Through the miracle of Facebook, I just found out that a total of 38 of my high school classmates (Berlin High School, class of 1966) have now expired. The latest to go was Henry P., who was killed when his Harley-Davidson ran off the road earlier this month, in Hawai’i.
In another era — B.F.: Before Facebook — I might never have found out about this, but today there are websites and Facebook sites for everything, and the folks who are really true to their school, the ones who organize reunions and otherwise keep the homeroom fires burning, have ways of finding things out.
(Ironic, perhaps, that we now use this state-of-the-art technology to exchange information about a place and a time when everything was done the old-fashioned way — pen on paper, in rooms where sometimes the sweet, intoxicating smell of mimeograph fluid filled the air — and the highest-tech feature was the system that allowed someone in the Main Office to control the big, round IBM clocks in every classroom.)
Anyway, having known of a few others who are no longer with us — including Jon B. and Bob B. and Pete F. and Rhona M. and Carole P. and Glen T. and, of course, Charlotte W. — I had occasionally wondered how many from that group of 165 seniors might be gone (I suppose I could’ve spent a week digging through dusty closets for my old yearbook in order to count heads, but I went to the online version instead, natch), and I thought maybe the toll would be in the single digits, certainly no more than a dozen.
But 38? Eddie A. and Kenny D. and Scott G. and Doug L. and Ginny L. and Peggy J. and Sue N. and Sandy O. and Dave T., all gone now?
So I expressed, again on Facebook, the idea that 38 dead out of 165 seemed shockingly high — that’s 23 percent! — but I was immediately corrected when Garret C. (who’s not from my school but is very smart) had the nerve to post a chart from some university showing that the average life expectancy for people born in 1948 (which should cover most of my classmates) is 69.9 years for women and 64.6 years for men. And then I thought, “Land o’ Goshen! I’m already five years past my sell-by date!”
I don’t often say “Land o’ Goshen!” for any reason, but that chart shows that I’m just so @#$&% old, which is not really what I wanted to hear.
And then I heard from another friend (Lynn B., nee Lynn S.; same school) that her 1965 class of 193 souls has so far lost only 29, which is a mere 15 percent. So why are they so healthy, or lucky, or whatever?
And then my brother, another oldie from 1965, chimed in with the idea that his class isn’t necessarily healthier, just more virtuous. Right.
And then I heard from my cousin Jan M., nee Jan R., who can do no wrong, that I’m not so @#$&% old after all. And she should know, because she’ll always be several hours older than me.
Fortunately, the guy with the chart came back with this: “Remember it’s ‘best’ if sold by . . . You haven’t gone bad yet.” Which made me feel a little better.
But not very much.
Reach Glenn Richter at email@example.com.