Last weekend, we had a reunion of the Class of 1973. I almost missed it, because I wasn’t invited.
OK, I was invited, but I must have thrown the letter away by mistake. I only found out by accident, when a classmate asked me if I was going to the reunion.
I said, “What reunion?”
I figured out pretty quickly what had happened, but the truth seemed boring, so I started telling people that I hadn’t been invited. Since there were only 28 people in our class and I’ve lived in our hometown since 1975, the problem wasn’t that I was too hard to track down. I was having a pretty good time pretending to be offended, but then I came home to a voicemail message from the guy who’d done all the work of organizing the event. He was profusely apologetic. That took all the fun out of pretending to be mad, so I decided to attend.
It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon when we joined my classmates. About one third of the class showed up, so there was just enough room on the deck. Conversational groups of two and three built and shifted throughout the day as people caught up. I see several of my classmates on a regular basis – folks who, like me, never left home, or left and returned years ago. A few more have parents or other ties to the hometown, so our paths cross every few years. There was one guy who I hadn’t laid eyes on in 40 years, since the day we graduated.
It was fun. You know, wine and good whiskey need to be aged, the best violins are hundreds of years old, and the mighty oak isn’t hugely impressive until it’s been around a long time. It takes some time to round off rough edges, mellow harsh tones, and set the roots that sustain you. Everyone I talked to that day had some wounds, some scars that were easy to see. Deaths, illnesses, marriages that hadn’t worked out or children who hadn’t quite found their way. Something had happened to every person who was there, a few of them had gone through a lot, and we talked about quite a bit of it.
And it made us better. It made all of us more interesting, more interested, more human, more humane. None of us really has anything left to prove. We’ve had a variety of successes, as society defines success. If any one person was extremely wealthy, I didn’t know it and if someone had become famous, it wasn’t noticeable. There was no bragging, except about grandchildren, and no posturing, except to explain a bad back. A short rain shower sent us inside for a while, but we were soon back outdoors as the hosts fired up a grill.
It was a fun, pleasant afternoon. We had to leave early – a grandchild’s birthday party - and everyone understood why that might be a priority. I was a little sorry to leave. For such a small class, we’ve already lost several classmates to death or disappointment, and we’re at the age where it’s no longer such a surprise to hear of someone’s passing. There’s a reasonable chance that I never will see some of those people again. What a pity.