Monday, October 26, 2009

"I've been aware of the time going by,
They say in the end, it's the blink of an eye."

(If you recognize the title- congratulations!

For those who remember, one of my 20+ high school reunions has been coming up, and it was this past weekend. [If you don't remember, I commented on it last month here and here.]

The following is a personal letter I wrote to a friend after my 20th reunion a few years back (he didn't attend). I re-read it last night, and decided my feelings haven't changed since then. So I'm putting it up for your perusal. I should note that in the 20 years prior to the reunion I'd had only incidental contact with anyone from my high school class, except for the one I wrote the letter to.

It was interesting. I didn't go to any of the previous ones, and almost didn't go to this one. But I'm glad I did.

20 years is a long time. It erases a lot of animosity. At some point you find that the majority grew up and became (reasonably) mature, decent human beings. I found there was no competition like there might be at 5 or 10 years. At this point most everyone is set in their lives and has answered the elusive questions of "who am I and what do I want to be?"

Even people who I hated once and never wanted to see again I was glad to see, oddly enough. Instead of being enemies they're now simply people I share a common background with, and it's interesting to talk to them and see where life took them. You don't really have time to sit and talk to anyone for more than a few minutes, because everyone is constantly running to the next vaguely familiar face (or name tag) to say "Hi". Most conversations are long enough to cover your spouse, your job, your kids, and where you've lived in the past 20 years, and then it's on to the next person. In a strange sort of way I imagine an afterlife would be the same way.

I was amazed at how many people came from all over the country just for this, also at how many are on their 2nd and 3rd marriages already. Some have kids who are taking the SAT's themselves. A lot of people (including me) had twins.

Cindy, that girl we were both chasing back then, looked about the same, very thin, same face, just a few more lines. Her short brown hair is now long and dyed raven black. She never married, never had kids, and is still looking for Mr. Right. In fact, she asked me if I knew anyone. I think the whole thing is interesting. As you pointed out in our phone call, she came across as unattainable to everyone back in high school. And now she's the rare one who's still alone.

What's interesting is that on talking to them now, I found that almost all the girls I had crushes on back then are so unbelievably incompatible with me that any relationship with them would have been short-lived, if it had actually happened at all. It's amazing what hormones did then, and what the retrospectoscope shows now.

Ron wasn't there, though he lives locally. Some people had gotten his phone number, but he never returned their calls (said his voice on the machine was still the same, though). No one has had any contact with him for over 10 years, and the ones who had the most recent contact said he'd become very bitter and unhappy, which is why they'd stopped keeping in contact with him. Diane commented that she felt like "he'd become someone who needed rescuing, but nobody else could help him".

Phil and Lisa married and had kids. Phil was an obnoxious jackass in HS. Now I found him to be a polite, decent person who was actually interesting to talk to. He has some sort of administrative job. He's very quiet and down to Earth. Time, raising kids, and having a mortgage and bills has a way of doing that to people. Lisa is now thin as a rail. Phil must weigh 300 lbs.

Pete works locally for an insurance company. He is the same personality as he was then, but pleasant and mature. Not married, no kids. Looks about the same but now has long hair down his back. Mrs. Grumpy, who'd never heard of him before, saw him come in and said "Who is that guy? He looks like the missing link." I think that sums it up.

In high school Pete had this POS 1972 Toyota jeep, that looked like it was about to fall apart. He still has it, was parked next to my car. Oddly, after 20 years, his once-POS 1972 Toyota Jeep is now likely worth more than my 2000 Maxima. Time is a great equalizer.

One of the girls, Laurie, I went back to 6th grade with. Others I went as far back as 4th grade with. The night after the reunion, Laurie was on the local news in a feature story on what it's like to be fighting breast cancer and be raising young children. She hadn't mentioned any of it to anyone there all night.

Sunday afternoon was the final reunion event, a family picnic at Local Park. It was a lot of fun. You realize from watching everyone that the only accomplishments and achievements that really matter to everyone are their kids.

The low-point of the reunion was when I introduced Mrs. Grumpy to Cathy, an old friend from the school paper. Mrs. Grumpy asked her when she was expecting. She wasn't. I told Cathy that Mrs. Grumpy had had too much to drink (actually she doesn't drink at all, but Cathy didn't know that).

We all got a 2-CD set of top hits from our high school days. Scary to think the songs are 20 years old. In front of the ballroom was a table, where several current Local High band students were selling raffle tickets for a fundraiser. Later in the evening I was returning to the ballroom after using the restroom, and the students at the table were looking over the songs on the CD they gave us. They were making comments such as "who is Duran Duran?" and "Boy, I think my dad listens to these guys.".

