POSTED: November 1, 2021
Yes, I made it to my reunion and back. It was all part of my trip involving my short stop in Ireland and then several days in Canada. I filed the police report in Cork. I made it to Canada and my teeth are cleaned and inspected. I am to be getting a new mouth guard in the mail. I got to check in with my doctor, and my neurologist. The optometrist I usually also have an appointment with, like all other optometrists in Ontario, is on strike. Yeah, in the middle of a pandemic. Now there is entitlement!
But the real feature of the little time away was to reunite with my high school graduating class. For those who don’t follow this website of mine regularly you may want to go back a couple posts to August 1st, FORTY-EIGHT.
Now the idea of getting together with a lot of people you have not seen in about half a century is a strange notion to start with. The people you always cared about from those days you probably kept up with anyway and the others – well the only real thing you have in common is that you went to school together. I was musing about this on my flight over but came to realize by my flight back, that while you may not share common interests or beliefs given that you all lived in the same neighbourhood, have experienced the same sequence of world events and are the same age we really did all have a lot more in common than not.
That fact became clear when hearing the one-minute summaries. Each person was given one minute to talk about what they had been up to in the last forty-eight years as a way to get some info out there so everyone would not be repeating the telling of their history over the rest of the evening. It is interesting what someone choses to talk about when it is a summary of their life since high school and they only have one minute. I expect that if it had occurred ten or twenty years after high school there would have been a lot more focus on the business card – a life defined by the persons occupation, and their credentials. If it had occurred at that ten- or twenty-year mark as well I bet that there would have been more of a competitive vibe –“ I am an astronaut, and you are not”.
But forty-eight years after high school graduation– man that’s a lot of business cards under the bridge. So, at this reunion the topic of partners, children, grandchildren, community work etc. all made more significant appearances. Of course, the big superficial novelty is the skinny high school guys who now look like Humpty Dumpty, or the people who had long hair who now have none at all.
It was during Covid times of course so we all got checked for our double vax at the door, but then let our guards down and there was a lot of hugging. I got to thank a woman who, in class all those years ago, had an uncanny way of looking at me when I was just on the brink of being out of control. June still has the same eyes and did not realize that there were many a times I stepped back from some stupid antic because of her look. An amalgam of pending disappointment, with a bit of sternness that I was about to take away some quality time for her in biology class with my inappropriate behaviour.
There were some who were inspiring with the leading-edge stuff they have done in medicine for example. Most just told the stories of how they put one foot in front of the other, went to university or college for something they had an interest in, then worked at whatever that thing was, married someone, had some kids and then retired. But for me I loved hearing about the offbeat paths taken. Tom and his career in music and managing crafts shows, how Tanya’s nursing career supported her lifestyle around the world etc. But I was really taken by a woman who left after grade twelve. She did not graduate with us from grade 13. At the time you could take a four-year diploma after grade 12 if you wanted to go to college or work instead of going to university. She started as a secretary right after grade 12 but enrolled part time in college for office management and business admin courses. The years passed and she moved to being a legal secretary, and kept taking courses, eventually finishing an undergraduate degree and finally, law school. Today she has her own law practice.
As most of us have had to work to survive the occupations we took up to a certain extent did partially define us. Certainly, some occupations compensate better than others, offering more options for how you live your life, but one thing that really struck me when looking back over this long period and over these many lives is not that the particular occupations define us but our approach to those livelihoods. Some people live for the end of their shift, whether its at an auto plant or a surgical room, while others enjoy their Monday morning as much as their Friday night. I saw many examples of the continuation of those traits from high school right through to retirement at that reunion.
But what I also saw was how some people can change. It may be just their own evolution or because of the relationship with a life partner or a business partner, but some do transform themselves. I don’t mean just the outward side of changing occupations or activity set, but the personal evolution aspect.
Its also interesting when pushed to talk about your 48 years in one minute, what can be said and not said in just a few words. “My partner beat cancer three times”. It takes about three seconds to say that phrase and it reflects decades of anguish and pain and leaves the question open as to whether there was a fourth time. Similarly, “I have a troubled child”, just points to a very dark doorway.
The one-minute exercise makes us look at what we are, and what we value. A great partner? A good parent? A dependable friend? Or just the guy with more donut franchises than anyone else?
Some of us came a distance for this reunion, while others walked to the venue. I think in that regard we all have a different set of memories of the geography of the time. I had not been back to that neighborhood in a long while, and could hardly recognize the block the restaurant was in. It was only a short distance from where I delivered pizza (check out the posting on Sept 19, 2020 CLEANING OFF THE GUCK) but that building is now a condominium.
I found it interesting that some who did not have that far to come did not attend. I don’t know if it was the experience of high school or what we build up in our heads about those years afterward that kept some away. I hope they make it to the next one.
Name tags are a must after forty-eight years. Some people I recognized instantly but many others would have been a struggle with out the identifiers. Some didn’t recognize or remember me so the apologies I had prepared were not needed. LOL.
I loved the reunion and as I sat on the plane reflecting on it, the looking back over those years actually has me looking forward. Is what I am doing now what I want to do? What should I do with the next twenty years of my life?
Its easy when you get over a certain age to think that your big adventures are behind you but as I was reflecting on these things this week in writing this post, I had a note from a buddy who is contemplating a trip next spring. It’s a sailing trip down to Panama, and to go through the canal. After that its all sailing north to Washington State. Time to mix it up after a lot of years in Key West.
As an experienced sailor he knows what risks lie ahead with over forty feet of fiberglass and an adventurous perspective. A few years back when the Stones played in Havana he sailed down from Key West for the concert and back. One way was a nice day on the ocean. The other was sixteen hours of hard sailing with Mother Nature reminding him of just who is in charge.
Now he is of an age that some would say he “is old enough to know better” but I think he is just about the right age to appreciate and savour the experience. I will live vicariously through his notes to me on his trip, but it does have me thinking….