This I Believe

Gene - Mesa, Arizona
Entered on September 23, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I cannot believe: I am going to my high school 40th year reunion. Straight-backed, head high, smile affixed, husband in tow, I will greet again that gang of kids who ganged with me all those young years ago to soccer games, English class, newspaper meetings, and dances.

Swore I wouldn’t go. Had my “graciously declined” response written. And then the invitation arrived. Weeks of wrenching can’t-do-it scenarios in my head have ended: I accepted my reunion invitation yesterday. Here’s why I am throwing back my shoulders, paying air fare clear across country, ignoring the gnawing fear of being “most-changed.”

I believe that every once in a while life calls on us to bear witness. Most often we muster witness to defend our children, confront our bosses, go, unasked, out of our way to help. Only very occasionally are we bid to rise to the hard-to-face occasion. Some of us have overcome sickness, financial distress, the loss of friends and family. All of us still manage the wider-world fear of the past 5 years. But, after 40 years of ebbing youthful exuberance, here we still are. Heavier, maybe disillusioned, maybe unaccomplished in the ways we once planned. But, here we, happy and smart, in spite of life’s travails, are. I want to offer a high-five to all of my long-lived classmates.

Our class President has organized the response list of our 200 or so classmates into categories: attending, not attending, hopeful, can’t seem to find, won’t answer calls, and deceased. More than a dozen of us have died. I’m wondering whether at least a few of our “can’t seem to find” and “won’t answer calls” have passed. At our 50th reunion, for sure, some “regrets” will be sent by our spouses or children and will place us in that “deceased” paragraph. This forty years after 1966 could be my last opportunity to witness some of my classmates’ roundly and soundly “changed” faces and figures. This reunion will be the last for some of us. I am not going to miss the opportunity for this high-five.

In the end, I believe in 40-year reunions. It appears that, even acknowledging the seriousness of our modern fearful, watchful and workaday world, I do believe in the occasional small pleasure: checking the cute boy, visiting the laughing girl, congratulating our struggler who triumphed, hugging my long-ago confidant. Not far from world horrors, up close to our failings, time off for just an evening. I’ll have to wear sensible shoes. But, I do believe I can still dance a passable Twist. To my 1966 classmates: Carry on!