We graduated in June of 1975. We were all so happy for that long-anticipated event to arrive. Once it was over we quickly scattered in our own directions with nary a thought to the fact that we were seeing some of our classmates for the last time. We had no way of knowing that in a few short years several of our classmates would be gone or that by the 38th anniversary of our graduation, over a dozen of our classmates would no longer be living.
I grew up in a small farming community in the central California valley. At the time I graduated high school the population was in the 4,000-range. The Patterson High School Class of 1975 consisted of approximately 125. I like to tell people we grew up in Mayberry. No one locked their house doors, kids roamed the streets, if you got in any sort of trouble your parents knew about it before you got back home.
Our class always had a close-knit bond. Most of us attended school together from grammar school to graduation. Many were children of parents who also attended Patterson High School. Once we graduated we all began to go our own ways, forming our paths in life. But we have always managed to stay in touch and have had numerous reunions. Facebook and other online places have enabled us to keep in even closer touch. When a classmate is having a crisis or a family member dies, we always rally around. And when we do it's like time has never passed. This closeness, this camaraderie has never been more evident than it has been this year. One of our classmates is enduring a very serious health issue and the odds are stacked against him. Twice this year the Class of 1975 has gathered to celebrate with this class member, to cheer him on, to remind him how much we are pulling for him. Last night there were over 85 of us sharing pictures, memories, laughs, tears and generally catching up on our lives. To our spouses we may have looked like a bunch of men and women in our mid-50's. To us we were all still 18.
These classmates helped form who I am today. Like siblings, we laughed, fought, played, cried, traveled together, agonized over homework, loved and lost, and, by doing so, forged ties that are pretty strong. No matter where I go, what I do, my memories of this group of people will always be fond ones. I think the older we get the more we cherish these meetings. We've been through enough adversity in our lives to know that nothing lasts forever, that each reunion we attend there is one more classmate who is no longer with us. We are getting classmates showing up now who we haven't seen in years. I think they are getting it that the amount of time we have to gather together is decreasing. This sobering thought makes our gatherings even more special.
Thank you for a wonderful evening friends and thanks for the memories. May God continue to bless you and yours. "Here's to dear old high school, for Patterson, hooray! Go Tigers!"