I'd rather not try to impress you with my linguistic skills this time, if that's cool. I'd rather not worry about Oxford commas or dangling participles just now. It's best if I just deliver the information without the butter, the syrup... Mostly syrup.
This is the year that my nephew Charlie would have graduated from high school. He would have attended the same fine learning institution that all of us Heller kids attended: Kalamazoo's Loy Norrix High School.
Even though Charlie did not get to experience Norrix in the academic sense, he was familiar enough with the place. We took him to a basketball game or two there, where I fulfilled any Uncle's solemn duty where his school-age nephew is concerned. I taught him how to properly heckle.
The kid missed out on so much. That happens around here. You can take my word for it as a Loy Norrix Knight.
But before I was a Knight, I was a Lancer, at Milwood Junior High. A boy we all knew back then, Billy Fleming, drowned in his own swimming pool in the summer between 7th and 8th grades (we heard). He was a mischievous kid, bright and funny, blonde hair, very much like Charlie was.
It's quite a shock, having mortality thrown in your face at such a young age. 8th grade is kind of weird, anyway, and when you're that age, you don't yet know how to process things or even how the hell they get processed. And it seems like we kind of collectively forgot about Billy after moving on to high school... Big changes, you know?
But on the day of Loy Norrix High School's Graduating Class of 1986, we all got a colorful and jolting reminder. There was a huge balloon bouquet in one of the front row seats at the ceremony. For William Fleming.
Class of Eighty-Six.
I told my sister about this a while ago - she remembers; she was friends with Billy's older sister - and she arranged for Loy Norrix High School to have a seat available for Charlie, with a similar gesture, when his class takes that sweet stroll across the stage.