Did I fail?

Being a High School senior in Pleasant Hill Oregon for me was a memorable year.  A very good year.yearbook photo Of the 4-I guess I was the only one posing!

Yes, I had Eugene Oregon photographers take my senior pictures professionally (which unfortunately, today many High School seniors are missing out on).

My "official" senior portrait by Kennel-Ellis photography (they went out of business in 2002) , bruce berg eugene springfield photographer(I had no interest in being a photographer at the time.  I was too much into sports, girls, drama and music.)

Although I was an introvert as a freshman, I grew up and became more confident like many teenagers.

Besides sports and drama, one of my favorite things to do at high school was singing, which involved one of my favorite teachers of all time, Jim Steinberger (who later taught at Churchill and South Eugene).

Mr. Steinberger led not only the concert choir, but also 17 of us in the vocal jazz group, The Ascensions (some of us were in the very first Ascension group two years prior).  I was a bass and one of the tenors was (also a senior) Lynn Armstrong.high school teenager eugene oregon

I really didn't get to know Lynn all that well.  He was assured, but quiet and after high school I lost contact with him.

I can't honestly remember if he came to any of our reunions or if I had ever seen him since graduation.  We were a class of 112 kids and I probably knew 1/2 fairly well-being a homesteader (someone who had gone all 12 years in the Pleasant Hill school district), but Lynn was kinda on the periphery for me.  I knew him.  I didn't know him.

About 2 weeks before Christmas I was leaving the Springfield (Lane County) Fred Meyer with my high school senior daughter  and lo and behold, who calls out my name?  Lynn Armstrong.

I almost didn't recognize him.

His hair was shorter and darker-still wavy-and he was much thinner with a voice graveled with a smokers curse.  He wanted to talk.  He told me his wife of 18 years recently left him (she was from his second or third marriage).  He had no kids. His parents had passed. He had gotten cancer many years prior but had beaten it. He had no job, having been let go due to technology advancements.  He told me how his invention had been co-opted by another and while that left him frustrated and hurt and feeling abused, he wasn't bitter. He was looking for work with little prospects. He seemed sad.

I thought of how but for the Grace of God goes I.  How a different and another school mate two years younger whom I recently encountered, was now a grizzled old man begging on the streets for pop cans-heavy set with beard and gray hair, quite a change from his handsome yearbook photograph as a 15 year old. eugene oregon photographer

Lynn and I conversed for maybe 10 minutes, but feeling the need to get home with my daughter, I cut the conversation short.  I thought I failed Lynn because I sensed he wasn't done wanting to connect.  We said our goodbyes and I went outside in the dark never to see him again.


It wasn't posted until January 6th in the Register Guard:

Lynn Armstrong died December 24th.

About a week after I saw him.

I don't know what happened, how he died.  I don't know if I could have made a difference. There was no memorial service, no funeral. no contacts, no explanation, no photograph.

There is a sense in me that I failed him.

He wasn't done talking.....Eugene Oregon high school senior portrait