Missing Persons

My high school reunion is this Saturday.

Thirty years. 30.

Three. Oh.

It’s impossible to type that number and not be awestruck by how quickly time’s passed. Despite the reminder of how long ago we graduated (!!!) I’m looking forward to hugging dear friends I’ve seen recently…


…and hugging people I’ve seen only on Facebook since 2006.

Our reunion is local and would be easy for me to attend.

There’s just one problem: I might not go.

I have a reason—one that makes sense to me and my family—which is all that really matters. But I hope if I miss the reunion, everyone else will understand.

This fall we’re sending Jack to college in another state. Oregon, to be exact. And Karly’s planning to head to the same state the following fall. The tuition and housing costs are staggering. The price of plane trips to and from (for them, for us) is daunting, too.

So besides flying Gardners between California and Oregon, we have no other trips planned this year. Or next year. Or the next. Etcetera. This isn’t a complaint. We’re beyond grateful to have the opportunity to send two kids to college. But we still haven’t figured out exactly how we’re going to pay for it. We do know we shouldn’t spend money on anything frivolous.

This is one of the reasons we took no vacations this summer and why Bill and I haven’t planned our 20-year anniversary.


With Bill’s unpredictable work schedule and Jack’s job and three dogs and a tight budget, we do hope to swing a last-minute (inexpensive?) overnight or two. One as a foursome. One as a couple. Because 19 years of family is something to celebrate. So is 20 years of marriage.

I know for many people, even a single night away is a luxury; and if we can get away in the final weeks of summer, I’ll count myself fortunate.

But we have to wait until Bill has a weekend free from work to go somewhere (probably wine tasting). And if Jack gets the same weekend off and our neighbor can watch the dogs, our whole family will go somewhere we love. Maybe Santa Barbara (where there’s also wine tasting).

If the stars align this Saturday, I’ll be elsewhere with these goofballs.


Lucky me. 

Such perpetual spontaneity puzzles many people but it works for us. Bill is a sales consultant for spine implants and other instruments used in spinal surgery. He’s spent 15 years in the operating room with his doctors. He knows what they need, can anticipate problems.

When people ask why Bill can’t get someone to cover his territory, all I can say is this: He does. But it’s rare.

Usually we’re driving distance from the hospital.

Traumas happen 365 days a year, 24-hours a day. These surgeries are often complicated and Bill knows his doctors better than anyone else. If someone you loved were having surgery (ON THEIR SPINE) wouldn’t you want the very best person for the job in the room?

Of course you would.


Bill has missed some holidays and birthdays but we make these sacrifices because most of the time, he’s the very best person for the job. He worries sometimes he’ll be remembered by Jack and Karly as the dad who chose work over them. Over us. But we know better.

When he is here, Bill’s ALL IN, the kindest, most loving, involved father. Husband. Human.

He wants everyone else to be there for their loved ones too.

And sometimes on Saturday mornings there are no cases scheduled. No traumas come in, nothing Bill believes he must stick around for. On those occasions we take advantage of the freedom. I think we appreciate these times (perhaps even more) because they’re never guaranteed.

Then again, nothing in life is. Guaranteed, I mean.

Family comes pretty close though.

To me they’re everything.

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A note from the author (me!): Yes, Tuck from Letters for Scarlet is in surgical sales and Corie is a teacher, but I chose those careers because I could relay them with decent authenticity. My book is fiction and we’re nothing like the characters.

If you haven’t read LFS and want to see the storylines and characters I created, you can buy it here for your kindle or in paperback.

You can also buy Guest List, the prequel to LFShere. It’s about a high school reunion. But again, remember it’s fictional!

Finally, you can sign up for my newsletter here and get a free sample of my memoir Running with Pencils. You’ll be the first to hear about giveaways, book sales, and news on my writing/signings/events.

And that, my friends, is a guarantee.

21 thoughts on “Missing Persons

  1. Oh, Julie. This is so beautiful. I know what you mean – not complaining, grateful for what we have, etc. etc. With a loving family, we are already winners.

    • Julie Gardner

      Thanks, KTP. I love that someone I’ve known for a relatively short time *gets* me on such a profound level.
      Your friendship is a treasure.

  2. Diane

    All you need is everything and that you have. Happy anniversary! ❤

    • Julie Gardner

      This is true because I have YOU!
      (What would I do without you?!?)

  3. Ally

    Thank you for reminding me what an honor and blessing it is to have a loving family– there is something special about the way the family bonds when on vacation- even if only for a weekend! I feel your every word. If you aren’t there Sat. night we will miss you, but I will smile knowing you are having the greater time.

