My brother flew home to Smalltownville recently to attend his 40-year high school class reunion. He’s always kept in touch with some of his peeps and it didn’t surprise me that he was the one who did the graphics on a booklet in memory of his classmates who had passed away.
I made the drive to Smalltownville to see my brother after the reunion, before he had to head back to the airport. He showed me the little booklet he had made, explained how he did the graphics using his yearbook covers. It all looked beautiful . . . . but I was befuddled.
I read over the names of his deceased classmates and knew some of them. Near the top of the list was a name I was surprised to see. I asked my brother if the names were listed in order with most recent deaths at the top. He said, “No. I listed them in the order of their passing.”
I was still befuddled. “Crush died?” He said yes.
“Is this the same ‘Crush’ that . . . “ He said yes.
“Crush died nearly twenty years ago?” He said yes.
I was stunned!
‘Crush was a quiet boy in my brother’s class. He had a beautiful broad smile, curly black hair, and a deep baritone voice. Crush was shy, shy, shy! But he wasn’t the kind of shy that seems aloof. He was merely timid.
I was the accompanist for the high school choir all four years I was there and Crush sang in the choir. He also sang in madrigals because he was the only boy with such a rich, low voice. I didn’t notice it right away, though. As a freshman, I was just an annoying new person who had to wear a beanie on my head for initiation day and had to get used to running around from class to class without running into my older brother or his friends.
Crush didn’t live in Smalltownville. We were a consolidated school that had kids bused from another town even smaller than mine. Crush lived in Villageville. The kids that lived in Villageville couldn’t participate in extracurricular activities because they all had to catch the bus back home. So I didn’t get to see Crush much . . . . except for choir practice.
Crush competed in the choir competitions, though, and I got to play the piano for his madrigal and duet pieces, not to mention the whole choir, too.
As I got to know Crush, I liked him. As my granddaughter would say now, I didn’t like like him, I just liked him. In retrospect, though, I had a crush on him. You know how those things go . . . . they can last a long time.
I asked Crush to be my date for the Sadie Hawkins Dance one year. That’s the one time when it was proper for the girls to ask the boys. Crush just smiled and said no. I wasn’t devastated, but I didn’t ask anyone else, either. He was just a nice, quiet boy whose company I would have enjoyed.
Years later, my brother told me that Crush said no because he didn’t have a car to get to the dance, and wouldn’t have been able to afford it. You see the Sadie Hawkins dance was held before prom and Crush thought if he went with a girl who asked him to Sadie Hawkins, he would have to ask her to prom and that’s what he couldn’t afford. “And besides”, my brother said, he was just too shy.”
It softened my rejection to hear that from my brother, I guess. By the time I heard that part of the story, it was water over the dam, because I had been out of high school and college a while and it didn’t matter anymore – not too much anyway.
Life goes on and I had been hired to work at the college, a position I still hold. I used to take the city transit system to work before I met Officer Friendly and before Goodnight needed to move in with us. My transit route took me through the heart of the city and sometimes I could hop off, do some shopping and then catch a transfer a little later.
One time while doing just that, I ran into Crush. We hadn’t seen each other since he left high school and I didn’t know where he had landed. We made plans to have lunch together later that week.
I wasn’t nervous as I had been when I was when I was a young school girl, but there was still that little ‘crush’. We met for lunch and chatted about work, our elderly fathers, and hometown stuff. He was still the same shy boy, now gentle-man, with curly black hair, a broad grin and a deep baritone voice.
Our lunch date was nearly twenty years ago. It didn’t seem like so much time had passed until my older brother told me when Crush died. My brother said that Crush was found in his apartment after having been dead for a few days. He had never married.
When my brother handed me the memory booklet he had made for his 40-year reunion, I got to feel young again for a moment, and then instantly sad for the shy boy whose name was too near the top of the list. Crush didn’t even live to see his 40′s. As my brother and I chatted, we figured he had to have died within a short time after our lunch together.
And yet his life had purpose. I may not know all of it, nor any more of it than the purpose it had for me, but he was a gift. He was never rude in high school. He never got into trouble either. He didn’t have an arrogant bone is his body. I never heard anyone say a bad word about him, ever. When he turned me down for the dance, it wasn’t hurtful, but he didn’t make excuses, either. His dignity was intact. He was just a quiet boy who made me smile.
He still does. Like I said, it was the kind of crush that can last a long time. And if Crush was poor, it was in money only, because the way he walked, spoke, carried himself and treated others should have made his parents proud.
I’m still sitting quietly with the news of his death, but what comforts the school girl in me who wants to mourn, is knowing that our lunch date together was probably a much better time than the Sadie Hawkins dance would have been.
Hey, Crush! If they have Sadie Hawkins dances in Heaven, save a dance for me . . . .