Monday, June 12, 2006
"Titan: noun. 1. a person of enormous size, strength, power, or influence."
"We are the Titans, the mighty mighty Titans." Trinity High School's fight song, sung more than a few times this weekend.
The Titans arrived last Thursday and demonstrated the power of their titanic spirit. The day started as many others. A visit to the clinic for more chemo (tuning up for the arrival of "the boys"). But that day I was intercepted at the door by Dr. Rifkin's physician assistant, Anna, with papers in hand and a smile on her face. "I've been waiting for you," she told me as she handed me the lab results from Monday's blood draw. Myeloma numbers (IGGs) down to 1603 from 2050. YES! the combo package of velcade/steroids continues to work. Rifkin then tells me that maybe we'll try an 8th cycle after we finish this 7th cycle and then there is the possibility of a maintenance dosage. The best news I have had in almost a year; news that proved to be a very very good omen for the weekend.
The "weekend" started around 4 p.m. when the first wave of the class of 1970 arrived at the hotel. Soon another car arrived, then another. By Saturday there were 24 of us ready to see if we could make something of this reunion, which included not just the class of 1970, but also representatives from the Trinity High School Titans' classes of 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1972--and a lone representative of the rival public school (thank you Doug Henke).
I don't really know how to describe the 4 days. There were many events planned but the import of the weekend transcended the events. The feelings are so deep they defy description. On the surface this was nothing more than a bunch of guys getting together for a high school reunion. But scrape the surface and you'd discover a world I suspect many of us weren't even conscious of. Perhaps the following moments will give you a feel for what happened here in Denver this past weekend.
Thursday night Pat Engelhardt pulled out a baseball cap with "The Fuzz" printed on the front, and placed it on my head. The Fuzz being my nickname from long ago. Then, everyone else pulled out similar hats, with "the Fuzz" on each one, and placed them on their heads. Pat simply said "we're with you all the way Fuzz." These hats, and the blue multiple myeloma wristbands distributed at the same time(like the Lance Armstrong Livestrong wristbands only with "accelerate the cure" impressed into the band) were worn all weekend by everyone.
Friday night at the baseball game, a fifth inning stretch revealed a message on the jumbotron, being broadcast over the entire stadium, orchestrated by Bob Agnew, saying something to the effect of: Dan, your friends have finally arrived, we're here to support you all the way. (My memory won't do it justice, I'm sure).
Saturday night, Bob Agnew, a fellow Coloradoan, from Trinity's class of 1969, hosted a party for everyone at his home near Castle Rock. The last reunioner, Big Dave Beaudoin, arrived that night to the cheers of everyone as he drove up in his Big Rig. The party was now complete!
"Little" Dave Beaudoin laid claim to being my "longest" or "oldest" friend at the reunion, our having met in about 1956, when we were only 4 years old. Dave Willer made the same claim. Eleven of the 34 guys who graduated with me in 8th grade from St. Patrick's grade school attended this event!
Sunday afternoon we just hung around my house, telling stories. It could have been a scene from 38 years ago, taking place at any one of our parents' houses. No pretenses, no egos, just hanging out and enjoying each other's company.
As the last goodbyes were said on Sunday night I was told by each of them, "I love you, Fuzzy. You know I'm just a phone call away." "I love you" was certainly not in the vocabulary of this group of high school jocks, yet those words seemed so natural, so worthy of being spoken this weekend. A promise was extracted from me by Dick Radant that we would see each other at our 40th reunion. The same promise I made him make in 2000, after he told me of his own multi year struggle with a nasty cancer.
A few overriding impressions: Despite our apparent differences in the directions our lives have gone in the past 35 years, there was complete and absolute acceptance of everyone by everyone. We genuinely value each other as important people in our lives, then and now. One friend commented that despite the size of this group of friends, never was a cross word spoken to each other, other than in gest, and never was a fist raised in anger. An amazing feat given all the testosterone that was flying around this group in the late 1960s. We have always liked and cared for each other, and always will.
The fact that 23 people traveled from Canada, Minnesota, California, Texas, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska, North Dakota and other places speaks volumes about the capacity of these guys' hearts. Make no mistake about it, these 23 open hearts marshalled enough energy to send me flying for the entire weekend. (no Doug, it was not the tequila--that is why you were flying) I truly have never had as much energy or felt as good in over a year. They catapulted me into orbit and I still feel like I'm flying through the universe.(but no Brad Sigl, I am not talking to God)--(an inside joke).
When I went into my office this afternoon, a framed picture of everyone rested on my chair; a picture taken Friday night at my law firm's reception for the group. The picture is a gift from a friend, Tony Melanakis, who shares offices with us. A permanent reminder that more than one person is watching out for me.
These are remarkable people. I continue to marvel at the whole event and my good fortune to be able to call these people my friends. As I struggled through this past year, I slowly came to realize how important family and friends are in our lives. It seems that these long time friends of mine always knew this and were just standing on the sidelines waiting for me to wake up. And in talking with everyone, it became apparent that no one has escaped the pain and struggles of growing old. Their stories, in many cases, are not much different than mine. And that's why they were here. They know what it takes to call upon that inner strength to transcend life's difficulties and arrive at a better place. And they knew they could help me do that. And they did. It is that simple.
Well, I am awake my friends. Thank you for everything. I love you all. When it comes to friendship, you are truly Titans!
P.S. And for those bloggers who knew us way back when, here are the names of the attendees: Duke Adamski, Bob Agnew, Arnie Badinger, "Big" Dave Beaudoin, "Little" Dave Beaudoin, Dewey Berger, Darrell Binek, Brian Bogner, Bill Ehli, Pat Engelhardt, Tom Filkowski, Doug Henke, Wayne Hatzenbiler, Doug Kappel, Dave Narum, Richard Radant, Jack Radant, Howie Sage, Brad Sigl, Bob Tescher, Jim Weiler, Mike Weir, Dave Willer, and "the Fuzz".