    • Julie Gardner

      This comment means the world to me and I’m BEYOND grateful to still be in touch with so many wonderful friends from those days (and before!).
      I’m so SO happy we could ALL be together in March. Time rolls on but the love does too!

  4. Laurel

    Who needs reunions when you’ve got Oregon? Great post, lady!

    • Julie Gardner

      Ducks FOREVER!

      (Love you, Laurel.)


  5. I totally get it. We’ve always done quick get-aways for a day or two most of the time and they are precious. I went to my 30th reunion 4 years ago and had a great time, so I will lobby for that if you can make it happen. (What a gift it would be for folks to get to hang out with you!) Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy it completely. xo

    • Julie Gardner

      Thanks for the advice. I liked my ten-year reunion (it might have been too soon to truly appreciate it and also I was a newlywed distracted by my NEW future). I loved my twenty-year reunion, where most people were established and had stories to tell. I’m so glad to hear your 30-year was great. It must be SO interesting to reconnect with people at this stage in life!

  6. As always another beautiful, beautiful post. Love this so much. And love you. (And wine tasting, but I’m not invited, am I?)

    • Julie Gardner

      I always have time for wine tasting with you.
      Love you back, friend. And I’m grateful for you.

  7. Nadine

    Oh Julie, I will be very sad if I don’t get to see you But I understand where you are coming from. I spent way to much money on two nights at a hotel in Westlake instead of staying for free with friends. Basically because I will get to spend some quality time alone with my daughter. (Who can also help with the 6 plus hour drive.) This is probably the last time since she is leaving for college in 3 plus weeks. Oh, and she is going to a very expensive private university, which makes the expense of this weekend trip even harder to swallow. But I am hoping it is time and memories that will last forever. And of makes you feel any better, Darryl and I did not even celebrate our 20th anniversary. No gifts, no trips. Life, and the kids needs got in the way. But I don’t need a celebration to know how happy and blessed I am. Love you dearly.

    • Julie Gardner

      I’d miss you too, Nay. It’s still up in the air but I’m glad to know you understand where I’m coming from.
      Jack left for orientation in Oregon today and it’s the oddest feeling knowing he’s in another state without me.

      I wonder if I’ll ever get used to it…
      LOVE LOVE LOVE you my wonderful friend.


  8. Hi Julie, it’s been awhile! What a lovely tribute to your hubby in this post. Life is so fast forward isn’t it? I just attended my 25th college reunion. I was a tiny bit hoping something would come up so I couldn’t, because well, I don’t know. But the stars were in perfect alignment and there were no excuses. And I’m so glad I went and reconnected. But when family calls, I’ll always hop on the train going their way. My lovely niece will be a Duck this Fall! She is beautiful and funny and so smart, but somewhat reserved, didn’t find her niche in high school, and I pray that college is a time for her to bloom. Good luck momma with the send off, all the best to your son for a wonderful debut into his college years.

  9. Kim

    Beautiful, Julie. As always XO

  10. Bill’s career is neat and I really respect him for caring so much. We need to be careful with money but haven’t fully realized it yet. We need to sit down and discuss our goals together and decide where to put our money (and where not to). It’s hard because we have mandatory overseas vacations and can’t decide not to vacation without it meaning kids don’t see their grandparents. I love my life and where I live. But there’s something to be said for staying where you grew up.

  11. I really loved this perspective and a little insight into Bill! BTW, for what it’s worth, I had a bad time at my 20th. The music was SO loud and we all had to shout and the whole I was thinking we could have actually had better conversations on Facebook. Yep.

  12. Courtney

    I love you – and your priorities – and that you married Bill ❤️. You are just a world of good good choices as you’ve aged . You know I would miss you terribly but totally understand! Carpe diem!

  13. I <3 your family.

    I'm absolutely positive you'd be missed, terribly, if you don't make the reunion — but I would certainly understand. I went to my 20 year, some time ago . . . . many didn't come. And I was left thinking "it would have been nice to catch up with Cindy or Laura or George in three dimensions" but that was the end of it. Everybody has things going on – everybody has something to sacrifice to make any trip happen. And family must always come first.

  14. Spontaneity is the exact opposite of what my family needs when we get away together. We often have to jackhammer it into the calendar weeks (months) ahead of time. Over time this may change, but when you find a time when everyone is in the same place at the same time (whether you realize it 15 minutes or 15 weeks before departure), when the stars align and the angels sing, you can’t help but say LET’S GO!

    Sorry you missed your reunion. I miss mine every time. Family, you know – it’s everything. 🙂

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