The last couple of days has been really, really difficult for my family, my sister and me in particular.
First, click here to read what’s been going on. My sister already wrote about it and I figure there’s no need for me to rehash it here.
Seriously. Go read that before continuing.
On our way home Monday, we were discussing how odd it is that M, our elderly loved one, has a hard time with her short-term memory (she asks the same questions over and over), but she can remember the strangest little things, like how her daughter-in-law always loved fruit compote, or this:
When I graduated from high school in 1986, there were nearly 600 students in my class. The ceremony was, as you can imagine, very long, and it was warm in the arena, and it was boring for just about everybody involved. Finally, the last few students made their way towards the stage to get their diplomas. After the very last “Z”, a good friend of mine named Charles, received the empty folder that was to hold his diploma later when he exchanged his rented cap and gown for it, he paused mid-stage for a moment before lifting up his graduation gown and showing the audience his shorts which had “The” on the front and “End” on the back.
Naturally our class as a whole thought this act was hysterical, and I venture to say that many of the families out in the audience did too. This was years (and years) before it became commonplace for senior graduation pranks that were more harmful or distracting (like dropping marbles on the stage). This was a harmless prank by the very last graduate in the class.
Much ado was made over Charles’ shorts, and in fact he was not given his diploma that day. There were newspaper articles about him, and he became a little bit of a legend where graduation was concerned.
M and her husband (who has been gone for five years), attended my high school graduation, and now, nearly twenty-six years later at the age of 82, M still talks about Charles.
She has questions about so many things but she remembers how that curly-topped young man flashed the audience at graduation with his “The End” shorts. On Monday, not too long after she found out that she would be moving into a nursing home soon, she talked about Charles and his shorts. When I arrived home, I immediately changed my Facebook profile picture to one of my favorite pictures of all time, a really nice one of me with Charles on Senior Field Day.
Even though the only conversation Charles and I have had since graduation was a Facebook chat about a year ago, I felt the need to tell him that his prank is a part of the fading memory of 82-year-old M. Last night I caught him on Facebook and asked for his number because I had something to tell him.
It’s a funny thing, just picking up the phone and calling someone you haven’t spoken with in twenty-five years. Hearing his familiar voice on the other end was thrilling and reassuring at the same time. I told him about M and I learned that, contrary to what I believed all these years, he did indeed receive his diploma–only it was about ten years later and it arrived at his parents’ house without any fanfare. They put it in a folder of his things and he found it by accident. I also learned that his mother bought him the shorts he wore on graduation day, knowing all about the plan. Charles was tickled to hear that M remembers his final bow at graduation.
We talked for only a few minutes before saying goodbye–he told me in his southern accent “please, don’t be a stranger!”–and as I hung up the phone I smiled, comforted by yet another example of how I don’t have to be in touch with friends on a regular basis to know that when I need them, they’re there.