It’s been 40 years since we graduated from high school. Soon we’ll gather again for that time-honored tradition of observing milestones in our lives. Perhaps one reason we celebrate this anniversary is that we are even still here, while so many of the people we once saw every day for four years have died from disease, accidents and even suicide. Every generation goes through this time of reflection, and now it’s our turn.
We like to think we are special. The Class of 1972 was not the conservative middle class or our parents. Bohemians and pseudo-hippies — that was us. We graduated at the tail end of the psychedelic 1960s and had grown up with fears of nuclear annihilation and the brutal and senseless murders of national leaders. We watched the Vietnam War on TV while young men faced being drafted and sent to serve in an unpopular war. But we were young in 1972 and still had hopes and thought we would live forever.
Many of us went on to graduate from college. Others went to work in local factories and businesses. Some followed in the family’s farming tradition. We married, had kids, divorced and got married again.
But we thought we were different. We were the children of Jack Kerouac and Jerry Rubin, of Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, of Marx and Coca-Cola. Although we came late to the revolution, we still were hassled for having long hair and dressing weird. Parents hated our music. But The Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, et al., were the soundtrack of our lives and helped get us through growing up.
Then some idiot killed John Lennon, and we knew for sure the 1960s were over. And so were our dreams.
We thought we would change the world. But we all did what our parents did — got married, raised kids and worked our jobs. We attained some measure of happiness, but it never felt like we had achieved what we thought we were destined to do.
And now we are old. When did that happen? How come we don’t feel old? It seems like we never reached the level of maturity and wisdom our parents had. Things have changed a lot in our country in the past 40 years, and now we look around and wonder what the heck happened? And why didn’t we stop it?
We shake our heads in confusion and dismay about the younger generation we see now. Yes it has happened — we have become our parents.
Yet we can’t help feeling they attained more then we have, not just material things, but a satisfaction in their lives and their faith in their religion and country. We were the cynical optimists, and now we are mostly just cynical.
The greatest content in our lives have been our children. We discovered the pure joy of having kids and raising them.
Some, sadly, have missed out on that glorious experience. It is in our children and grandchildren that we found our greatest happiness. We were a generation that looked for the meaning of life everywhere and ended up finding the answer in the smiles of our children.
So, Class of 1972, we have survived the wars, the corrupt politicians, pollution, the Bomb, divorces, disease, deaths and disappointments. Maybe we changed the world a tiny bit; maybe we didn’t.
Life goes on, it’s time to smell the flowers, and time for some sweet tea.
Ron Adams is a member of the Columbus High School graduating Class of 1972.
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