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Roots And Branches: No talk of waistlines, hairlines and pick-up lines at reunion

I am not a night owl. I don’t even remember staying out late in college when scientists say your late-night constitution peaks. This was a definite asset in completing my college education in a timely manner, given there were few college students who wanted to get up for 8 a.m. classes.

Nine is the evening witching hour for me. I mean that literally. If I am not crawling under the covers with a newspaper or research paper in hand by 9 p.m. I have been known to lash out at unsuspecting cats or heaven forbid, grandkids. I read a few pages and then fall asleep before the 10 o’clock news can creep into my psyche with its litany of hit-and-run crimes, summer wildfires and political coups.

I awake before the birds start chirping and enjoy my post-shower cup of barely amber coffee before 5 a.m. That has been my lifelong circadian rhythm, a beat that has served me well; although others find it a little quirky.

I can watch the sunrise over the lower valley, enjoy the nuance of shadow and light as it flows across the hills and cliffs, an ever-changing panorama, as though a talented artist is painting a unique watercolor for you each and every morning. It is a peaceful start to the hustle and bustle of my workday, in the courthouse, the community, on the farm or with the family.

I have in my mind’s eye a vision of Aunt Yuka, who used to greet the sunrise on a Tokyo rooftop under the watchful eye of a tai chi master. I couldn’t imagine she found it relaxing to move and meditate with the sensual cacophony that bombards one as a city of millions awakens. But this morning ritual is my Willow Flat form of tai chi.

I hear the telephone ringing at Diamond Fruit a mile away as the crow flies. Then the train whistle signals its entrance into Odell. But they are part of the morning orchestra that awakens you from slumber.

The sleepy town of Hood River awakens to tourists each summer, seldom at 5 a.m., but proof that the town is full can be measured by the cars parked on the streets each morning as I make my way to work. A few bike riders and joggers are out, but most of the windows are dressed with curtains to keep out the morning sun.

This is a late-night crowd that roams the streets between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. enjoying the incredible food and beverages served at our abundant restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries. It is a beehive abuzz with energy and activity when I am fast asleep.

I have much to learn about this community that dances to a different late-night rhythm in order to keep the community safe and healthy. I appreciate the bar tenders, waitresses and owners who are working with us to accomplish the same goals.

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On Saturday night it was the Wy’east class of 1968 that added to the parking problem in town. Since this was our 45-year reunion we added few problems to the night life in Hood River. We finished at the Elks around 9:30 p.m. and only a handful had the stamina to continue at another venue.

Party hardy meant dinner at the Elks (which, by the way, was excellent), some great mingling and table conversations and an early exit home or to a much-coveted hotel room. Apparently my oldest son’s class celebrated its 20th at the Elks the weekend prior, and his classmates had a little more late-night mojo than ours.

The gathering was low-key. Folks weren’t worried about their waistlines, hairlines or pick-up lines. They were genuinely interested in how lives had proceeded since high school. It was evident how far we had all come from our high school years; a time when we were focused on who we were supposed to be or what we were going to become. Now we relaxed and felt like we had experienced a lot of life, with much we could share.

There were a few suits in the crowd, and those who wore them were comfortable in their own skins. Conversations were about families, careers, retirement and travel. Apparently a whole lot of executives, engineers and military folks move into consulting and find it rewarding, and far less stressful than their original careers.

We visited about caring for our aging parents or burying them. Many of us had our own children or our grandchildren return to our homes. We were the generation in the middle. Parents living longer, children and grandchildren coming back to the fold because of lack of employment or family issues.

Larry Elliot did a terrific job of contacting folks and encouraging them to come. The Elks Club was abuzz with conversations, meaningful and frivolous. I was surprised at how quickly I recognized people as long as I glanced at their nametag with their 1968 photo first. The eyes were the same, or the laugh, or the voice. I didn’t recognize any high school cliques. You could walk between tables and feel welcome at any.

One person suggested we not talk about health, but new knees, hips, heart valves and chemo therapy still popped up. John Brasch was tied into Facebook and apparently has some great conversations going between classmates. I was not so engaged. I barely carry a cellphone, and then only when driving out in the boonies alone. I am not acquainted with Facebook, Twitter or texting. I leave that to others with more technological savvy. I spend enough time trying to update from Windows 7 to Windows 8. But most of my fellow classmates were packing cells and rocking Facebook.

We gathered on the stairway at the Elks for the mandatory picture, the same stairway we gathered beneath on the evening after graduation in 1968.

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Twenty-three of our classmates from a class of about 150 have already passed away. Some we lost early to the Vietnam War. Others to the damage the war caused to their spirit. There were a few killed in car crashes, run over by drunk drivers, or to the violence related to the drug scene. Most have died from heart attacks, cancer or other chronic diseases that will probably take another cut at our class before the next reunion. There were a few who burned the candle at both ends, taking risks throughout their shortened lives, on mountain slopes or in river rapids. I didn’t make the Sunday barbecue because of funerals that stretched across the afternoon.

Our class reunion was like every other class, and like no other class. I was proud to be at the 45-year reunion of the Wy’east class of 1968. Great classmates, fun spouses, great stories, and I could be in bed just past my 9 p.m. curfew.

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