Apologies for being a bit AWOL this weekend; I had a wonderful off-ice intrusion of real life: a remarkable gathering of high school brothers — we don’t call one another classmates, for reasons I’m about to detail — for our 25th reunion at our school campus in Bethesda this weekend. We had a guy fly into D.C. from Poland to attend. Another from Germany. Another from Puerto Rico. And guys from points far West, North and South, pretty much everywhere in the U.S.
We are partly brothers out of sheer size: there were just 94 of us who made it through all fours years of prep school. At that size, you do feel very much like family.
Like a lot of other high school classes, we have captains of industry among our ranks, and I like to think perhaps more than is typical. Brian Cashman, general manager of the New York Yankees, is a member of our class of ’85. This Thursday he’s returning to campus to address the students and be at our school for the entire afternoon, and he’s bringing the World Series trophy with him.
More importantly, all my class brothers could wear a captain’s ‘C’ on a life sweater.
We didn’t have a hockey team when I went to school in the eighties. Now we do, and a good one. That makes me jealous. Then over the weekend I overheard talk of plans a few years back to build a rink on campus. Drawings were actually completed, but money fell short for construction. I may have to direct some energy and resources and try and breathe life back into that aim.
Our reunion this weekend was typical in many respects: lots of posing for lots of pictures, lots of smiling, lots of reminiscing about four years of prep school stress and outlandish pranks. We exchanged business cards, freshly busted one another’s balls, and polished off every keg tapped Friday and Saturday.
Reunion weekend at our school is perhaps a bit different than reunions at most schools. It’s no one-night affair but rather a series of gatherings beginning Friday afternoon for a big lacrosse game and lasting until bars in Bethesda gave us the boot at last call early Sunday morning. Once or twice Friday night a class brother, aware of my enthusiasm for hockey, provided me scoring updates from Verizon Center and game 5, but I confess, I had a Blackberry on me but never checked it for the Caps’ score. My business this weekend — the business of being a buddy again with my brothers — seemed so much more important.
One class brother, an orthopedic surgeon in Massachusetts, made a point of sharing with me photos he had on his Blackberry of his children skating in the rink he’d built in his backyard this past winter. Andy never followed hockey while in school, “but raising a family in Massachusetts, playing hockey is like breathing air,” he told me. I was insanely jealous of the love-labor Andy put into assembling his backyard rink: quality plywood for boards, reliably durable plastic liner for the ice. He invited me to come up and skate it next winter. I’m pretty sure I will.
In addition to this year being our 25th reunion we received exciting news this spring that one of our own had just accepted the post of Director of Institutional Advancement at our school. Basically, it was Larry’s job to repair a badly neglected and underdeveloped alumni relations environment, and of course raise money for our school. To his new job Larry very much brings the Energizer Bunny’s commitment and Dale Hunter’s passion, the result being, using email and social media extensively in very short order, Larry’s succeeding in getting guys to literally fly across oceans to be together this weekend.
We haven’t done the best job remaining in touch with one another over the years, we learned. There’s an obviousness to that, but in our class’s case, also an urgency in the matter. No fewer than four of our brothers over the past 25 years beat back harrowing cases of cancer. Four guys out of 94, and all younger than 40 at the time, getting cross-checked viciously by perhaps’ life’s most frightening disease. This weekend I heard accounts of brothers’ family members being told not to expect a good outcome for the stricken. I even heard the words “last rites” having been uttered.
For a while this weekend a number of us discussed how vulgar and statistically unbelievable such a volume of cancer cases was for our class, afflicting men so young. Then we arrived at a conviction that God simply wanted to demonstrate how special a class we were, and are. Now what do we do, we asked?
For my brothers this weekend was very much about victory in the biggest contest life can throw at you. Quite simply, we’re undefeated against cancer. If we thought we were special as a class at our 10-year reunion, imagine what we believe this morning. Best of all, we’ve set about reuniting for good, and marshaling our many talents, and our brotherhood, for bettering one another’s lives and that of our school going forward.
As deep on Saturday night brought about an emptying out of reunion on campus I noticed dozens of my brothers approaching one another for farewells, but instead of merely shaking hands in every instance we hugged. They’re at airports and Union Station this morning, returning to changed lives, and I miss them already.