High school reunions are a unique experience.
When you attend your 10th year high school reunion celebration, the dynamic is driven by the energy, hope and dreams of a room full of 28-year-olds who feel bulletproof. Attendance is typically good. Graduates are curious about their classmates and they want people to know about their own lives. There is the sharing of photos of their children and talk of their accomplishments, stories about family vacations, new homes, careers and the inevitable questions about absent classmates.
By the 45th year reunion, the dynamic is dramatically different – a smaller group of older, hopefully wiser, adults, and many approaching the beginning of retirement. Pictures of grandchildren replace those of their kids. Instead of building homes, the conversation is about downsizing. Their once strong hopes for the future are replaced by talk of success and disappointment, aches and pains, weight gain, the death of a spouse or an uncertain future. There is a joy in seeing long time friends and the sobering memorial to a surprising number of classmates who have died over the past five years.
There is not as much dancing as at the 10th or 25th year gatherings and people tend to leave earlier.
My 45th reunion last weekend pretty much followed that formula. While it was wonderful to see so many of my former classmates and girl friends – one or two of whom actually remembered me – the most sobering part of the event was seeing the photos of the 37 people who had died in recent years. Their photos were arranged on a grand piano draped with black velvet in the foyer of the country club. Votive candles flickered by each photo.
As I watched people enter the ballroom nearly everyone stopped to look and pay their respects. These photos of our classmates, including several that I grew up with, played together as children, and attended church with, served as a very real reminder of our own mortality and how we, too, would be joining that list one day.
An old friend who was never one to shy away from speaking his mind remarked, “My goal for the next five years is to stay off the piano.”
I am with you my friend. I am with you.
© 2019 John Gregory Self