Friday, August 16, 2013

Dinner With Friends

This past weekend was my high school class reunion – Thirty Years. 
That one hurt. 

I felt the first shock of this a few years ago.  I was hanging out with some athletic friends so I casually let it drop that I used to be able to swim 100 yards in 1:01 (as in one minute and one second).  At this point, I might swim 100 yards in 1:30, if there was a shark on my tail.  Of course, rather than revel in past glories (which was my POINT), my friends had to "focus on the now" and ask why I couldn’t swim that fast TODAY.  So, I had to answer that my 1:01 time was “30 years ago, when I was 15.”   Unfortunately, that phrase, “thirty years ago, when I was fifteen….thirty years ago, when I was fifteen,” played over and over again in my head during the entire morning and for the next several days until I was ready to shriek.  Since then, I’m afraid I’ve gotten even older. 

The whole Thirty Year thing must have been painful for everyone else too, since out of a class of a few hundred students, only 80 people showed up and a handful of them were spouses.   My own husband missed my reunion, by the way.   He had a triathlon on Saturday in Richmond and another on Sunday in Baltimore.  After we found out about the reunion date, he hemmed and hawed for a full week before I put him out of his misery and told him to go do the races.  This way, I got to torment him about neglectfully missing my reunion (which I really enjoy), with the added bonus that I knew I’d have a better time without him.  He wouldn’t have known a single soul and I would have been torn between talking to him vs. talking to my old friends.  It was better this way.  Shortly after I let it drop that he was not coming, the spouses of two of my closest friends backed out as well.  Things were coming along nicely.

The second obstacle to my stag night out was the problem of extracting myself from my children.  The reunion was in my hometown, so I planned to leave them with Granny and Grandpa for the evening.  This should have been easy.  They LOVE their grandparents.  But, the night of the reunion, my kids suddenly got cold feet.  I don’t know if it was the unfamiliar town, the unfamiliar house or the phase of the moon, but they sure didn’t let me go easily.  I had to promise to keep my cell phone ON, call as soon as I got to the banquet hall and call again as I was driving home.  You would think I was leaving for an arctic expedition rather than a three hour dinner, but I did manage to extract myself and drive, alone, to a Saturday evening out with my girlfriends for the first time in….well, in a long time. 

This was so much fun!  No wonder people go to dinner together!  I sat with my closest friends from high school and it was wonderful to re-connect.  The only damper on the evening was that everyone looked so….old.  Most of the men I didn't remember anyway, but I remember my girl friends and the sad truth is that we are all thirty years older and there's  just no getting away from those subtle signs of aging.  If you don’t believe me, ask the people in Hollywood.  They will back me up on this one.  If you’ve seen any recent pictures of Meg Ryan, you’ll know what I am talking about—and bear in mind:  SHE HAD THE SURGERY.  It’s just a little shocking to see a roomful of women that you knew once as bubbly eighteen year olds re-appear thirty years later as bubbly forty-eight year olds.  We may still be beautiful and fun to be around, but we are not still eighteen. 

I saw a documentary once called, “Forever Fourteen” about two girls who were abducted as teenagers by the same man.  One was murdered and the other lived.  The survivor wrote and produced the documentary.  The point of the title was that the girl who was killed will be “forever fourteen.” No one can enjoy life with her or have memories of her beyond that age.  It’s one of those haunting documentaries that I keep thinking back to when I ponder the progress of life. 

I realized as I drove back to my parents that, even without a death, memories of my friends from high school were along the lines of “forever eighteen,” because that is when I saw everyone last.  Now, thanks to the reunion, and that fact that life rudely goes on,  new images, more along the lines of “forever forty-eight” will be replacing the old ones.  That is, until 2023, when I’ll be facing “forever fifty-eight” and the final years of all this alliteration.  It only gets better. 

As I was pondering this, my cell phone rang.  It was my daughter, Reilly, sobbing into the phone and wondering why I wasn’t home yet and WHY I didn’t answer when they called TWICE before.  Sadly, I had left my cell phone ON, but on vibrate and in my purse…. Oops.  Reilly was too distraught to talk so my dad got on the phone and amid substantial background wailing, he explained.  They had called a few minutes into the dinner because Harper needed a diaper change and no one could find the diaper stash.  Sadly, I didn’t answer the phone.  They had called a second time because Ruslan had knocked over a cabinet in the kitchen, causing a terrific crash and sending Harper and Laura into a tizzy.  Grandpa tried to help calm everyone down by dishing out ice cream, only to be reminded later (and apparently none too gently) that Harper and Laura are lactose intolerant.  The second call was because they couldn’t find the lactase tablets that I keep on hand, just in case.  Sadly, again, I didn’t answer.  Then Reilly got back on the phone to tell me, between her sobs, that Laura was crying in her bed and Harper was crying so much that she threw up and she just wouldn’t stop and ask me again WHY I had to go out to dinner!?!  Then Paul, my 14 year old son, got on the phone and quietly said, “Mom, you left me like a lame zebra in a pack of hyenas.”

At this point, I was pretty much in the driveway and I could hear the crying even without the phone.  I hung up and headed toward the door.  All the kids circled around me as I walked in, trying to touch me like I was some sort of a god and if they could only make physical contact, all would be well.  This is no small matter when you are talking about eight kids. 
My dad, who was sitting in his chair, hiding behind a newspaper, looked up as we all swarmed into the living room and said, “WELL, I Hope You’re Happy.”

This is now my new favorite thing to say when everything falls to pieces.    

The next morning, my husband sent me a text.  He finished eigth place in Richmond and third in Baltimore.   After the Baltimore race, he went to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the grave site of our friend, Bruce.  Every time he has a race near there, he stops by and puts his metal from the race on Bruce’s grave stone.  

My next thought was that, "Bruce is forever forty-one."  ...I won’t be complaining about class reunions anymore.  The grey hairs are much less painful than the gravestone. 

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