Last Lunch

Yesterday, the first Tuesday of May 2023, was the last lunch date that Mary Ann and I would share with the A.L. Brown class of 1964. We began attending the monthly gatherings six years ago when we returned to North Carolina, but the Wonders had been sharing food and friendship long before our joining. Under the leadership of Gail, about two dozen high school classmates and some spouses arrive in China Grove at noon once a month and gather round a long table to talk, listen, share, and remember.

The word used for these lunches-gather- is chosen carefully. The folks do not meet because to meet implies an order or an agenda. They do not assemble because to assemble has the connotation of purpose or intent. The folks gather, much like a flock or herd does, and for some of the same reasons.

Yesterday as I drove us along state Route 152 towards China Grove, I commented to Mary Ann on how the world had suddenly come alive and how fresh and green the earth was. The bright green of spring complimented the blue of sky. It was a wonderful time to be alive, and I looked forward to the last lunch. Over my many years of springs and summers and falls, I have glazed back and wondered about my “last” of some things. I vividly remember my last marathon in Big Sur but can’t find in my memory my last training run.  Was it a long one, a short, easy one, or a workout on a track, I wonder. While I know the facts about many of my classes I instructed, I have no knowledge of the last class I taught. But I hope it was a good one for my students and for me.  It seems as if certain events important in my life were not marked in my memory, and while not a monumental part of my life, I ponder that and wonder why I have no memory of certain times in my life. I surmise that I did not mark some of those “lasts” because I did not know it was the last one of any number of activities.

But yesterday, May 02, 2023 was, in a way, a significant day because I was ready to, as much as possible, mark the lunch gathering, cutting it into my memory much like a stonemason scores a stone in order to shape it for something bigger. And this last luncheon gathering was larger than food, news, laughter, and friendships.

As I sat waiting for our table to be readied, I watched as classmates arrived in the familiar waiting room. One came using his cane; one’s wheelchair pushed by a spouse; one when asked about his gleaming Corvette that we all watched him park said, “It’s just a Chevrolet”; most walking with purpose and varying paunches of weight that long since had become a permanent resident of the bodies; and all chattering like members of a flock just happy to be present with others of their kind. It was a gathering that supported the words of Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” As I watched my classmates, I saw a tide of humanity with the range of human experiences mentioned by Dickens. Everything was present in that waiting room, but they all as individuals and as a gathering had persisted and will persevere against things to come.

Our long table ready, we entered and laughed and listened and shared and ate and remembered those absent and those no longer able to attend. “It was the best of times….”

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