This past weekend marked a milestone for me: it was my 20th high school reunion. Naturally, seeing many people I hadn't seen in many years all in one room flooded my mind with memories of my past. In particular, I remember my friends and me thinking so eagerly about graduation. My dear friend, Wendy, and I would sit in each other's bedrooms and dream about that magical year that held so much promise: 1988. I was anxious but nostalgic as the years passed in high school. Wendy and I would write on the back of each of our class pictures: "Can you believe we are freshmen?...sophomores?...juniors?....and then, SENIORS?" In fact, my senior year and the year 1988 held many milestones for me: I turned 18, applied for colleges, received several scholarships, and graduated from high school. All of those moments were snippets of my future which I had only daydreamed about years before. I'm sure that all of my classmates remember similar moments and the friends who shared them when they think back to 1988.
But walking back into a room filled with people I shared my high school years with makes me remember the person I used to be. Only months after graduation, I would change. No, my goals and dreams didn't change, but my view of the world would. When I think back to the Kristin who graduated from high school with friends she had known since nursery school and all of her wishes for the future about to come true, I am sad for her. I wish I could go back and shake her, tell her that she needed to open her eyes. She was naive and believed that everything happened for a reason. She believed that bad things happened to bad people. She believed that families like those she idolized on The Brady Bunch and Family Ties actually existed. She never guessed what was in store for her or her family.
My parents separated my senior year in high school. I remember Ken writing me from college and telling me he was sorry that I had to go through that without him. I wonder if he ever thought of all of the other milestones I would reluctantly go through without him when he made the decision to take his life.
The year 1988 was not the magical year I thought it would be. In truth, when I think of 1988, I think of the big black line separating the person I was before Ken's death and the person I became after. It was the year that transformed me and catapulted me into harsh reality. I think of a person who struggled with her religious beliefs and living in her own skin sometimes. I think of a girl who watched her friends live it up at fraternity parties while she sat in her dorm room alone wondering how she would make it through another day without her brother. And I think of the woman who finally realized that all of those milestones would still come even though he was gone.
When I sat in the bleachers during pep rallies in high school chanting, " '88 is great," I never could have known the depth of meaning that year would hold for me. And seeing so many faces from twenty years ago at a reunion certainly was a memorable experience. But the one face I long to see -- my brother's face which no one has seen for twenty years -- I did not get to see at my reunion, and I will never get to see that face again in this lifetime. I only hope that when we have our own reunion, hopefully many years from now, it will be held in heaven.