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Boomer Bytes #33: Reunions and Such Things

Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.

Reunions and Such Things

By Steve Canipe

Aug. 22, 2014. Last Saturday, August 23, 2014, I participated, along with 33 of my high school classmates, in the high school reunion phenomenon. In this case our 50th. Wow, it does not seem like 1964 was that long ago. Some of us could not come to the reunion including a number who have passed away.

Before the reunion time, I pulled out my old high school yearbook from my senior year. It was not an unusual thing to do, as several of my classmates actually brought their copy of our senior yearbook to the reunion. Before the get together, I wanted to see what we looked like then and was trying to imagine what we looked like now. Surprisingly some of us, while not the same having aged 50 years, are still very recognizable and others of us are definitely not easily recognizable!! The planning committee did a great job and used photocopies of our senior pictures on the badges. The only better thing would have been to have had the names as well. I wore truly ugly glasses in high school and a classmate remarked when I said hi to her – “Where are your glasses, I didn’t recognize you without them!!” I wore those very nerdy glasses a la television’s Bing Bang Theory’s Leonard character.


Canipe in HS
Canipe in HS

As I was reading the signatures and messages in the yearbook, it brought back a lot of memories (mostly good)…and reading some who had only signed a first name, I did not remember at all. I’m sure these were from friends in other classes not our senior one!


Many messages were the innoxious type – “fun going to school with you,” “best wishes in the future,” “you are a nice guy,” that sort of thing. I guess it is not typical to put anything really poignant in the yearbook. I know several of my friends were very involved with a girlfriend or boyfriend and reserved a whole page in their yearbook for comments from that special person. I was not dating anyone in particular so did not have a “special page” reserved.


Having been away from most of these folks for a long time, it was a chance to reminisce and a typical question of the evening was “What are you doing now?” Many of my classmates have retired – well after all we are in our late 60s and it is a good time to retire. But a number have not retired and are, like me, working in a job that is rewarding and fulfilling. Maybe that is a way to continue to feel useful as we get older. Maybe we do it like previous columns on Volunteering or Hobbies discussed or maybe it is to earn money and through that reject growing old.


Other typical questions revolved around where folks were living and how many children and grandchildren. There was a quiz and some of the questions were 1) largest number of grandchildren (7); 2) who had traveled the furthest to be there (Richmond, VA); 3) had the least hair (Bob); and other such fun facts!!


With a group as large as ours was when we went to West Lincoln High School in 1961 (about 100 of us), it is inevitable that some of us would have passed away. Since we started until now there are 12 classmates who are no longer with us. Two died from accidents before we graduated and one in an accident just two years after we graduated. The number we lost sort of mirrors the statistics that more males than females in an age cohort pass away first. Our count was eight males and four females. Our most recent loss was in late June of 2014.


We also heard of several of our classmates who are battling the dreaded “C” word. Some have beaten the disease at least for a while. One of our class officers had a recent cancer treatment, which left him feeling poorly, and he was unable to attend. Wishes for Godspeed for a fast recovery to every one of my former classmates who are battling the “C” word or any debilitating illness.


Perhaps every teenage guy is thinking of the pretty girls in his high school, but our class of 1964 was particularly blessed with beautiful young women. I was pretty shy in high school and could not often muster the courage to ask many of these pretty girls on a date. In hindsight that was silly on my part and as I’ve gotten older, I have developed more courage to talk to beautiful women. At our reunion, I was able to talk to the pretty girls, now pretty women, without getting tongue-tied. I made the observation that while I cannot say the same for my male classmates, our female classmates even though they are older are still a beautiful bunch of people!!


Most of the men, like me, now carry more weight and less hair than we did 50 years ago. I guess it is a good thing that we’ve developed a bit more savoir faire as we aged!! In high school many of us may have been acting a part—I know I was. I made pretty good grades and therefore I was supposed to be smart. I know that some of my classmates considered me to be as some of them during the reunion made comments to the effect. Had they only known then that I was doing a lot of acting. I was uncertain of a lot of things and was nowhere as confident as I seemed to be to them.


Being a basically shy person but being thrust into a position where you do not feel confident but being expected to be assured is stressful, at least it was to me. I am not sure that anyone much knew that I felt that way then. Over the years because of positions I have held, I have actually translated that bravado into reality. Now I am not acting when I seem confident in meeting new people or in new situations. Maybe it is experience that allowed the change or maybe just getting older and realizing that we are all human and as my dad once said when I mentioned being nervous about meeting someone for the first time, “We all put our pants on the same; one leg at a time.”


There were lots of my classmates who were alive who did not attend and for that I am really sad. It would have been really a lot of fun to see the others. When we went to the newly consolidated high school that year, we were combining two high schools that had been major rivals from an athletic standpoint: North Brook Blue Jays and the Union Owls. During games the schools did some real mischief to each other. It was sort of assumed that the merger would not be smooth. Surprisingly it was. There were few issues of the blue and white or the orange and black having issues. We melded into the red and gray easily.


I’d like to think that those who were seniors in that first year at West (these folks are now 70) and the juniors and us were responsible for making the merger easy and preventing any real issues then or in the future. Maybe it was because of the fact that at North Brook they had already had a merging of three elementary schools into the high school and at Union there was a merger of two elementary schools into one. So getting to know and work with new folks was not alien to people…whatever the reason, consolidation worked pretty well.


I had a great time seeing everyone and wish for another reunion in maybe five years. I know it probably means more to me since I don’t still live in the community. Many of my classmates married, had children, and still live nearby. They have the luxury of seeing each other on a regular basis. Perhaps it is another artifact of the changes described by Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock or Thomas Wolfe in his You Can’t Go Home Again novel — but it is hard to recapture feelings that have long passed. New feelings/connections need to be created and nurtured. I’ve invited my classmates to come see us in Boone and take in an Appalachian football game or come to Tucson and visit us in the desert. I hope they all will. But whether they are able to come visit or not, we have reconnected, if only for a brief while and in that brief re-passing we remembered old times from 50 years ago. And that was good, at least for me.


Do any of the readers have similar stories of reconnection and the impact that the reconnection might have on you? If you would like to share similar stories, please send me an email or post at the end of the column. This is not just for my classmates who may be reading this but for anyone who has had the opportunity to revisit classmates/colleagues after a long period of being apart. As always I welcome your thoughts, not just on this story, but any topic via email at boomerbytes@yahoo.com or post at the end of the column.