Column: Remembering Doug Darling and an empty dining room chair

Column: Remembering Doug Darling and an empty dining room chair
U.S. Marine Corps picture by Lance Cpl. Robert G. Gavaldon

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by Bob Waite

Not long ago, I was asked to act as a sort of master of ceremonies for a joint 50th reunion at a boarding faculty — Hebron Academy in Maine — I had after attended.

The reunion concerned the courses of ’70, ’71, and ’72 due to the pandemic, which experienced brought on multiple postponements.

We were collected in the Community Baptist Church — a uncomplicated, white framework that, even though not technically element of the college, in my working day had served as a repeated collecting position, including a obligatory weekly Vespers provider Sunday evenings before evening meal.

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My function this day integrated providing some phrases of welcome to the assembled alumni. I did so from the church’s pulpit, a spot I experienced by no means occupied earlier. Indeed, I was one particular of all those students who tended to hover in the vicinity of the again of the church, placing some distance between myself and the head of school, a formidable character with a Douglas McArthur demeanor. 

Toward the stop of my opening remarks, I was to get in touch with for a moment of silence for departed class users, whose names — and there ended up a startling amount of them — ended up outlined in the program.

A couple of minutes ahead of all of this, although preparing, I was hoping to come up with a proper changeover. Which led to me telling a individual tale.

At this faculty, in those people times, we ate meals family members-design and style, with a faculty member at the head, a partner, possibly, to the left, and 5 or six college students filling out the desk. Just one university student would serve as a sort of busboy. Yet another would work in the kitchen.

We would rotate table populations — and chores — weekly.

It was the drop of 1967, a Sunday — breakfast time. We experienced just remixed the tables. I found upcoming to me a fellow I didn’t definitely know, as it was his very first 12 months. He informed me his title was Doug Darling. We chatted about this and that. Alongside the way, I found out that his moms and dads were being coming to campus to take him away for the day to Reid Point out Park on the Maine shore.

This was a huge deal. We have been an all-boys university positioned in the woods. Obtaining off campus was a continual craving. My mother and father have been in Massachusetts. On this working day, I was not heading any place. Put succinctly, I was envious of Doug Darling.

I have no recollection of what I did to fill the time the relaxation of that day. Possibly I caught up on some reading, such as the New York Moments, which I had delivered each individual Sunday (my just one splurge). Potentially I took a stroll all-around campus or iced some bruises from the prior day’s soccer game.

What I do remember vividly was learning — at Vespers, in the church — that Douglas Darling was no lengthier with us.

The head of university, Claude Allen, told us that Douglas experienced been swept off 1 of the park’s rocky outcroppings by a rogue wave and had drowned.

I was surprised. We were all stunned. For me, the actuality that he experienced been sitting beside me a couple of several hours earlier, as alive and lively as any other 17-12 months-outdated, experienced a profound effects. 

We subsequently filed to the eating corridor and ate our meal in around-silence, help save for the clatter of cutlery upon china. The vacant chair at our desk delivered mute testimony to what had transpired.

Later that night, immediately after lights out, when we have been all supposed to be in our dorm rooms, three of us, employing a key we experienced beforehand purloined, built our way up into the bell tower of the major college building. We looked out across the campus … and deep in just ourselves.

“Everything,” we experienced been informed many times by some our elders, “happens for a explanation.” Check out as we may well, we could not make that stating healthy this circumstance. 

That was the vignette I explained to right before inquiring for a minute of silence. Even though they mirrored on their departed classmates, I imagined of poor Doug Darling, gone endlessly among breakfast and dinner.

Bob can be attained at [email protected] You can study extra of his columns listed here.