But not everyone was there? It was easy not to sign up for this program. Lets see perhaps travel cross country, drag a reluctant spouse, incur wrath by not offering to drag a reluctant spouse, attend functions timed more around afternoon naps than entertainment value and the ever present fear that no one else looked as old as you did. All this and you got to pay for it to boot! The age issue aside, to overcome these and most other concerns took sacrifice but not courage.

We did, however, have a few in the Class of 58 that, although not acknowledged for doing so, showed extraordinary courage by simply choosing to attend. We all know who they were and their presence made the reunion all that more rewarding. To these individuals and especially to the angels that accompanied them I offer my sincerest appreciation and admiration. I regret that I did not personally express these feelings while at the Hilton to anyone. Im not sure the timing would have made it a proper thing to do. Thats what this letter is for.

I love all of my classmates but some of you are both extra special and courageous.

                                                    Jim Powell

5 years down the road………………..what we need for closure:

weatherford photo

Tommy Weatherford was wheelchair bound and withstood pain and hardship to travel all the way from Tennessee for our 55th. His beautiful wife Beverly was always at his side. He left this world on February 18, 2016.

lomas photo

Don Lomas died on January 21, 2014, only 7 months after attending our Reunion. He had endured many years of battling a rare and disfiguring disease that couldn’t touch his mind or spirit but finally took his body. Janet was with him at the Hilton and holding his hand when he passed.

Courage!? …… Just what is courage? Ask yourself; if afflicted with the same physical or emotional handicap that either of these two men endured, would you have attended the 55th Reunion of the Palm Beach High School Class of 1958? Or, even more poignant, as a woman could you have supported his participation and encouraged your husband to endure what you knew he would surely have to face? 

………save us a place boys …….. we’ll all be joining you soon…………..

                                                    the Class of 1958

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