My brother Jim came with me to one of the reunion events. I told him about Tom's death on the drive to the party.
Except I got his name wrong.
Because I'm bad at names.
"Did you hear that Dan Forrester died?"
"No way!" Jim said. He and Dan (Tom's younger brother) had been on the high school swim team together; both were divers.
"How'd he die?" he asked.
"He had AIDS."
"Are you kidding me? Was he gay?"
"Yes," I said, pulling out all my stereotypes (Frank and Richard don't hit me). "Don't you remember how good he was at art? He was so gifted."
Jim was stunned. "I never knew he was gay. But, you know Greg Louganis, that Olympic diver is gay, right?"
"So maybe you're gay?"
He rolled his eyes.
About an hour later I was checking people into the reunion. I did not recognize ANY of my former classmates. I handed yet another complete stranger a name tag. He wrote down his name and I gasped.
What do you say to someone you thought was dead? Then Dan told me that his brother Tom had graduated with me.
AH-HA!! I put two and two together, being the brilliant nerdling that I am.
I began to babble, "Hi DAN! Oh... Tom and I were good friends, Dan! Tom was so good at art!"
And without thinking of the repercussions I told him my brother Jim was at the bar.
I had to find Jim fast. Before Dan did. Because Jim was drinking, and he seriously enjoys torturing his sisters..especially after a few beers.
I spotted Dan heading towards Jim. I raced up behind him, flapping my arms, trying to get Jim's attention. I looked as if ready to take off in flight, and was frantically shaking my head no.
Jim looked at Dan, then at me, took a big swig of his beer and said, "Dan? Didn't expect to see you here!"
My sign language became more desperate. I was never good at charades. How do you act out: I had the wrong Forrester. This one's alive. Don't tell him I told you he was dead, and that he had died of AIDS...
Then Dan turned and looked at me. I did a Lucille Ball "I'm just scratching my head" pose, and said "Oh, DAN!...I see you found Jim."
I KNEW Jim could not be trusted to keep "our little secret". But what could I do? I backed away, "I better get back to the front table, Dan"
I handed out more name tags, drank some wine and tried to forget about my little faux pas.
And by the second glass of wine I started to get a little defensive about the teeny little blunder. It was completely understandable. In fact anybody could have made the same mistake!
Dan and Tom looked alike. They both had 1 syllable names. And 'Dan' and 'dead' both begin with the letter D!
It's no wonder I messed up.
By 10:00 or so I had completely forgotten about my blooper and was walking around the bar when Jim and Dan came up to me. Jim said, "Hey Lou! I'm talking to a dead guy!"
I had to think fast.
"Have we met?"