It’s the time of year when families, schools, fraternal organizations and other affinity groups plan reunions. I’m not much of a reunion — or nostalgia — fan. I’ve only ever been to two reunion events. The most recent was last year. It was not a school reunion, however. It was a gathering of former crewmembers of the USS Georgetown, the ship on which I served almost 40 years ago, when I was on active duty with the U.S. Navy.
We old fogies had a good time. We wore nametags, because some of us had changed just slightly. We watched some grainy super 8 movies, mostly having to do with our antics when we crossed the equator. We sat there in amazement, wondering who those slim young men on the screen were — and where they’ve gone. We all spent time visiting with one another and walking around Key West, a port of call with which we were all familiar — decades ago.
Key West has changed, just as I and my shipmates have changed. We all got older, raised families, and did other things that are pretty normal. Most of our families are grown now, and some of the wives aren’t the same ones with whom some of the guys started out married life. Key West went from a sleepy town with a Navy base to one of the premier tourist destinations in the country.
You can’t go back.
Most of us realized we were not going to relive the days of our youth by visiting Key West. Our bodies wouldn’t have handled it if we had tried. I have come face to face with this realization several times in the past few years.
A few years back I took my youngest daughter to visit the city in which I had grown up and the high school from which I had graduated. The reality was somewhat shocking. None of the houses in which I had lived were still standing. The school now has bars on the windows and doors — and probably hasn’t been swept since I graduated. My daughter grew to have a better understanding of the socio-economic background from which I have emerged. I learned a few things, too.
You can’t go back.
It’s good to have memories — and it’s important to actually think about creating memories as we go along in life. It’s good to remember both the good and the bad in our own biographies. The good we can improve upon. The bad, perhaps, we can learn from. But we can’t change any of it.
The most important change in my life since “the old days” was one over which I had no control. For His own reasons, God chose me to be one of His own. In 1978, a dozen years after I separated from the navy, I was enlisted in God’s army. Now I am on a career path which leads to eternal life.
I don’t want to go back.
Fortunately, we can alter our present and our future. I was reminded, more than once, while in Key West, that I could easily have been voted “least likely to succeed,” if they voted on such things aboard the Georgetown. I drank hard and fought often and generally kept myself in trouble. Shipmates told me they are surprised at “how well I’ve turned out.”
When I left the Navy, I went to college; not because of a thirst for knowledge, but because the G.I. Bill gave me money to do so. My attitude and my behavior didn’t change much. But things are very different now. God has ordered my steps. He has allowed me to have the kinds of background and experiences and education which some people find helpful. His hand has been obvious in my life. Just when I thought I was going to sneak off to Maine and become a semi-retired type, a congregation recruited me to be its pastor. I have been called upon to use skills and education for which God had prepared me, but which I have scarcely used in the past few years. And I have plenty to share with these people to whom He sent me.
You can’t go back. I really wouldn’t want to, but it is fun reminiscing about “the good old days.” We just can’t live there. We have to move on.
We of the USS Georgetown are talking about the next reunion. It might become an annual affair. I’ll go as often as I can. But, I’ll come back to wherever it is God has me serving at that time. There’s never a dull moment in the adventure.
By the way, I also can’t go back and visit the USS Georgetown. It was decommissioned in 1969. My understanding is that it was sold as scrap metal to the Gillette company. Maybe I shaved with part of it this morning!
I certainly can’t go back.
- Curt Lovelace
Curt Lovelace is a small town pastor and a student of history. He has finally moved to Maine where, when asked if he would like to declare a political affiliation on his voter registration card, he politely declined.