Archives for the month of: June, 2013

ā€œNearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.ā€ Abraham Lincoln

I watched “American Experience” on PBS the other night, a profile of Henry Ford. He was the classic American story of a farm boy who went to the city and changed the world. He was for the American people, he was one of them, us. He was doing what was right for the masses and not just for the rich, an idealist if there ever was one. But, somewhere along the line, he changed into an example of how power changes men and egos become more important than anything. Power has been a problem for humans…forever!

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Ford became more and more convinced that he knew what was right for his workers, for all people. If they would just live the way he knew was right for them, then they would all be happy. He took credit for everything, even his son’s accomplishments, belittling him at the same time. If there was ever a direct cause for cancer, it would be Edsel Ford’s stomach cancer after a lifetime of his father telling him what he was doing wrong, mainly because it wasn’t the way Henry would do it. Ford was a great man in many ways, but his failings as a person are directly linked to his growing power until he became the wealthiest man in America. He criticized the wealthy while living in a 31,000 sq foot gated house on hundreds of acres and never saw the irony. He was an American icon, but he was a greater person when he had nothing.

I was thinking of some of the careers I’ve had in my life. There were two places I worked where I thought I would stay until I retired, both nonprofits, although I’ve worked in the corporate world, too. Both were magnificent organizations, both were nationally known for their work. I was part of a team, a team of friends. We didn’t just work together, we loved each other, took care of each other. We complemented each other, made our goals, made a difference. These were dream jobs, the kind that everybody wants.

Both jobs fell apart and it reminds me of both Lincoln’s quote and Henry Ford. Both were due to the leader of the organization, the paid leader. One was because of the leader’s ineptness. When things at the top didn’t go so well, he took no blame but began to scourge the organization, starting with the most threatening departments, the ones who were too close to each other and too good. It was an insidious process, one that probably broke all kinds of human resource laws as well as being a disgrace to human decency. This man in particular was given too much power with too little ability. He didn’t ask for help, he just flailed away, whittling away at employee morale until what had been heaven as a workplace had become a daily hell. When he left, he, of course, was sent to another city in a higher position, taking with him the power to decimate another city’s chapter. And, it’s taken years for the local organization to finally get back on an even keel, financially and by reputation in the community.

The second time I lived through this, the leader saw himself as the savior of the organization, the only one who could lead us to the future. We all need leaders with vision, but there is something to be said for a vision that includes people. He was all about numbers, hitting goals no matter how it was done. His praise when a goal was met rang false when you listened to him taking credit for every accomplishment. There was a feeling that you were working to build his resume so that he could move higher in his next position. And, as the staff met every goal, his ego grew. Now he alone knew what would work best, what the city needed. He was making decisions in a vacuum or with a select team of yes people around him, not consulting with most of the staff or the board of directors. The tension among the staff was a slow vibration that grew until it was a constant hum in the workplace. A virus was sickening the building, affecting the mental health of those who were smart enough to see what was happening and numbing those who couldn’t afford to get out.

I sound kind of brutal about these things. I’m not naive about business or the reality of even the dream places to work, the models like Google or Pixar or QuikTrip. There are always problems in the workplace, just like families or clubs or religious organizations or any group that is populated by human beings. I wish I had the answers, but none of us is perfect. We need to study the stories of those who were given power and didn’t abuse it, who actually valued people first and took their power to do what was right. Why are those names harder to conjure up without thinking about it?

Someone once told me I had strong character because of the things life has thrown at me. I say I’ve had all the character building experiences I want. Dealing with what life brings you is what we have to do to survive and be as happy as we can with what we have. I can give you a long list of friends I admire who have done that and continue to inspire others with their ability to adapt.

Power is something we all think we would like. We use words like powerless or empowered all the time. Politicians work so hard to get the power to accomplish whatever they went into politics to do and then have to compromise their ideals to keep the power. It’s a vicious circle for them. Good men and women become corrupted by power, sucked in by the rush of that strong urge. I’m not sure there is a way to tell who will fall victim to those seductive perks of power…we’ve all seen good people fall.

Now, I’m rambling on about it, so I’ll quit with nothing resolved. I just don’t like to see people hurt by other people. Ever.

A friend of mine always marvels at his cousins, saying they share 1/2 of his DNA. He’s right, of course. The connection is unique and interesting, especially when you start getting into your first cousin-once removed, second cousins, etc. The hilarious HBO show, Family Tree, is about a man searching for his relatives and finding all kinds of off the wall characters.

