Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reflections of Another Time...

Today I had lunch with two high school classmates.  As I was walking away it occurred to me I should have gotten a picture but the hour flew by so fast I didn’t even think of it.  One of them, Colleen Hannon Stanley, was not only a classmate for all 12 years of school (she didn’t go to kindergarten) but a neighbor as well.  I grew up with the Hannons. Our moms were good friends.  I don’t remember ever not knowing Colleen.  She now lives in India while her husband fulfills a two year contract with the US Air force (as a civilian) and after that they may move to Dubai, on the Persian Gulf coast of the United Arab Emirates.  She doesn’t want to though; she wants to be back in the U.S. near her kids and grandkids and working towards a retirement. 
The other classmate was Kim Oudekerk Gibb.  Her family moved to Haines when she was freshman or sophomore I think so I don’t have near the history with her.  She got married right after graduation and lived in Petersburg for years but has lived in Juneau about twelve years.  I ran into her once at a boat show but I haven’t ever seen her, even in passing, since then. 
Colleen is here to play grandmother to her two year old grandson while his mom has another baby.  Pregnant women living in Haines have to come to Juneau to have their babies and have to be here for three weeks ahead of their due dates.  So she is taking the baby home to Haines while his mother remains here.  She is happy to get out of India, even though they live in officer housing on base, the world is a different place in India.  She says “Slumdog Millionare” pretty accurately portrayal of the poverty that is rampant there.  Kids begging for money in the streets, diseased and starving animals, and way too many people are all part of her daily landscape.  She doesn’t work there, getting a work visa was too much of a nightmare so she has written a book about her experiences.  Neither she or her husband are allowed to even drive, they have to have a driver from base.  She said it’s too dangerous and military advises against it.  No one slows down for anything and it’s not uncommon to run over an animal. 
Kim has been married for 37 years and has two kids and two grandchildren.  She has worked her way up in a local bank and is now a loan officer.  She wishes her parents had encouraged her to go to college.  Colleen finished her degree in public administration in 2010 after attending night school for many years.  She too, got married right out of high school and raised a family before going back to school.
The last time I saw Colleen was about 12 years ago at a high school reunion.  I haven’t spent an hour with Kim since we graduated.  It was a whirlwind catching up but so much fun.  It was interesting, the juxtaposition of our 17 year old high school days with our 54 year old current day selves.   We spent the hour discussing kids, grandkids, jobs, and retirement, peppered with a few mentions of hot flashes and colonoscopies. 
Oh, the lessons we could teach our 17 year old selves.  So many things could have been reconsidered and better thought out, crises averted and pain avoided.  In the end I guess it is all that hard stuff that got us where we are today so in that regard I wouldn’t change a thing but oh how I wish life came with a few do-overs!