In the more than 36 years since I married a girl from Lincoln, Neb., I have driven from Ashland to Lincoln more times than I can count. However, seldom have I made the trip twice in the same year.
That is until 2012. I just returned Monday from my second round-trip to Lincoln in less than four months — and both trips have been because of reunions.
In June, the biennial Slaughter Family Reunion was in Lincoln, and my wife, daughter, two granddaughters and I all crammed into my 1998 Honda Accord and successfully drove more than 2,300 miles without having a single major conflict. Miracles do happen.
This time, just my wife and I drove 1,935 miles in the same old car to attend her 45-year class reunion. It was during that occasion that I learned something that I probably should have already known: If you are a spouse of a class member, class reunions can be boring. Really boring. But if you hang around long enough and don’t fall asleep, the boredom may be replaced by genuine interest and a dull night can turn into a enjoyable experience.
My wife did not graduate from your typical public high school. She was a member of the 1967 graduating class of University High, which was to the University of Nebraska what old Breckinridge High School was to Morehead State University. It was a “demonstration school” where student teachers did much, if not most of the classroom instruction. Such schools used to exist on the campuses with education departments across the country. But in the mid 1960s they began to fade from existence. In fact, my wife was a member of the last graduating class at University High. Breckinridge on the MSU campus lasted about a decade longer.
University High had a small enrollment, so small that it didn’t even have a football team in a city where football is worshipped.
Because the class only had sixty-some graduates, the reunion was small. In fact, I counted only 12 or 14 graduates in attendance — and most left their spouses at home. The reunion was in the condominium apartment of a class member on the seventh floor of a building in the heart of downtown Lincoln. It was a great apartment, but sadly the wife of the classmate who owned it had died shortly after they moved in and he lived alone in an apartment that was much larger than he needed.
Anyway, after about an hour at Friday night’s reunion gathering, I walked over to my wife and quietly asked if the night was for graduates only.
“Not that I know of,” she said. “That’s not what the invitation said.”
Nevertheless, at that time I was the only one there who was not a member of the class of 1967. While my wife was having a great time talking to old friends, I had nothing to add to the festivities.
So be it, that’s the way all class reunions are for the spouses of class members — particularly those who graduate from other schools.
Recognizing that my class reunion was for my enjoyment and not hers, my wife did a wonderful and unselfish thing during my 35-year class reunion. That reunion was just a short distance from my mother’s house, and after we had dinner, my wife announced that she was going to Mom’s house and I could stay as long as I wanted. That freed me to talk to anyone I wanted — both male and female — without my wife feeling bored and neglected.
I thought about returning the favor Friday night, but I had no place else to go. So I continued to play the role of the proverbial wallflower while others had a good time.
That is until one of my wife’s best friends from high school arrived with her husband, who, like me, was also not a University High grad. In fact. I had enjoyed talking to him at a previous high school reunion. He had spent most of his adult life in radio and was the general manager of a station in North Platte, Neb., a city about the size of Ashland, and we managed to pick up our conversation pretty much where we left it 10 or 15 years ago. We both talked about how the newspaper and radio industries had had to adjust to the rapid changes brought about by the Internet.
After “solving” the problems of radio stations and newspapers, we moved onto politics, where I soon discovered that I was only slightly more moderate than he was. However, we both agreed that there seemed to be little place for moderates in today’s political world and how compromise had somehow become a “dirty word.” That brought another spouse into a conversation. Like us, his wife was having a good time with her old friends while he was feeling neglected. Politically, he was way to the left of us, but we managed to have a civil conversation without becoming enraged. In fact, I think there a lot of politicians who could learn a lot from our conversation.
When the party ended, my new old friend and I joined our spouses at the Starbucks just down the street. We then agreed to meet again in another 10 or 15 years. Meanwhile, I thanked my wife’s high school friend for saving my evening by bringing her husband.
Without him, it would have been a really boring night for me. It is never fun to watch other people have a good time.
JOHN CANNON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (606) 326-2649.