In my life, which is the only one I can speak of with any iota of experience, cousins have played many different roles. I had eight cousins on my father’s side and three on my mother’s side. I was the middle cousin and the oldest cousin. None of mine lived where I live, but I saw several of them a lot, spent time with them growing up. Looking back, one cousin and I seemed to always be off on an adventure, sharing secrets that we hope nobody found out about. Once we snuck into my parents’ bathroom & took stuff out of the medicine cabinet, combining things into what we called “mixtures.” We kept a notebook of the different combinations. This included everything from medicines to creams to whatever was in there. Yikes! I don’t think my parents found out…ever. Once we got on a bus and rode it to wherever it went. My aunt had to come get us when we got off and had to ask someone to use their phone. A much more innocent time, obviously! Her life went in some tragic directions…she kept on making crazy and hurtful choices. I keep in touch with several of my cousins, even with the different places our lives have taken us. They are special links to people and places in my history.

My own children had five cousins, four on my side, two on their fathers. Three of the cousins lived a block away growing up, went to school with them, played with them. They were close in age to two of my own so they have secret memories that I find out about when they are laughing about something they did way back then. My mother kept getting the award for the grandparent with the most grandchildren at the school (7), which made her laugh. She said it was an award for having prolific daughters!

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My grandchildren are a unique bunch. They were born in bunches, it seems, and all live in the same town, going to the same school, playing sports together. I’m speaking of the older seven, who range in age from 11-16. The youngest, at 3 1/2, is on her own but finds them all pretty exciting. She has her own special place in all their lives, the living reminder of her father, their uncle, who died very young. She bonds with each of them differently. I love her with her 13 year old cousin who looks like he is her older brother…

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If our family has been given a gift, it’s these cousins. All are close to their own siblings as well as the extended family. In fact, sometimes you can’t tell which one belongs with which family. For me, it’s watching the genetic pool at its most frenzied. Some of the children seem to have sprung from one of their aunts or uncle, some look more like a cousin than their own sibling. When you have them all together, you have to marvel at the connections and see how closely we are joined by the DNA. And you have to acknowledge the incredible individuality of each of them. There are different personalities, different approaches to life, and amazing affection for each other.

Here the oldest three…eight months between the oldest and youngest of them…two in the same class at school…

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Here are the next two, eight months apart, who play basketball together, are in the same class…

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And the younger two, boy and girl, three weeks apart in age, who we thought shared the same brain when younger…

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What will their futures bring? I’m sure they’ll go in different directions and be as individual as they are now. They’ll have spouses and children and do different things. The comforting thing is that they have had the unique and wonderful experience of having a larger pool of relatives to share their youth and their experiences. I’m sure they have more secrets than we can even imagine.

I hope that they take all of this with them, in their hearts…and that it makes them even better people than I think they will be. Great kids…all of them. Grandmothers do get to beam with pride, yes we do!

One of the big milestones in life is learning to drive and getting your driver’s license. Here’s my learner’s permit from way back when…

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I was one of the youngest in my class, so I had to wait and wait. I took Driver’s Ed in the summer before my junior year when everyone else was already getting their license. The only restriction was that you had to drive with a licensed driver, but it could be a friend. By the time I got my license in December of that year, I felt more than overdue. I passed the test with just one missed question for a 95 & a few points off for a wide right turn for a 93 (why do I remember that?). That was good, but it was the experience that taught me. My mother or father gave me one of their cars & I took off with a flash. Stupid kid – piled everyone in the car & drove everywhere we could. My parents were awfully patient…and it was just beginning.

I had three wrecks, fender benders, in the next few weeks. Two of them were in the school parking lot & not really my fault, but my father had to get his car fixed each time. Then someone hit me in an unmarked intersection, something that I would have avoided with a little more experience. My parents were more than nice about it. They said I couldn’t drive for awhile, not because they didn’t trust me, but because they couldn’t afford it. I’ve never forgotten their patience with their first driver.

Not many of us had cars in high school. Mostly some of the guys had old cars, but not that flashy. There were a few really cool cars that were the envy of everyone, but it wasn’t something you automatically got when you turned 16. Most of us had to go through the routine of asking to borrow the car and then coming up with a reason. I’m sure that I always did what I said I was going to do…I just added a few stops and other places and people while I was out. A trip to the grocery store involved picking up a friend, stopping for a coke, dropping her or him off, and getting home with the groceries. Over an hour for a 10 minute errand, at least.

I was almost embarrassed when my parents gave me a new car for my 20th birthday. It seemed like too much. That shiny silver 1966 Impala with white leather seats, two door, automatic on the floor, probably cost $2,000 new, a fortune to me. I quickly got over the guilt & had a lot of fun driving it while I was in college and early marriage.

