Standing in a somewhat crowded room last Wednesday I was approached by two women, one of whom exclaimed: Mark Rushton, you haven’t changed a bit.
My first thought was: geeezzz, you mean I looked this old back in high school?
The scene was a reunion marking the (reluctantly admitted) 50th year since I and 68 others graduated from Qualicum Beach High School.
Since the district that fed QBHS is/was perhaps one of the longest and narrowest of any in the province, most of us rarely met outside of school. We were for the most part, except during classes, more the equivalent of ships passing in the night. Because our homes were widely separated, I tended to hang out with kids older or younger who lived nearby.
However, glancing at the few yearbooks on display, and a couple of class pictures in the reunion yearbook I did begin to recognize and vaguely remember some faces.
I was surprised to be instantly recognized by a few who were already in the reception hall, only later to discover that a column of mine from a few months ago, with my relatively current photo, was stuck on the wall along with other memorabilia. I should also mention, particularly in reference to the “haven’t changed a bit” that in all the class pictures, and in the reunion group photo, I tower head and shoulders above most. Hard to forget the tallest, skinniest kid in class, I guess, and those characteristics haven’t changed despite the passing of half a century.
While I like to think the ravages of time have been kind to me, there were many others in that room last week who, like fine wine, have aged remarkably well.
One slim and very attractive woman came up to me and, as an introductory comment, said, “I read your bio (in the reunion booklet) and it sounds like you’ve had an interesting career.”
In an effort to not sound like Forrest Gump, I had submitted only basic information, avoiding reference to myriad experiences such as growing dahlias, pulling 7.5 Gs in the back seat of a U.S. Navy F4 Phantom, flying with the Snowbirds, making my first parachute jump on the same day man first stepped on the moon, shoveling horse poop every day, or being in the USA Today building, a few blocks from the Pentagon, when bombs began falling on Baghdad to mark the beginning of the end of the first Gulf War.
It was only later on the ferry ride home that I looked at her bio – an internationally renowned urologist, cancer researcher and professor emeritus at the University of Alberta. Those accomplishments make any adventure of mine more than pale by comparison. Or former classmates who among many other things became sea captains, school district administrators, nurses, educators and geologists.
The class of ’64, it seems, did rather well for itself.
Regrettably, a dozen of us never made it this far, and a glass was raised in their honour. Sitting with a wag over dinner, he commented following the toast that at our ages, pretty well every year from now on there will be at least one fewer of us. Kind of makes the prospect of a 60th reunion rather bleak.
Thus the day after returning from the reunion I hooked a boat to a truck and my son and two grandkids spent the weekend fishing in the Coquihalla highlands.
Nothing like kids and contemplation over a campfire to remind that the past is little more than curiosity; that the future is in the hands of coming generations; and that somewhere along the way some of the contributions we made will perhaps lead to a better world.