Short of losing thirty pounds and having whole body plastic surgery, I was ready for my 50th High School Reunion. My Tucson friends said, “They are on the same aging journey as you. You’ll have a great time. People will be glad to see you. ”
Yes, people were genuinely glad to see me as I was to see them, but little do they know the gifts they gave me beyond the ego satisfying greetings. My former classmates brought their LIVES with them–disappointments, losses, gains, loves, travels, plans. There was an intimacy from those discussions that was devoid of the need to please, impress or judge. My thirty pounds became moot. I reveled in the opportunities to listen and to be heard.
It was from the listening that I learned so much. I overhead one conversation in which a classmate was apologizing for some long ago hurt, and the apology was graciously accepted, the healing evident in the words that followed. My admiration for both parties increased a hundredfold, and I wondered who needed to hear me say “I’m sorry” to help heal an old wound.
I saw the class “jocks” rally around a former teammate now in a wheelchair. No slaps on the back or brief “good to see you” greetings. The guys sat and stayed with him, talked with him, and listened to his somewhat garbled speech. Their effort to make time for a buddy who couldn’t reciprocate reminded me of how handicaps in other people can evoke a reminder of our fallibilities and an urge to run away. Those guys didn’t. They didn’t leave him behind.
There was genuine joy in everyone to be able to BE there. Every reunion has an increasing list of those who have passed on, and we all say from time to time “every day is a gift.” But at the reunion there was a whole ballroom of people saying with big smiles and hearty hugs, “Isn’t great we’ve made it here for another gathering?” The sentiment was contagious and joyful, not a doomsday forecast.
I also enjoyed watching how differently men greeted each other as opposed to how the women responded to each other. Women: armed outstretched, in high pitched voices , “It’s sooooo good to see you.” Men: smile, punch on the shoulder, “Still driving that shit bag of a car?” and other affectionate insults. My lesson: it’s true-men are from Mars.
To my classmates of ’65: Thank you for being there. Thank you for sharing YOU. And thank you for contributing to my life’s journey.