I try to remember everything. At least everything that is worth remembering.
I love to write and, as you are all aware, I do so all too frequently. Sometimes I cobble words together that make for informative or enjoyable reading. Other times I post lines that will disgrace even the trash heap they are destined for. Along the way I am helped by those of my classmates that choose to give me something to read and build on. I don’t mean just the well-meaning sentiments and “thanks for sharing” that robotically appear. I mean the words from the heart that have substance. Over the years these “footnotes on life” have taken different forms but all of them have been meaningful. Shirley Anderson being so embarrassed in public speaking class as she stood on the podium at the lectern struggling with the recitation of “Casey at the bat”. Jerry Browning’s accounting of his and his brother Jimmy’s ordeal at birth in Lake Worth being incubated in an aquarium and the strength and courage exhibited by his mother was vividly related. Danne Pillsbury telling me that Dave Parham, as a boy, learned how to drive on one of Matter & Co.’s produce truck’s night-time runs to the Miami Produce Market. The list goes on and on …
Many of the heart warming or heart breaking stories I’ve heard haven’t come to me on the internet. Connie Berry’s candid, almost tearful, confession of insecurity when she and her recently divorced mother first moved to West Palm Beach. Sammy Bigbie relating to me about his brother Abner’s last day on earth and the circumstances that surrounded it. Driving, with Frank Madsen, past an old man walking along the side of a country road ….. only to be told after we had passed him by …. “that’s my father”. Nick Coppola’s and my unspoken agreement to never mention the day he found his 33-year-old son dead or what may have led up to it.
There has even been one of these experiences that I witnessed first hand. It was the summer soon after we graduated from PBHS. I was with Carl Reetz the morning after his father had died, just a few hours before, in an automobile accident. At the salvage yard, I watched as Carl pried one of his father’s bloodstained shoes out of the collapsed floorboard of a virtually unrecognizable Thunderbird convertible.
Recently, Tom Henriksen complimented me, paraphrasing either Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, or some sports writer named Paul Gallico, by telling me that we both knew that good writing was easy … “you just open a vein and bleed”. From a man whose e-mail address ends in @stanford.edu that was heavy. But let me challenge Tom and all the rest of you with a little test of your memories. Let’s see if a posting by one of our classmates years ago made as much of an impression on you as it did on me?
In the course of our everyday lives, when we tell people about ourselves, our families, our life experiences, and especially our up-bringing we seldom tell the whole truth. Psychiatrist earn their living giving us a place to “share” things we wouldn’t tell our spouse and certainly not our PBHS classmates. I would not want even hints of my life’s deepest secrets scattered in hundreds of places about the country even though the only injury they could ever cause would be to my pride. Few of us ever consider the fact that just by opening up and putting it on the line we might help others realize that they have not been alone in facing some dark moments in their past. What is so remarkable is that, in this case, the story was not even relayed to us as a hardship but as a story of love and understanding.
In 1945 we lived at Southridge, or as it was called “the Project” along with some people you all know, i.e., the Williams and Corbett’s, plus many others that we ended up going to school with thru the years. I never knew in the morning, when I walked into our living room, exactly who would be sleeping on the couch. My mother brought home lonely military guys she ran into, sometimes there would be 2 or 3. For all of you who knew my mother well, there are many reasons she might have brought them home, but I will leave it at that … “they might have been lonely.”
I have saved and reread these lines many times and the admiration I have for the person that wrote them is boundless. Do you remember who it was?
“the world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places”
this one is definitely ….. Ernest Hemingway