The Belmont High class of ’86 lost its first classmate this week, one of our best. Curt Novinski was visiting friends over Labor Day weekend when he began to feel ill. A visit to the hospital led to emergency brain surgery for a brain bleed, and he never recovered from surgery. As is the case with death at our age, it was unexpected, sudden, and leaves all of us stunned and saddened.
I was talking to a friend about the tragedy and he asked “Were you close?” I had to stop and think.
And the truth is that no, since high school we haven’t been close. We went our separate ways after graduation, I left Belmont and Curt stayed in the area. Over the years visits home become fewer, and chance meetings with old friends did too. The small-town grapevine still functions, and I’d hear occasional bits of news about all my old classmates. But I’d not seen Curt in person since our class reunion two years ago.
In school though, we were a class of only 27. That brings a certain amount of closeness, whether you want it to or not. Looking back to those years I guess we behaved more like siblings in a large family than classmates. We had petty squabbles and plenty of fights, but we knew each other well and we cared for each other. For a dozen years of school, we all orbited in the tiny universe that is Belmont. It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been gone from school now for twice that, into the larger world. It’s hard to believe, until I try to retrieve some of those high school memories and find them faded and fuzzy.
But, like siblings, the memories of petty squabbles and fights have gone, and what remains are rose-colored memories of the good times. The School Fair is coming up in just a few days, bringing to mind hours spent after school working on floats. I’ve not thought about the senior trip to St. Louis in years, but what a way to wind up high school. And of course, we spent hours in class together, though the memories of that too are faded and fuzzy (sorry teachers!).
Our class was so fortunately untouched by loss during our high school years. But we’re at the age now where loss will become a bigger and bigger part of our lives. It’s going to be a tough adjustment. Though Curt wasn’t a part of my life today, he was a part of my history. I feel the loss. He was a truly, genuinely nice guy, and in every memory I can retrieve he’s smiling. The world, and my life, are better for him having been a part of it. We’ll miss you Curt.