I opened the letter from Georgia, sent by the committee planning our next high school reunion.
The merrymaking is scheduled for next spring and, frankly, I don't know whether I'll be inclined to attend. I've already attended two of these affairs.
While class reunions can be enjoyable for catching up with old friends.... they can also present graphic proof that time eventually takes a conspicuous toll on fresh young faces and strong bodies.
Such an assemblage can shatter the myth we all cling to... that we're basically indistinguishable from what we were back when those yearbook photos were snapped.
As I read through the committee's letter describing the activities planned for the big reunion.... my thoughts got hung up on one particular list.
It was an alphabetical listing of "those we'll miss dearly".... former high school classmates who have died.
We had a big graduating class at the Academy of Richmond County -more than 600, I believe.
And now, almost a half century later, my classmates and I have advanced into our 60s and watched most of our own kids graduate from high school, even college.
It's only natural that a few former school mates would've passed away.... but when I saw the names of 75 classmates whose lives are over.... well, it got my attention.
And, the thing is, I know that list isn't even complete.
I'm personally aware of at least two deceased classmates whose names aren't listed.... and I know there are scores of people the reunion planners just can't locate.... so, it's possible there could be hundreds on the list.
Among the names were a few memorable old friends.
But my eyes locked on one name in particular.
I won't use his real name here, I'll just call him Butch.
I remember Butch mostly from junior high school.
He was a bully.
I suppose every class, at every school, is destined to have a bully.... a person who seems to take pleasure in tormenting classmates with senseless threats and intimidation.
I can still recall the heat in my face, and the sense of urgency in my brain, the day Butch confronted me behind the school during recess.
He said he wanted to fight me... to "beat me up" as he put it.
He stood there, about 15 inches from my face.... glaring at me.... telling me in great detail what he could, and would, do to me.
Obviously, I'll never know who could've done what to who, because I didn't move.... I didn't flinch.... I didn't want this confrontation to play out.
We eventually turned away from each other.... me, with a great sense of relief.... Butch with a smirk on his face, feeling -- I suppose -- that his ridiculous threat could somehow be interpreted as a victory.
From that day on, until high school graduation, I don't recall ever having another exchange of words with Butch.
Not even a "hello."
I never feared him, he was actually rather small and skinny.
I just didn't like him.
There was nothing I wanted to say to him.
But just days ago, when I saw his name on that list of classmates "we'll dearly miss"... I felt a flicker of sadness.
For better or worse, Butch played a role in a scene from my own life story.
Tonight I looked at his smiling face in his senior photo in the high school yearbook, and thought how he actually looked like a nice young guy.
If Butch were still alive, and we were both inclined to attend that reunion next spring, perhaps we would've had a conversation.... and maybe we would have laughed about that silly day.... if he even remembered it.
Or maybe he would have confronted me again and wanted to fight!