Alma Matters

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January 26th, 2011

College buddies hoisting a glass to a fallen comrade. The four of us hadn’t been in the same room since before cell phones, the internet, wine coolers and Vanilla Ice. They looked exactly the same to me. We spent years together as roommates, band mates and even radio deejays. Sure, an outsider might have noticed […]

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College buddies hoisting a glass to a fallen comrade. The four of us hadn’t been in the same room since before cell phones, the internet, wine coolers and Vanilla Ice. They looked exactly the same to me.

We spent years together as roommates, band mates and even radio deejays.

Sure, an outsider might have noticed less hair, (especially on the guy who wouldn’t remove his cap), or more weight. But it didn’t matter. Our dorm mate, band mate and of late, our cancer mate wasn’t there to crack his goofy grin and say something that made us laugh or roll our eyes.

It would be too easy to rave about how he was failed and felled by the system. Charlie confided that he ran out of health insurance early on during his leukemia and that he wasn’t able to go further with his treatments because he couldn’t afford any more time off of work. It would normally be my nature to rail against those who think our current insurance industry is fine the way it is. But Charlie’s frat brother said it best when he wrote, “the leukemia remains the bad guy in all of this.” That’s hard for me to take. I want to blame other factors. I don’t want to think the disease I once harbored was that deadly.

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So we had a great lunch and talked about “remember when.” But we also talked about the future. No, Charlie won’t join us as we enjoy more lunches or see the Tigers, at least in physical form he won’t. But there’s a part of him that will always be there, even if you won’t acquiesce and give me “his spirit will be with us.”

We’re told that our boy was the first from our class of 1985 to pass away. After 26 years that’s pretty remarkable. Alma isn’t a huge college but why couldn’t it have been someone else, someone none of us knew?

Reunions shouldn’t happen just because someone died or due to a calendar observance. And I take comfort knowing we had this lunch planned before the news of Charlie’s death hit us. That seems to be my takeaway from all this. Even if a random series of events — or the campus residential living director — places you in the midst of unknown people a quarter century ago, it’s your job to find the connections, nurture them and don’t ignore them when a social network brings them back into your life.

I was riding the glow from our gathering and hoping everyone felt the same way I did when the following message popped up:  “I hope we can get together more than once every 25 years. I will get in touch with you to set up a golf game (it’s already in my calendar).”

I stink at golf. What I do on the links shouldn’t even be classified as golf. But neither rain, nor snow, (nor a former disease that I’m tired of naming) will keep me from making huge divots and even larger stroke counts as I mess around with my new old friends.

Charlie would be proud, if he can stop laughing at us long enough.

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