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Post Sixty-Seven


This year marks fifty years since my graduation from high school with the Frankfort High School class of 1967. Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with several of my FHS classmates and I have hope that we will be able to pull off a reunion of some sort before the end of May. I have pleasant memories of growing up in Frankfort, Michigan. However, following graduation I went off to Albion College and returned to my home town only on rare occasions. I find myself a bit surprised at the intensity of my desire to reunite with classmates after all of these years. Nevertheless, the desire burns within my heart.

Fifty years ago I was a young man of great certitude. I was certain of my religion. I was certain of the nobility of my country. I was certain that the world was organized into categories of good and bad, right and wrong, worthy and unworthy, life and death. I was certain that Benzie County was a fair representation of the rest of the world and that I was therefore ready to move out into the wider world with little difficulty.

That certitude began to crumble on a Sunday in July of 1967 when my dad and I took Tom Long and his dad down state to attend a Detroit Tiger double header against the New York Yankees. It was the first day of the Detroit riot/rebellion. Leaving Tiger Stadium at the end of the day we became snarled in the chaos of the uprising with no idea what we were witnessing. What began as an annual baseball adventure became a terrifying experience of urban anger and violence. This was a world unlike anything I knew. It was messy and alien - only we were the aliens.

The disintegration of my easy certitude continued piece by piece. The Vietnam War challenged my belief in the nobility of my country. Working summers with the Michigan Migrant Ministry challenged my assumptions regarding poverty and wealth. Working with the Interfaith Centers for Racial Justice of Metro Detroit challenged my assumptions about white privilege and our legacy of slavery and racism. The sudden death of my father at age 52 challenged my assumptions regarding life and death.

The disintegration of my certitude has continued throughout my life these past fifty years. The experience of being fired from a job I thought I loved; holding my wife, Terry's, hand as a doctor explained the discovery of a stage three tumor; walking with her through surgery and chemo therapy knowing that none of it would change the outcome; losing her after 38 years of marriage; expecting to live the rest of my life alone and then welcoming another love into my life who restores the joy; all of these experiences have worked together to turn my certitude into dust.

Now I am 67 and I have cast my certitude into the trash. I have grown fond of ambiguity and the resiliency it offers. I prefer the mystery of life over the embrace of easy answers. Having been voted (along with Suzie Hughes) the "Most Likely To Succeed" by the FHS class of 1967 I would rather now be known as the "most likely to bounce back." Perhaps this is the reason for my eagerness to meet with old classmates. I want to hear how life has treated them and hear their stories of resilience. Perhaps I will have an opportunity to apologize for the false and I imagine off-putting certitude of my 17 year old self. We shall see.

Dave Gladstone

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