Last night was Jim Kiick’s 72nd birthday. There was an article about it in the “Miami Herald” which deserved to be shared. Not only because Ms Burnett plays a prominent part but because it is fun and it is delightful and for me, bittersweet. (If any of you have today’s Miami Herald in hard copy — August 1 0— I would love to have it.) But here it is:
The beginning is always the place to start. 1960 — first year in high school. It was a little ominous, even frightening, but I thought it had tremendous potential for fun. And was that right, you bet. Boonton High School was terrific especially if you were cute and the Principal was your next door neighbor. And if you had a study hall before and after lunch, which gave me about 2 hours to leave school, go to my house, have tuna sandwiches and watch soap operas— with my closest friends, Pam and Joyce. It was a whole two blocks so we had to drive Ronnie’s Edsel. (It was an Edsel, do I need to say more?) Every day something terrible would happen to the car, like the door would fall off and we would carry it into the lunchroom. No shortage of laughs.
There were so many memories to share. Like weekends a few of us would go to West Point and join Cadets for a dance. We stayed at the Thayer Hotel but we were outrageous, and at some point the cadets we knew, who we're equally crazy, put me in a laundry bag and took me in to the dorm. We also broke into the matron’s office just to have a look. About 12 years ago, I found my date for most of these dances, Marshall Schwartz, who is now a successful businessman and he remembers nothing. Idiot — but moving on, it was a wonderful time to be dating and happy. However, the love of my high school life decided to punish me for going out with other guys, mostly older (high school Juniors).
And so sometime sophomore year when I noticed him, he was already angry at me. It was not a deterrent to my social life. But he was cute and unavoidable. We had the same classes. Our romance was inevitable but not without some suffering. We went “out” with all our pals, that’s just the way we did it. He and the guys ( you know who you are) would come to my house late at nite, knock on the windows and yell about their love for all the girls inside — we never had a shortage of the girls inside or a shortage of love.
Just thinking about those days makes me smile and makes me tear up.
Moving on, time passed. We all stayed connected in some way and then the losses began. For whatever reason, you know your parents will die, and other family members, maybe because they already have. But as kids you don’t dwell on the sadness of losing friends. David Levine died in a car in an ice storm when we were 14. That was horrible, and we all felt awful in the way children do. Even now, although admittedly it’s seldom, I will stop by at his grave. It still seems surreal. But the older you get the imminence of the losses seems to get closer. Jeff, Steve, Penn, Ronnie and Dallas, were certainly, ‘there but for God go I.’ When they got unexpectedly sick the announcement of their illnesses was frightening and then they died. “Friends like that don’t die”, but they did. The loss of them will be painful forever, but we know that unfortunately there are more to come. Knowing doesn’t make it easier.
It’s not all tragic because we are still breathing with more good times to come. In fact, because we know, we are less likely to take those friendships for granted. Maybe we’re even a little kinder than we might have been had we suffered no losses. Do most people in their “fourth quarter” still have friends from nursery school, high school or even college? It is a blessing to have so many people who I love still in my life. Yet, maybe they are not moving so quickly or maybe they have pains they never had before, but you still have them to share memories, laughs, family nonsense and hopes for what is still to be. Unless you don’t have the ability to remember. Such is the case with my pal Jim. His memories are dimming — and from what I understand, by this time next year, he will not remember his high school friends. BOOM! Just like that, at his 72 birthday party, it hit me. He won’t remember his Boonton friends, he won’t remember he didn’t take me to the prom. He won’t remember there was a prom. So last night I got lost in the high school memories, with a few of my high school friends. Last night I got lost in my emotions and maybe I, like all the rest of them, drank too much. And last night, while he could still remember, I said my final goodbye to Jim. I’ll see him again when I’m in Florida, but the long term memories will go the way of the short term memories, and we’ll have to find different things to talk about. It simply won’t be because sometimes a goodbye just won't wait. We're just sayin'... Iris