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Since that time, I’ve driven thousands and thousands of miles. I must have driven a hundred carpools over the years, having four kids and all. The flashy Impala got impractical with the two doors and I moved to sedans, then a station wagon and then an SUV, a cute Blazer. I drove when there were no seat belts, and nothing but a radio. We had air conditioning, which we didn’t have when I was little, and my second or third baby had the first real safe car seats. Thank goodness the older ones survived! I’ve been hit from behind a few times, but no bad wrecks. I’m not afraid to drive long distances by myself and spent a lot of time driving kids to college and back.

I started using my seatbelt when my kids were learning to drive, wanting them to be safer than I was. I’ve gotten smarter and safer through the years, slowing from my earlier years of pedal to the metal teen, rushing mom driving every which way to pick up kids, to the grandmother I am today. Not an old lady driver, but wiser than before.

It was a shock the first time I put a grandchild in the car with me. First, there was the ordeal of the ultra-safe car seats we have today. Mostly, it was the jolt of responsibility I felt, the realization that I had been entrusted with my child’s and my most precious treasure. I don’t remember feeling that with my own babies, but I was a 21 year old mother. I really did drive like I had a car full of eggs that first time with a grand baby. After eight, I’m past that, but still always aware of who my passengers are…

The reason I wrote this today is that two of my grandsons recently got their licenses and one is starting driver’s ed. By the end of the year, I should have three driving grandchildren. Whoa! Last week, I took one of them to dinner and he picked me up in his new, new to him, car. He’d only really been driving on his own for about a week and we were just going about half a mile away. I’d driven with his cousin, watching him try to get his pace, slowing down or driving too fast. This one was nicely cautious and nervous about turning into small parking lots, finding a parking place. The inexperience was endearing.

But, I couldn’t help but put myself in his place and wonder if we hadn’t traded places. I wonder if they are as scared to drive their grandmother as I was to drive them as babies. I wonder if they feel responsible for my safety. I amused myself with these thoughts, smiling to myself. They are all great kids. I trust them ever so much, even remembering my own inexperience and the tendency of youth to feel invincible. They can’t drive with more than one person in the car unless it’s family, for six months, so they won’t be tearing around with a car full of friends like we did. For now, they are happy to just be driving Miss Mimi…Oh My!

It’s stupid to make generalizations about Daddys or Mommys because there are so many kinds. Since it’s Father’s Day, I’m thinking of the fathers I’ve known and lost…grandfather, father, father-in-law, husband, son…and celebrating the sons-in-law I have as fathers to my grandchildren. The best I can do is talk about the things that I’ve loved the most about all of these important guys in my life.

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I’ve seen them cry. Maybe not my grandfather, but all the rest of them have at least had a tear in their eye from laughter, pride, love, grief more than once. Real men DO cry for the right reasons.

They’re responsible. They do their very best to take care of their family financially. They teach their children right from wrong. They have great work ethics. They take the time to share themselves with the next generation.

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They pitch in when needed. They help around the house, help with the kids, help with dinner. My own father may have been the worst…he didn’t know we had a hammer, but he did mow the lawn. He only cooked outside. But he was there, trying. My husband, son, and sons-in-law are all over helping everyone. They diapered, fed, cooked, helped anyone in the family move anything.

They love their wives. Maybe the most important thing because it teaches their children so much.

They have great senses of humor. Maybe the second most important thing, really. They all had more than a sense of humor…they were genuinely funny. And silly. My father used to sit at the table and start stories like “when I discovered America…” I know he did it just to see us roll our eyes. But it made us laugh too. He was an elegant man, but he could be silly. My husband was just funny, silly, goofy. And we could always laugh together. Sometimes we were having an argument and then we’d look at each other, realize the absurdity of it all, and just burst out laughing. My husband and son used to sit with each other making up puns from the time my son was very small. We laugh a lot in our family. I think my daughters must have known they’d never be happy without that quality.

They play. There’s a lot of the little boy in them that comes out to join their kids.

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They’re not perfect. Thank goodness. I’ve known people who had to be right, had to meet expectations of perfection, and it was tough. I could go through flaws, but they are part of what makes them each unique. They’re perfect enough…

Thanks to all my guys, those gone and those still here. I can’t love any of you enough.

Going through old pictures is a weakness of mine. When I was growing up, my grandparents kept theirs in the top drawer of a dresser in the spare bedroom. Both of my grandmothers did this, so I would rummage through those pictures, studying my parents and grandparents at younger ages. My mother wasn’t such a picture person, but I took it upon myself to keep track of our photos. When my grandparents and parents died, I ended up with a lot of the pictures. I get immersed in them sometimes and go on scanning binges so I can share them with relatives and friends. It’s an obsession, an addiction. Probably not a bad one, but I have to pull myself out of it into real life.

