Passionist Reunion, July 23-25, 2004
On Friday evening, July 23, 2004, I walked into the Barn. Before me stood people whose names I didn’t know. A rush of apprehension. A name given. A rush of memories as I saw the youthful face behind the 35 years that had passed. Time and again this happened. Histories were begun and the narration interrupted when another cycle of apprehension and recognition hit. Some were immediately resolved, others took a few seconds.
Smiles abounded. Laughter rattled through the room as all around me this process seemed to repeat itself in each of us. I was moved to tears, to love, to belly laughs at what I saw and heard, at how I was embraced, at the unspoken connections others made with me.
This did not stop for the entire weekend. “Remember when…” was used so much to begin
a story but eventually dropped when we realized that all of us, of course,
remembered when. The stories then were told without preamble.
We redefined our present—and our future—by going back in time. Occasionally, someone stopped in the middle of a story. Amazement and wonder bubbled up and we would stand in awe of our connection to each other.
There has been no group of men who shared a past so full of joy and pain. The pain forgotten, joy surfaced and carried all of us forward on waves of remembrance.
Spouses, partners, and offspring looked on and heard validation to the legends they have endured for so many years. They also grounded us in the present, unconsciously reminding us that this was the past but, for a fleeting moment, released us to it, reminding us always to return.
We didn’t talk of the pain and suffering of those days but the specter of it never left. It suffused the stories making each just a little bittersweet but richer for its seasoning. That ghost did not disturb the joy but would settle on our faces in a wistfulness of a calm and peace when each of us found a silent moment to ourselves.
Joyce asked us all, “If this was so much fun, why did you leave?” That was a question for each of us to carry home. Joyce, there is no one answer as you well know. We could, each of us, give you the circumstances which you have probably heard before. We could cite the faded pain of disillusion; we could point to cultural change or target people who may have precipitated our decisions. In the end, I can only speak for myself: What I had come to learn, had been learned, my character shaped within and without. The adventures of life beckoned me to place yet to be discovered, to challenges to test my mettle, to further pain and growth. I was simply done.
But I wasn’t done. The indefinable richness of those seven years have molded who I am today. No other partial decade in my life casts it shadow so constantly into my present. That was a time of creation. Its span can be restricted; its effects cannot. I will go to my grave a monk in many ways, carry the joy, the apprehension, the love I have always felt for all of you with whom I shared that Moment in Time. And this one.
Brochure, ca. 1960