Monthly Archives: October 2009

Reunions… Dreamscape and Beyond

Dreamscape back then

Dreamscape back then

This past weekend a ten-year dream of mine finally came true. I got to join up once again with the guys from Dreamscape, the band I played in during my college years. In the mid-90’s, we were all high school and college-aged guys with the whole world in front of us. We worked hard at our music, played all over the Annapolis area, and had the time of our lives. We became the best of friends and the best of combined musical talent. Looking back, those were definitely the “wonder years” of my youth.

Leading up to Friday night, the five of us spent a lot of time hashing up memories of the band days– the events that led to the creation of our band, crazy gigs we did, songs we used to play, people we remembered, etc., etc. And while it stirred up a lot of joy to recall those stories, it led us to the realization that we’re far gone from being the kids we were back then. While I don’t consider myself “old”, the experience elucidated the fact that indeed we’re all getting older.

However, the first hint I was given that perhaps we’re no longer the young guys we used to be came from my daughter, of all people. After the band agreed to get together, practice, and do a show, I got very excited and gleefully broke the news to my family. I thought they would be elated! But immediately, my oldest daughter began to laugh…I was crushed!

Disappointed, I asked her, “What’s so funny?”

She replied with an innocent smile, “Daddy, you all are old!” Hmm… That was a sobering dash of cold water. Needless to say, I tried to not ponder that thought for too long.

the guys from Dreamscape

the guys from Dreamscape… now!

Well, after a few months went by and a handful of practices, the Dreamscape reunion finally happened, and in a nutshell, we had the time of our lives! Playing music with guys who were my dearest of friends and listening to the cheering of the crowd who came to see us was simply electric.

Another nutshell word to describe the evening: surreal. Here were the five of us from Dreamscape, after eleven years, playing all of that familiar music in front of many familiar faces, some of whom we hadn’t seen since high school. It felt like deja vu. I looked around and found  that not only was the evening a band reunion, but it also shaped up to be a high school reunion of sorts, too.

And then somewhere in one of our sets of music, it hit me… My daughter was right. I am getting older.

I realized that when we were ten years younger, we got together to have parties, concerts, gatherings, hang outs, and all of that. That’s what young people do. But what do older people do? They– and now, yes, we in their company– have reunions. Reunions are all about the joy of nostalgia, memories, recreating former bonds, and reminiscing on the effects the years have had on us. Young people don’t do that, but older– dare I say old!– people do it all the time.

So would I take part in another reunion like this again? Absolutely! In a moment’s notice I would. There are few pleasures in life that surpass the deep satisfaction times like these grace upon their participants. Yet as inspiring as the music was, the experience went well beyond notes and instruments. It was the human bonding that struck deep chords within me. If for nothing else, the hugs, the smiles, the surprises, and the conversations were well worth every one of our efforts to put on that Dreamscape show.

Late that night as my wife Blairlee and I drove home through the rain, Blairlee fell asleep, and in the quiet of our ride home, I got to thinking. I began to understand why people who are maturing in years look forward to things like heaven. Older people don’t see heaven primarily as an escape from life’s pains. That’s how young people tend to view heaven.  But heaven, properly understood, is a reunion– a reunion with God and with those who have gone on before us. Even in a noisy bar setting where my band played and people knocked back drinks through the evening, as people shared the joy of their reunion, perhaps way down in their souls, God continued to do some tugging, whispering to us all, “If you think this reunion is great, I have an even better one in store for you, if you’ll only listen, believe, and follow me.”

The Apostle Paul, always keenly aware of heaven’s imminence, once told an ancient church,

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

I love this passage. It’s comforting, beautiful, and quite powerful, too, especially if we can draw ourselves to believe the promise Paul points to. This, after all, is what all our earthly reunions foreshadow. Paul paints a picture of the Great Reunion in which both the dead and the living are caught up together into one final, eternal gathering. And it’s all made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus, who gave his all that we would never be estranged from God and from one another ever again.