A reunion brings it all back again. I don’t have too many pictures from high school & college. Enough, but not to compare with the thousands I have today in our digital age. After our 50th reunion, friends began rummaging through attics, scrapbooks, drawers and coming up with some I’d never seen. The pictures flood you with images that you had forgotten in the everyday rush of our lives. You stop for a minute and go back in time, in wonder at the person, the child, you were back then when you thought you knew so much and had the whole world out there to conquer.

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Well, we all know more now. We’ve been out in that world and we’re glad to have survived. Our stories are varied, our lives tangled with children, grandchildren, spouses and parents, all in various throes of needing us. We know that we still haven’t seen it all, because what is life but one surprise after another, but we’re still living it and learning from it.

But, oh my. That girl child I was…I hope there’s still a lot of her left in me.

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I went to dinner with one of my grandsons this week. He just got his driver’s license and he drove…another day, another blog. Great kid, about 6’3″ and growing, and loved hearing my stories about the reunion while he told me about his recent mission trip at church and his basketball and soccer and his new job. He’ll have his own photos of high school to look through on the computer probably, until the next new invention. He said he couldn’t wait for his reunion. Isn’t that interesting? I never even thought about a reunion back then.

We’re all out there making more memories all the time. And going back through the photos of our lives…

Reunions of any kind stay with you…at least they should. You’ve just been with people, whether it’s family or classmates or just a couple of friends, who played some part in your past. Memories have been triggered that may have been buried for years. You start remembering the faces of those who didn’t come and those who are gone forever. It’s a fast moving slide show of images in your mind…good, bad, blurred. Some come sharply into focus and you go back in time.

Time moves so fast and everyone is so busy that it’s a jolt to our system to go backwards, to see how we were then vs how we are now. Everyone has a journey, a story that has earned us those lines in our faces, those gray or lost hairs, those limps and afflictions. I say that anyone who reaches my age without some baggage hasn’t had much of a trip.

A reunion has been an upheaval of your ordinary routine. All of a sudden you want to hang on to the faces, the conversations, the warm afterglow of the event. You exchange email addresses, phone numbers, and promise to keep in touch. You exchange photos to keep as memories. And then you go back to whatever you were doing before. The reunion becomes such a sweet memory, one that will fade like all the others into the background of the everyday.

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The difference today after my 50th high school reunion is that we realize our time is shorter and we have more life behind us than ahead of us. Relationships are more precious as we lose more and more of our past ones each year. The good news is that we can hang on to them more easily these days. There are emails, website, SKYPE, Facebook, and phones that are with us at all times. We’ve never been able to stay so connected. We’re retiring and, hopefully, have some time to visit friends or travel together…at least for awhile. I’m connected to my 92 year old Latin teacher by email so there’s hope we can all be functioning that well when/if we reach that age.

The truth is that we are facing a future that really doesn’t look so fun. Our parts are wearing out, all of them. No matter how well we maintain them, there is a built-in obsolescence factor in us. That makes it even more critical to not put off the things we promise ourselves we are going to do. Our bucket list should include staying in contact with our past and our present friends and family as much as we can. No excuses with all the technology we have now and with what promises to come. Even as we lose our abilities, there are means being developed to help us adjust to our new state of life.

We shouldn’t have to be alone as we age. I’m sure we’ve all found that the people we connect to most deeply, the ones who are the greatest comfort, are usually the ones who are our age, who have shared the same years on this planet. We have friends and family who are older or younger, but their experience is not the same as those who lived the same life span as we did. Truthfully, connections are what keep us alive. Healthy people have healthy relationships they value and they connect with everything around them…nature, people, their inner spirit.

You see…reunions of any kind make me wax philosophical (what does that mean anyway?). I’m hoping for the connections to continue, for the party spirit to live on. It’s a damn shame to lose all the vitality of those connections when we don’t have to. No excuses…stay connected.

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In the aftermath of a fun 50th high school reunion weekend, there are lessons to be learned and shared for those who love reunions, those dread them, those who never go to them. The 50th is a unique milestone, one that always seemed, to me at least, an event way off in the distance. Now it’s behind us and I think we all were surprised and warmed by the reality of it. Here are my top 10 thoughts:

One. There is a little sharing of what’s going on with the kids, sharing pictures of the grandkids, but it’s not the main thing people talked about. In fact, it was the least thing talked about. Sorry kids. We are much more interesting people as ourselves than you think. Our peers know this.

