The last 50 years of my life's history brought new perspective as I attended my 50th high school reunion. Former classmates, sporting gray hair and wrinkles, joked as we tried to remember each other. The most memorable for me were the characters I went to elementary school with. Those were tender years.
We mixed with one another sharing funny things that some of us could barely remember. Things became clearer the more we talked. There were important things like basketball games, foreign languages, Driver's Ed, and band, just to name a few. Every part of who we are today is grounded on our experiences with family and school. We didn't talk about the teasing, the arguing, the jealous comparisons, the gossip. That was naturally there, maybe more in our youth, as over 500 of us, who were the same age, were thrown together into neighborhoods, classrooms, and activities. The fifty years years since then is an even greater amount of time to build us.
As we have gone our separate ways, we have gained. We have lost. We have watched loved ones move on and little ones grow up. We have had life chapters with various endeavors and challenges. After many experiences and much endurance, we have shown up together to touch base. There is humility, understanding, and knowing. Some things we don't need to talk about. We just enjoy one another's company, knowing that we not only shared our young years, but also are sharing in the battlefield of life as we continue to mature.
My grief lies in all the ones we still remember and who aren't with us. A fifth of us have died. A large number could not come because of time conflicts like weddings, grandkids, graduations, deaths in the family. Others are struggling with physical difficulties. Some are too far away. I miss my friends of color. The 60s brought racial tension, but I for one, remember well, sitting in our classes full of diversity and having comeraderie with everyone. I will never know what went on totally in the minds of those who perhaps felt "less than". There were differences in privilege. It was the society of the sixties and we got stuck in the middle of it.
During our reunion, I talked to so many people. I came up with a "nutshell" statement about what the last 50 years of my life has been. There was no way to share everything.
So, what's been happening in my life the last 50 years?
"My life has been full of children, art, music, gardening, and learning to relate to people".
From there, I heard many more stories - good ones. We also compared interests. Our conversations flowed freely from there. The topic of grandchildren seemed to be an ongoing joy that bubbled throughout the gathering.
Relationships are important to me. That was one reason I wanted to relate to my past for a little while. From the time I was wrapped in a blanket in my mother's lap up, through childhood and through graduation and 50 more years up to the present. To me, it is the most important thing.