What could possibly be better than to know that God has provided a way for us to never be parted from himself or from one another, even beyond the shroud of death?

Looking at life and eternal life this way, I have an even greater desire for reunion now. Call me crazy or maybe too far gone, but I pray that one day Dreamscape and all those people who came to see us would be reunited again one Final Day. Only this time, the music we play will be in praise of the God who made us, loves us, and died for us. And our hands would be clasped together and with the Lord’s nail-scarred hands in a great celebration of God. And this time, there would be no one to yell at us, “All right, it’s time to close up and go home!” For our Lord would be the host.

The food and wine would be served from his own banquet table, and the party would never end…


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Tailgating with the Greatest Generation

USNA class of 1942It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny Saturday afternoon on the grounds surrounding the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. My family was in our regular spot setting up our canopy, tables, chairs, and food for yet another tailgate party. That’s our tradition before every home Navy football game, and it’s been that way for my wife Blairlee and my in-laws for many years. Noticeably hoisted in our little camp is the United States Naval Academy Class of 1942 banner. Blairlee’s grandfather, Commander Robert Childers, USN (ret.), was a Class of ’42 graduate. When he and his wife died in 2000 and 2001 respectively, my mother-in-law took on the duty of hoisting their class’s banner. That banner has been posted in the same spot for many, many years and to this day reminds every passerby of one of the greatest classes the Academy has ever known.

Over the years, the number of Class of ’42 graduates who show up to their tailgate party has steadily dwindled down. They’re all in their late 80’s and early 90’s now. So at most of our tailgate parties, my family members, the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Robert Childers, USNA 1942, are the only ones present.

But on this past Saturday afternoon as we were setting up for the much-anticipated Navy-Air Force game, two men from the Class of ’42 parked and strolled over to join us. They came with coolers of food and drink and plenty of conversation. One of them seemed to be particularly careful to make sure we each had enough to eat and drink. I guess that was his grandfatherly side showing itself! As I asked them questions and got to know them, I saw that these men carried an air of both strength and humility. Like so many other women and men in uniform, they served, often in dangerous assignments, defending our country and asking for very little in return. They were sailors who spent the better part of their adulthood as officers in the United States Navy. They served all over the world, retired in the early 1970’s, and worked civilian jobs until they reached their second retirement. They weren’t quick to tell war stories or talk much about the things they accomplished. It’s almost as if their service in the Navy was as much a part of their being as breathing. (I mean, who waxes eloquent about taking a breath?)

As I got to know these men from the Class of ’42, I learned the distinctive mark of their class: they graduated and were commissioned a semester early. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The next day, President Roosevelt declared war on Japan, launching the United States into World War II. Eleven days later, on December 19, 1941, the USNA Class of 1942 graduated and were deployed into war. 44 of them died during the conflict. Now, out of a class of 563, there are about 100 left.

These men are a part of a dying breed, a generation once dubbed by journalist Tom Brockaw as “the Greatest Generation.” Born in the late teens and early twenties of the last century, this generation grew up during the Great Depression. Over 10-million of them served in World War II while the rest stayed home to operate an extremely efficient war machine. When the war ended, they started families and built an enormous industrial, academic, economic, and military force which would elevate the United States to be the greatest superpower the world has ever known.

Never before or after this generation has our country seen the kind of ingenuity, loyalty, and hard work they produced. They were the parents of my parents, and they were my grandparents. And there are fewer of them as the years pass along.

Sadly, this will be the last Navy football season in which the Class of ’42 will host a tailgating spot. With so few who come to games anymore, the survivors of their class elected to give up their spot. So, we’re doing it up big this year, celebrating and remembering a class of true heroes. Long after the last of the USNA Class of 1942 dies, their legacy will live on, not only in the United States Navy, but throughout the country and our world. They forever challenge future generations to live up to our best– to live a life of service, honor, sacrifice, faith, and hard work for the betterment of the world around us.

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