Perhaps more frightening was when the MC pointed out that when we were in HS "Born in the USA" by Springsteen was released as the FIRST CD SOLD IN THE US.

They had a slideshow going on in one corner the whole night, with various old and new pictures. The most interesting slides:

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Barbarian then and now as governor.

Michael Jackson on the cover of Thriller, and on his mug shot (remember- this letter was written several years ago).

Madonna then, and still Madonna, now.

In an ironic note, an item on the "Onion" recently was "What did we think we'd be doing with our lives by now:

"1. Dancing professionally
2. World famous truck driver
3. Overseeing vast empire of some sort
4. Making at least assistant manager
5. Presenting own line of designer handbags
6. Owning a car with gull-wing doors
7. Not this telemarketing shit, that's for sure."

It's just amazing how time flies. As cliched as the phrase is, it's really true. When I was 7 and first learned about Halley's comet, the wait for it's next visit seemed like forever. Now, in the blink of an eye, it's been here and gone. My 3 kids are all temporally closer to high school graduation than I am now. Life happens, so enjoy it.

If there was one thing I learned, it was that I wouldn't change anything. You find yourself thinking about all the alternate paths your life might have taken. What if I had asked this girl out, or gone on that trip, or taken that class. I came to realized that if I could go back and do it all over again, I wouldn't change anything. I'm very happy with where life has taken me, and for all the ups and downs of growing up and growing old I wouldn't trade any of it for anything.


Ed said...

Aww, yes. Memories.

Tea said...

I agree. I wouldn't change a thing either. And, I can't wait to see what happens in the next 20.

It's funny, I was just speaking with a few friends and we are all in our early 40's. One of my friends just turned 40 and we were discussing how age is not that big of a deal anymore. How we look forward to each part of our life. Whether it's 40's..being established in your life & enjoying what you have...50's becoming empty nesters and maybe being able to focus on ourselves a bit more... 60's retiring, becoming a grandparent, traveling and maybe picking up a different focus/goal. I haven't thought of anything for 70's yet. That might be my breaking point. haha

Great post.

amy said...

Your post is what the word "poignant" was made for. You've made me want to go to my next reunion. I skipped my 20th and now I'm sorry I did.

Gert said...

Poor Mrs. Grumpy!.....I've done that too. You can bet I'll never do it again!

Our 10 year reunion was so much like being back in high school that we skipped our 20th....sounds like it might not have been so bad (my husband and I are high school sweethearts). We do keep in touch with a few folks from those days....very nice letter...nicely illustrates the maturing process.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post this morning. I didn't go to my 10 year reunion but went back to my 20 year this past summer. (I left a "larger" community in a rural area...I didn't know everyone in my class but went k-12 with some). It was much like you described. I had a wonderful time. On my bad days, I wonder what went wrong that I have never married. Most days I just think, I've got a good life. I like my job (in health care if you can believe that), and have great friends and I don't regret decisions that I made 10 and 15 years ago. I joke, but still true, that they were character building decisions.

Thanks again for the poignant post this morning.

Was that Jackson Browne, "The Pretender?"

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Anon above is the WINNER! Correct answer!

Anonymous said...

"In a strange sort of way I imagine an afterlife would be the same way". This is what I think and HOPE all of our after lives will be like. All positives.
Nice post, I've been out 34 years and have never attended one of my reunions. I will rethink the next thanks to Dr (Not So) Grumpy

Me said...

It's nice to know you weren't a Grumpy high school student!

I haven't been to any of my reunions. It's now been 31 years. I can't believe it! I could've done high school 7¾ times again in the that amount of time!

Anonymous said...

I recently attended my 30th reunion and I must say it was the best one yet. People were catching up and excited to see people not seen for a long time. Our class even had a website where everyone could upload pics,info, etc. so others could pre-catch up. Some classmates and I attended kindergarten together. Had to wear classes to see faces clearly-but I wasn't only visually challenged 47 yo attending.

Ron said...

The paths people take... Like you, I'm thankful for the one my life followed. Still, I wonder about those who are not happy with theirs. I had a graduating class of 15--it was a Christian school, so the classes were small. Half I don't even know where they are other than an occasional wisp of information here and there. Given the religious nature of place people--teachers, staff, parents, peers--tended to be judgmental and it lead to many hurt feelings. The majority of this group is in a sort of witness protection program.