Two. There were people who attended that I was afraid would feel alone in the crowd, didn’t know if their friends were attending because I didn’t know them that well in high school. I never saw anyone who stayed alone. Maybe it’s because we all look so different now, but classmates introduced themselves to everyone. They were genuinely interested in meeting them and hearing their stories.

Three. The conversations were on a deeper level. In bars and restaurants after the events, at breakfast, lunch, casual conversations, people were discussing the important things in life. Nothing was judgmental, just sharing stories and understanding what life throws at you. Everyone has a story, an interesting one.

Four. There was no division of groups, cliques. Sure, people sat with their closest friends when they could, but people rarely sat still. Everyone was looking for someone they wanted to see or meet. Everybody was interested in the stories of their classmates.

Five. Nobody cared how you looked then or now. Of course it was sometimes amusing or sad or surprising to see how different or how much the same some were, but everybody understands that it’s a combination of life style, genetics and pure luck that we are here at all. There were a lot of classmates with minor to major disabilities, but that was part of their story. We were celebrating that we’re still standing, we’re still here.

Six. You never know what life is going to bring. At the 50th, many were retiring and diving into new interests or careers. We had lots of authors, photographers, travelers in this new stage. People were moving after lifetimes in one place, leaving their homes and friends, to start new adventures closer to their children and grandchildren or just moving to new places. It’s an ever changing time of life being 67-68 years old.

Seven. People commented that they made new friends. Not because they didn’t like the other in high school, but because they didn’t know them then. They met and found common interests and a common past.

Eight. There are a lot of things buried in our memories that just need a trigger to recover. Our 92 year old Latin teacher came from 4 hours away to inspire us once again. She called all her former students to the front with her and then told us to sing. After 50 or more years, the words, most of them, to Gaudeamus Igitur came from our mouths like we sang them yesterday. Who knew that was in there? In fact, I looked it up today and am really touched by what the song says.

Gaudeamus igitur
Iuvenes dum sumus.
Post iucundam iuventutem
Post molestam senectutem
Nos habebit humus.

The translation is:
Let us rejoice, therefore,
While we are young.
After a pleasant youth
After a troubling old age
The earth will have us.

What a wise teacher and what a gift to us to sing something we learned in our youth that means so much more today.

Also, when the band played the songs of our youth, we knew all the words and our bodies moved the same to the music. Talk about muscle memory! We can still party like it’s 1963. Maybe not as long, but the spirit of our teen years lives on.

Nine. Hugs are universally healing. A weekend of hugs and kisses from those who shared your youth does wonders for your health and attitude. There were lots and lots of hugs.

Ten. A classmate wrote afterwards that he realized how much we all need “love, belonging and connection.” That was what it was all about in the end.

The nicest thing is that we are so connected in this place in time when there is no excuse to lose the glow of the weekend. Our class has a website, a Facebook page, and addresses. There were more people adding contacts to their phones, sharing pictures, writing down information than ever before. Those connections mean even more now because we understand that our time is precious and we want to enrich it with the best people we have encountered in our lives.

If you never attend a reunion, I’m sorry. They only get better with time…

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Here we are…the day my/my class’s 50th reunion begins.

I’ve been an event planner for many years, first as a volunteer, then as a professional. I actually started in high school or before when I think back on it. The thing I know is that I need to come to terms with the fact that I am never ever, never ever ever, going to get to attend anything without dragging a bunch of stuff with me. Resign myself to the fact that I’ll always be bringing check lists, rain plan, registrations sheets, cash, maps, t-shirts, easels, posters, name tags, banners, food, serving items, tablecloths, memorabilia, pencils, pens, tape, first aid kit, whatever is needed. I don’t have to bring all that today…other people get to schlep things too.

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Also, resign myself that I am never going to look like a million dollars because I am setting up until the event starts. That’s the nature of the deal. Last year, in my final hurrah as a professional, I was standing in my office in my underwear, wildly spraying perfume on myself, kicking off jeans to pull on something more presentable, while peeking through the blinds as the elegantly clad, relaxed guests arrived right below me. I had already greeted the first guests, who came early for pictures, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, much to my amusement…and theirs. At least we netted over $2 million on that one.

Today is a little different. Planning events is half the fun, but this one is special, it’s for people I love and have missed. Today’s not so crazy…yet. I’m waiting at home for a shipment of favors. Another shipment got messed up and won’t arrive until the reunion is over so we’ll be mailing those. Events are never over at the end of the event. Never. I remember standing in the aftermath of my youngest daughter’s wedding, the first of our children to marry. My husband and I just looked at each other. We had to pack the car with gifts, table decor, things guests had left behind, extra food. We learned that lesson for the next three weddings…make someone stay behind with you! Nothing like throwing off your tuxedo jacket or your heels and digging in for some after party labor. There is always follow up of all kinds, even if it’s just talking to people in the afterglow of a success.

