As you no doubt recall from my post a week ago, I was debating whether to attend official high school reunion activities in Empire Falls, but had been getting the hard sell from my friend Slade not to go and make a sensation of myself.

I was still undecided as the Friday of the reunion arrived and my long-planned lunch with Slade approached. I dressed conservatively, with conservative makeup and conservative jewelry, and drove to town with my boys to meet Slade at the old Pizza Hut where we had spend many high school evenings pondering life’s mysteries. He met us and we had a fine lunch, talking about everything in the whole wide world EXCEPT for the big topic, which we avoided completely. While his head didn’t explode, he didn’t seem to ever really relax, at least regarding me. After lunch, he helped me with getting my pickup, which is always parked at the little municipal airport for when I fly home, and ferrying it to the Dodge house for an annual inspection and a little electrical work — and as long as we were doing things like this, everything was great.

However, having exhausted all our “doing” things, and apparently not wanting to talk about the big topic, he said he needed to go get ready for tonight’s reunion get-together. I asked if he was swinging by my place the next day on his way out to a country barbecue, and he muttered that he might.

Back at the ranch, Mary Jo and I talked about the evening event, and ultimately decided to go on a really pleasant walk with the family out along the creek in the early evening. We talked and saw a deer jump out of a hidden spot and saw a porcupine and a couple of skunks and had a wonderful time together.

I spoke to my sister, who also told me that not everyone knew of my changes despite my believing it to be the case. In fact, she had just told a couple of my classmates that day at the post office. At this point, I decided not to go to any official events because I figured that coming to events and springing my news on people all at the same time was just not right. If the reunion had been 6 months later, or if I had transitioned a year earlier, I don’t think I would have had a problem.

But I was far from lonely. On Saturday, I hosted a couple of friends (Ann and Ron) at my house, friends I haven’t seen in quite a while, and it was fun to catch up on old friends and to hear about who they had seen at the reunion so far and who they were looking forward to seeing that evening.

Slade never showed.

Looking back, I know I was itching to go, probably to validate myself in my hometown, or maybe to make a point — and I also know I probably would have been all right, but I think Slade was probably right, as was Liz: that the interval between learning of the George-to-Joyce transformation and attending the high school reunion was too short (and for some people, non-existent), and my attendance might definitely have been sensational. However, I hope I hear from friends who learned of my situation at these events, and perhaps we can reconnect next time I’m home.

As for Slade, I feel like our relationship is like the light from a powerful flashlight that is pointed towards an object far off in the distance. There was a time when the light was blinding and warm and reassuring, and it was even pleasant and comforting in its moderate distance of marriage, kids, and career. But out here on the perimeter, far from the flashlight, the power is greatly diminished, cold like the stars or the Milky Way stretching across the sky from Sagittarius in the south to Cassiopeia in the north. It’s not gone, and may even flare back up like a nova, but my hope is as dim as this distant flashlight.