On Saturday, August 12, 2000, the black line on the bottom of the pool led to Huron Valley Swim Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It took something over three decades to get there, and it was timed by a calendar whose splits included careers, relocations, weddings, births, divorces and - most rendingly - a few deaths. I wish I had said something to mark those whose premature passing has left permanent omissions in the Patton family. It is something that perhaps can be picked up in any future gatherings. And it seems likely that there will be future gatherings. The coming together of so many elements of Patton's history from so many paths and directions was moving, profound and deeply satisfying.
That's what the afterglow has left. But on Saturday the 12th the atmosphere was pure jubilation with maybe a touch of astonishment. There were the same people and personalities you had known in those formative years when so many lives anchored their work ethics, values and attitudes. You might not instantly recognize a face, but then a quarter of a turn would reveal a twinkle in the eye as bright as Lynn Makkonen's, or a super nova grin as lustrous as Carol Danboise's, or a fluid gesture that only Moose Moosekian had, and it shot through you like a light in the window on a journey home.
To tell you the truth, it was not what I expected. I was prepared for Geezer Hell, and I could see myself writing about it as Seaweed Sully again, satirizing Patton's Wrinkle-Fest 2000 and trying to decipher amorphous lumps of humanity whose sleek muscles had gone from Bungee cords to Silly Putty. Not that I've physically changed, you understand. I'm exactly the same. But come on, that was the last millennium. Rick Skarbo and Ron Boyd couldn't stay buff forever. Dennis Manrique maybe. I was prepared for hairy nostrils, no hair, bodies that weighed more than their refrigerators, and the bright green canisters of oxygen on wheels. I thought getting in the water would involve a mass removal of contact lenses and some low-tech suits that hadn't been seen since Johnny Weismuller yodeled to Jane, Boy and Cheetah. And I don't know, maybe some of that was there, BUT I DIDN'T SEE ANY OF IT. What I saw were people I loved . . . love.
I think John Savinsky ran into another side of that - a lack of self-love - while he was doing a masterful job of tracking down people for the virtual reunion. John, being fearless and caring, was a little surprised to discover resistance to coming on-line among some of his old teammates. We talked about it and decided that life kicks the crap out of all of us and that some would rather remember how it was rather than risk changing the impressions we had of each other. In light of the real reunion in Ann Arbor, that was a pointless fear. The connections go deeper than appearances or events. Hopefully, any reluctant souls who stayed away will catch the next edition and enjoy the support and affirmation that comes with family. The water we shared "back then" was baptism. Now it is communion.
There are two futilities that come to me now as I write this. One is the futility of trying to thank everyone who worked so hard and so anonymously to make the reunion happen. I was not one of them. But if you want to thank people, you could start with Ed Picard, our savvy and much-loved philosopher, who had the vision to create a virtual reunion on the Web in the first place. Then you could move on to "the committee" - Dennis Manrique, John Savinsky, Craig Dwyer and Ed (ghastly relay!) - who put in the sweat equity for a return we all shared. Include their tireless better halves in the effort, for they shall see God. There were others. The second futility is trying to mention everyone who was there and do justice to the pleasure of their company. I won't try. "The Hawk" and his lovely bride Carroll (did I finally spell it right?) made it in from Puerto Rico, as did legendary Pete Adams from Tasmania, and a strong California contingent that included Bruce Norvell, as well as Joanne Scarborough Hodges and her husband Alan all the way from Colorado. I am doubtless forgetting some other geographical representations beyond the Midwest, but I won't forget to include a room phone call to Lee Davis in Arlington, Texas, made in the evening after the die-hards adjourned to Richard Szuba's house.
A handful of updates that come to mind: Mark "Mouse" Manrique went through a whole day without injury, breaking only a smile. Barb Church has not grown back her long braid, meaning I can no longer tell her "your antler melted." And you can't say "MaryBeth Ceresko" without thinking "Mother Teresa." The horsepower we once represented in the water is still revving on Tina Solis Lessnau's horse farm. Some mean mustaches and beards were abroad (no, Ricky, that doesn't mean worn by women). John Klemanski and Joe Mueller sported facial hair befitting their doctorates. The Hauck is reputed to strain sea monsters out of his, as he brought along deep-sea artifacts from some of his many Caribbean adventures. Guttiest guy is still Jeff Longstreth, who led the charge to the water. I do believe a trio of breastrokers followed, but the rest of us are into theory now and no longer have to actually get into the water in order to swim fast. We just talked about it. Age is such a high price to pay for maturity, but a couple of Pattonites looked like they got theirs for free. Jim Klemanski, a successful lawyer, has obviously written a contract with the devil to stay young forever. And David Sahagian . . . yeesh. He must sleep on ice to preserve himself. But hey, Abdul looked old when he was young, right?
What "changes" there were seemed incidental. Like someone coming into a workout with a new suit. We've all lived long enough now to understand how our parents could see their youth in well-marinated friends whose driver's licenses read like history books. The time and distance that separates the "old days" from the present is just another interval in the interval training of life. We haven't disconnected, we've just expanded. There was the strange sense that this was just another workout or a meet, replete with all the little social interactions and feel of a family. What else could it be? We were - and still are - a family.