At least my haircut was good this week. My nails are broken. I’m not worrying about what to wear because I haven’t seen most of these people in years so they have no idea if what I have on is new or old. And they don’t, or shouldn’t, care. We just need to be comfortable in ourselves so we can enjoy. Lord, we’re 68 years old, on average. I’m one of the younger ones at 67…thought I’d throw that in for a laugh. And the weather looks great…you can never plan on that happening for sure in Oklahoma. We’d have fun anyway, but….bonus!

The 50th reunion is such a draw that one friend is coming after having 4 hours of brain surgery on Wednesday! Another is taking the immobilizer off her post-surgery knee to hobble in. In fact, several are post-surgical on various parts of their bodies, come to think about it. So we’re jogging, walking, strolling, riding, limping in, all to re-live times oh so long ago. Some of us will look better than others, but even the ones who look good sometimes have been through a lot that doesn’t show. We’ve earned all the wrinkles, gray hairs, lost hairs, scars and laugh lines. Time to have fun and remember…

As Elton John sang:

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time…

Here we go, Class of 1963…still standing and together for this fun weekend! Whew!

It’s all about the reunion this week. I wrote about the fun and history of my reunions, but I feel obligated to add a short piece dedicated to another group – the spouses. I was lucky that my husband and I graduated the same year in the same city from different high schools with mutual friends at each school. We went to two reunions and had fun at each. Some of my classmates are married to other classmates or their spouses are from here, maybe a few years older or younger, but knowing the places and the faces.

Imagine what it’s like to have to go to a reunion with your spouse or a date when you know nobody and aren’t likely to see them for another ten years? At first, it’s fun to see and meet the people you’ve heard about and sometimes you make friends with other spouses, but, mostly, you must feel like a tag-a-long. Unless you’re the trophy wife or husband or date brought to impress your classmates. Wonder what that’s like?

Many people will never attend a reunion of their own, much less their spouse’s. My father never went to his reunions and my mother only went to one – her 40th! She said it was one of the best things she ever did. She had no idea how much she had been loved and missed and kept up with some of those friends the rest of her life.
Some people hated high school.

Some people had terrible home lives in high school. In my day, we talked about nothing. Everything was kept private between the adults, so we didn’t know if our friends were beaten, their parents were cheating or were alcoholics or had financial problems. We might have suspected, but it just wasn’t talked about. Very few got divorced. We know now that all those things were happening. We shake our heads and wish we had known so we could have helped our friends. Nobody knows what really goes on in most homes, good or bad. Just thoughts running through my head…

The spouses. I had a friend who had been a couple with her husband since 6th grade, childhood sweethearts. She helped him through dental school, they raised two children, all was good. Their 30th reunion came along and he started emailing the girl who had been his girlfriend in 5th grade. Really. She told him she had been married a couple of times, but always wanted him. Both couples divorced and they married. They’re getting divorced now, about 15 years later, and he has a younger girlfriend…big surprise. Some spouses come to the reunion just to protect their marriage, afraid of such a scenario in their own lives. Who knows? People will do crazy things. It’s hard to fight the draw of common memories, long lost loves. I’m trying to remember anyone in our class “hooking up,” as they say today. Maybe. I think we would have heard rumors over the years, but none comes to mind. In a large class, it’s hard to believe.

There’s the other group who come without spouses because they have lost theirs. As one of this group, I can truthfully say that it’s a tough thing to go back alone. There are some who attend hoping to meet someone, but most are taking a brave, lonely step into this weekend. I know several in this group…I’m watching out for them. It’s hard if you loved to dance and lost your partner. It’s hard if you were the quiet one. The weekend is a reminder of sweeter times. Reunions might be too much or they might be very healing. Everything is personal in life.

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Reunions are a weekend of going back in time and relating it to our present. Maybe the reality of the reunion doesn’t match what you thought it would be. Maybe you told your spouse one thing about your high school years and he or she thinks it seems a lot different than you described. Some people come to one reunion, some to all. Some say they don’t need a reunion…they keep in contact with the people they want to already. Some are disappointed, most are surprised at how much fun they have.

I’ve noticed that more classmates are coming to our 50th reunion alone. Their spouses have done their part, don’t want to sit through another weekend of watching their husband or wife reminiscing about things they weren’t a part of, would like the time alone. It’s not a bad thing. It’s an honest choice. It will be fun for them to listen to the stories after the fact…maybe, hopefully.

