Inside every older person, is a younger person... wondering what happened!
High on a hillside, overlooking a lake... still a magnificent campus, although much has been added over the years. The library, brand new when we were students, now sports a weathered patina as it blends in with the historic fieldstone buildings in the quad. At first glance the reunion-goers appear to be wearing the guises of their grandparents -- though signs of the kids we knew then are unmistakable.
A yearbook, distributed earlier on a CD, distills these 50 years for each attendee. One classmate's reflection seemed to speak for us all: "A good life, with twist and turns like a river."
Remembering times past
To refresh our memories of what life was like back in the old days, there was a video collage with interviews of several classmates. We were reminded that we were in an Eisenhower-era cocoon during our college days, somewhat insulated from the percolating political landscape in the country. But on our very campus there were blatant acts of prejudice perpetrated against the few students of color and against the women, who were at that time still in the minority among students.
It wasn't until we graduated that many of us became involved in the civil rights movement, marched against the war in Viet Nam, and had our consciousness raised in the early feminist movement. We grew up quickly after we left the Hill. Although women faced prejudice and discrimination in the early 1960's, we soldiered on as the vanguard of females in professional schools of business, law and medicine, and in emerging corporate roles across the country. We reached beyond the "nurse, secretary, or teacher" options voiced by our parents.
Stories from women of this class of 1962 were about advanced degrees, career tracks that altered over the years, raising families, some divorcing, re-marrying, some widowed. Health issues abounded, but did not stop the flow. New knees, hips, cancer survival... all reminders of mortality and the fragility of this life.
Women in this reunion class are in various stages of transition at this point. Some at universities keep teaching and doing research, others have retired and found new pursuits. Some are still working part-time, or volunteering during the week, keeping their hand in areas that intrigue them. Others are traveling to find adventure. The artists are exploring richer paths, exhibiting their work, engaging with talented people of all ages.
Stories abound of parents that need caretaking, and children who have moved back home.
Options of living arrangements are explored as some pull up roots and move, even across the country, to settle near children and grandchildren. Some just downsize in the same city, while others hang on to the family homestead, ready for visitors to fill all the rooms.
Some invest in experimental living arrangements. In co-housing, a group of people purchase land together and individuals or families build their own dwellings. The community tries to work as a unit, sharing common areas and an eventual clubhouse. But alas, the different generations have differing points of view. What about the age peers? Well they are all cut of different cloth, and don't necessarily get along. So much for the ideal community.
This group is not standing still or sitting at home. On to new adventures they go, with greater appreciation of how finite our time on this earth is. We read the long list of classmates who have died and know that it's a crap shoot. Our names could be there as well... and will be eventually.
The woman who had a near death experience with cancer told me she's kinder and feels more compassionate now than she used to be. The author with two knee replacements swims or bikes every day and has just completed two bicycle races. An advocate for good nutrition, she tells us that the Greeks' goal was to "die young as late in life as possible."
The retired Home Economics teacher who moved with her husband from the east coast to the west to be near their grandchildren is energized by the hills and mountains she can now hike, and she feels enriched by the Unitarian church group she's become part of, volunteering in the community and in local schools.
More poignant now, at our age, is the sentiment of this group of reunioners: Live like there's no tomorrow; today is really all we have. Make it a good day.