The rest I have as friends on my Facebook account, but it's less of keeping in contact and more like collecting baseball cards. You know the stats and facts for them, but they get shuffled to the bottom of the deck for the most part.

Great post. Caught the feel perfectly.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather have my fingernails pulled out one by one rather than go to a high school reunion. This year would be my 35th. I didn't like these people 35 years ago, I don't like them any better now. And they carefully arrange each reunion so that only married couples come so that there is no jealous (they charge a single person the same amount for food, drinks, etc. as they charge a couple.) I have enough problems without having to deal with those moron again.

Ladyk73 said...

I grew up in small town type of place. Someone from my HS class in running for mayor, and is favored to win. I was telling my Dad about it (I live in the next town over...not my vote) and he couldn't believe that his baby girl was that "old."

My 20th is soon.

But yesterday I attended a funeral. It was a reunion of people from my lief of tens years ago. It is so strange how people change, or don't chnage...

Anonymous said...

I went to my 25th HS reunion this weekend. It was horrible. The snobs were still snobs. You would have thought I'd sprouted two heads when I told them I still lived in the SameCity and didn't move to BiggerCity. Ended up in the bar watching football which was far more interesting. Glad you enjoyed yours.

ToBlog today said...

I have not gone to any reunions. I'm finding facebook a lot like going to mini reunions, as I connect with many former classmates.

The difference being, I find myself relating to them as I remembered them almost 20 years ago. I know they have matured, married, and went on to have various careers but I see them as that 15 year old kid. Maybe if I met them in person it would crystallize that indeed life did happen.

For me, the most interesting observation I've made is that no matter how many years have passed the familiarity we shared continues to exist like no other adult relationships. It is like our childhood bonds are special somehow.

Interesting, huh?

Anonymous said...

I went to my 20th a few years ago (reluctantly) and had a really good time. I did have an interesting conversation with the husband of one of my classmates, who graduated one year ahead of his wife. He said his 20th reunion had been just awful: snobby, snooty, bragging, competitive, snarky people, no different than they'd been in high school. He was having a much better time at our reunion. I guess I'm just lucky to have nice classmates... at least the ones who showed for the reunion.

The Good Cook said...

Your last paragraph where you say you wouldn't change a thing? THAT is a statement of a life well lived.

J-Quell'n said...

My 10th will be next year, and I'm torn about going. See, I should have graduated in 2001, but I had enough credits to graduate a year early, which I obviously did. I hated high school...too much petty bs, and so graduating early was the logical solution...I could get out and move on to college and freedom. But it presents a problem as I was never close with my so called "graduating class" so if I went, would anyone really care or remember me since I was supposed to graduate the following year? Or, do I go to what would have been my 10 year (2011) and feel out of place because I have no idea what happened their senior year and because they were all nonsupportive jerks when I told them I was getting out early? What do you think, doc?

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Jacqueline- do what I did and wait for the 20 years.

Heather said...

I'm glad they don't send out reunion invites to the ones who dropped out. I don't think it would be that fun to see my tormentors again, but then again if they got what they gave then that would be worth it. LOL

Who is Duran Duran? Hilarious!! Yeah, I don't like to think how old things are like music or fashions..makes me feel super old!

Butler Bits said...

I like your comment on how most of them felt their kids were their greatest accomplishment. I just started a blog and my first blog was a similar theme titled "Wise man, Foolish Man." Take a peek if you have time.

Kimbra Kasch said...

Oh...I definitely would have changed things. I've learned soooo much along the way much but there's no doubt I'm happy where I landed.

I love reunions. I always loved the poem:

Make new friends, but keep the old those are silver, these are gold
new made friends, like new made wine
age will mellow and refine
Friendships that have stood the test
Time and change are surely best
For brow may wrinkle hair turn gray but friendship never owns decay.

So, make new friends but keep the old

Barbara Preuninger said...

I did the "when are you expecting"? mistake - to a co-worker on my second day of the job. (She eventually forgave me).

That was over 6 years ago, and I have not yet lived it down.

The Happy Hospitalist said...

It's nice to see that bullies change too. Even dead ones.

Hey, You said...

Could someone who asks women when their babies are due when you don't know for a fact that the woman is pregnant please explain to me why on earth you would do that?? I am just astonished that you can't look ahead to the potential answer "I'm not pregnant" and anticipate how bad you are going to feel when that happens. Sheesh.

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