I salute all the spouses who didn’t grow up with their husband or wife or partner, but are sharing them with the class. We love it when they come and hope they have a fabulous time, but we understand when they don’t. Life is too short to spend time doing something you don’t want to do. Life is too short to deny your spouse the chance to do something he or she would love. If you come, enjoy watching your loved one going back in time. If you don’t come, we’ll send them back to you worn out, with a smile, lots of hugs and memories. You have a great weekend on your own. Enjoy your personal time. Cheers!

I graduated from high school 50 years ago. 50 YEARS AGO!!! That’s hard to say, hard to imagine. Really? Where did all that time go? How did it pass so quickly? I was in a great class, a class of about 650 that produced 26 National Merit semi-finalists, had excellent teachers and a whole lot of fun. This week is our reunion, which makes me think about all of our reunions…I’ve been on every committee.

The 10th reunion was in 1973. The committee had to have calling sessions to find everyone, using our high school directory to call parents’ homes, phone directories, information. We sent out newsletters, printed with a fun logo drawn by one of our artist classmates, using the name of the student paper when we were in school. We worked hard to find everyone we could. The excuses for not coming that year were mostly due to lack of funds or having babies, we were in our childbearing years. Actaully, I had just had my third child a few months before – there were many of us with new babies on the committee. We ended up with about 200 attending, including spouses. We had lost some classmates and found out that some of the people we knew really hated high school and never wanted to remember anything. Many came home to see family while they were at the reunion.

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Friday night was the night where you broke the ice, greeted everyone, met their spouses, and caught up on what was going on in their lives. We rocked out to records at the studio where we first took dance lessons. We still knew all the moves.

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We had an Assembly at the school on Saturday. Some of our former teachers attended and we pretty much did a traditional assembly, as I feebly recall.

Saturday night, we dressed to impress and went to the fanciest country club in town. Hairstyles ranged from shags to intricate, high updos. The men had longer hair than when we graduated and mustaches were in. The clothes were loud, the times were fast. We gave awards for who had been married the longest, which went to a classmate who married while we were still in school, most children, most unusual profession (jockey), who traveled the farthest to get there, and best preserved male and female bodies (last time we ever gave that award). We were pretty groovy, dancing to a popular local band, dressed in the latest styles.

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We published a directory after the reunion with all the updated addresses and phone numbers we had found so people could stay in touch.

By our twentieth reunion, we were kind of in a groove. We went through the same steps to find everyone, using printed labels for our mailings. The committee worked long hours, finding we had lost more classmates and couldn’t find others who had moved in the past decade. We were still using our old class directory and the phone to locate everyone. We’d lost more people along the way. The excuses for not coming were jobs, money, small children. We still got about 200 to show up.

The schedule for the 20th was about the same. We were noticing that the girls were becoming women and the guys looked like they were starting to lose their looks, or so we whispered. There were a few new spouses, divorce already beginning to take its toll. The list of deceased was growing. We had an elaborate slide show at our assembly, set to the song “Memories.” Teachers still came to the events and we realized they weren’t as old as they had seemed in high school. We were getting older, heading for middle age. There were those who timidly showed up on Friday, wondering how they’d be received, wondering if they’d know anyone, and left on Saturday feeling part of the group. We started to care less about what had happened in high school, the cliques were beginning to loosen.

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We had a directory and a t-shirt to remember. This time the directory was copies of forms people had sent in with bios and pictures. We were a little more sophisticated these days. Our design was created by one of our classmates who was always an artist, now a professional one.

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By 1993, we were ready for our 30th reunion. We had lost the heart of the reunions, our inspiring leader, and others stepped up to fill his place. The committee meetings were still the most fun, catching up with each other, helping to make the calls to locate classmates. We could still find some through the old class directory, some through calling their friends. We’d lost more in the decade, our list was growing smaller. The excuses for not coming as we approached our 40s were money, children now graduating from school or in school activities, jobs. There were still about 200 there, not even the same 200. We went through the casual evening, the class assembly, the dressy dinner dance. Now people showed up on Friday hoping they’d recognize our rapidly changing faces. We had picture nametags that year. You could see how we looked in high school and look up to see how we looked right then. The women still seemed to be getting better. The men were balding, going gray, more mature, still cute!

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It was fun to see if those class prophecies had come true in any way. Our beauty queens were still beautiful, our jocks were still looking pretty fit, the smartest ones were still smart. But, not everything stays the same, thank goodness. Some of those who had lived too hard were beginning to show it. The guy who got the award at our 10th reunion for cutting the most days of classes our senior year was now president of a bank. One of the smart ones who went to Rice and got an engineering degree had married, divorced, quit big business and gone to Colorado. He was Mayor of Winter Park & loving the mountain life. Never would have dreamed it, but he was happier than ever. And we’d lost more of our favorite classmates along the way. Two of our classmates met for the first time at the reunion and married a year later.

We did another t-shirt and directory, much like the last one. We were beginning to celebrate each other as much as the memories. We were an interesting bunch.

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By the time the 40th reunion rolled around, we were different, the world was much different in 2003 than in 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993. We’d been through Viet Nam, The Beatles, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the changing of the century, and 9/11. We’d battled divorce, moves, heart attacks, cancer, raising children and becoming grandparents. Some of us were caring for our parents. In fact, the excuses for not coming this time were the most varied yet. There were those with young children because they’d started late or were on a second or more marriage. There were college graduations, jobs, kids, illnesses and parents. We had classmates with AIDS. We were in the Sandwich era of our lives, between our children and our parents. Would there ever be a time that was just about us? We still managed to get about 200 to attend.

Technology was changing faster than we could have imagined and we had the internet. We purchased a website and got it up and running. This would be our last time to do the hours of phone calling. Once we got the information on the site, classmates could keep updating it as we went along, adding bios and pictures, doing the work for us. We didn’t have to do a directory and we didn’t do t-shirts. We were moving with the times.

We hadn’t cut away from the tradition of the casual night, the assembly and the dressy night yet. People still came Friday night, worrying if they would recognize or remember anyone. The pictures were on the name tags again. The Assembly was replaced by a tour of the old school, walks down the halls where some of our classmates could still find their pictures celebrating their athletic achievements. People toured the city to see the changes. We had golf for those who wanted it.

On Saturday night, we were still rocking to the band. The songs were the same, oldies now. Classic oldies…just like us. We made new friends with old classmates we hadn’t known then. Two more classmates married after the reunion. We were valuing these people who had shared our youth with us, who they had been and who they had become.

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This time, we produced a DVD that incorporated all the slides and photos from the past with current interviews. We were changing with the times and shaking our heads at the things that had gone by the wayside.

We had so much fun at the 40th and realized how many people we were losing at a faster rate that we decided to have a mini-reunion – a 45th. We did one casual night, thinking it would be mostly for classmates who lived close by. The band was guys our age, playing our music. Amazingly, 75-80 came from all over the country. It was easy and fun. We were still rocking, still here and breathing! Some could still jump, we looked older and wiser.

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The 50th! Good grief! We have lost so many people over the years, close to 100 that we know about, probably more. The 50th is here. We used the website, mail and email to contact people. We’ve added a Facebook page. This reunion is about celebrating us, celebrating that we are still here. We’ll have 175-200 for this one, some who have never been before. We’ll have larger type on the name tags, but no pictures. Everyone wonders if they’ll recognize anyone or remember anyone. We have two teachers who can come…one is 92 and will speak to our group. The other is not that much older than we are – we were her first pupils out of school.

The excuses this time are children and grandchildren, surgeries, illnesses, money, busy retirement schedules, work schedules and even Japanese Parliament not getting out in time. A former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia is coming in from Dubai. The President of our Student Council and our class Vice-President both have Alzheimer’s. One classmate just had back surgery, several with knee and hip surgeries. Some are hobbling to the reunion however they can. Our will is strong, our bodies starting to need replacement parts. We are distinguished, fun-loving, casual, full of life and representing everything that happens to us in a lifetime.

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This time there is nothing to impress anyone. We’re going to be in the heart of all the happening things in Tulsa right now, right in the middle of the Arts District. We’ll meet early at a bar with a patio and then everyone can do the Art Walk, watch fireworks from the baseball stadium, get a fancy meal, enjoy their special group of friends, or tuck in early. Anyway you want it. Saturday night we meet at historic Cain’s Ballroom for barbecue, wearing comfortable shoes and casual clothes. We have t-shirts again and the band is back from the 45th, classmates of ours, to bring back the oldies. Everyone is excited to see whoever comes. We laugh that we’ll have a whole new group of friends by the end of the weekend. Our Facebook page has 70 members now and is lighting up with excitement and memories. We’ll be there with our cell phones and iPads, today’s brag books of pictures of our beloved children and grandchildren. We’ll share experiences, travel stories, memories. We’ll have our cameras! Our aging Eagles are flying in to celebrate!

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I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, Rock On Class of 1963!

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