Reconnecting With Old Friends Was A Rewarding Experience

During the past weekend, five of my high school classmates and I participated in a mini reunion in Florida. We graduated in 1966, 52 years ago. It was a trip down memory lane, and the gathering was tinged with bittersweet sentimentality.

The last time we spent significant time together was just after graduation, over a half century ago. A lot of history has taken place since then. Four of us are retired, two still work, but at a much slower pace.

The fact is each man is now in the twilight of his life, striving to enjoy each day and stay healthy. But old age plagues us all to an extent. We had many conversations about medical issues including blood pressure, prostates and doctor performance.

Everyone fondly spoke about his extended family. At times it seemed the guys were rehashing glory days through thier children and grandchildren’s experiences.

Sad memories surfaced, as we encountered challenges over the course of our lives. To a man, all have had crosses to bear. Sadly, two attendees had children who passed away, and most, if not all, of our wonderful parents are now gone.

Memorable moments were analyzed and perhaps exaggerated just a bit. Former love interest dramas along with great athletic achievements abounded. Boys will be boys.

It’s fun to recollect about how my friends acted way back when, and whether these tendencies are now prevalent in their golden years. Who is/was effusive? Who is/was shy? I think most of us are, pretty much, the same, personality-wise.

It was confusing to analyze five other men during such a short period of time. Are they people I could have as close friends now? I think yes, although our worlds are very different. We have a plethora of common interests including family, food, travel and exercise.

Regarding the later, I anticipated all the men would be fairly vibrant athletically. Their athletic prowess when they were young ranged from excellent to great. In fact, the group represented six starters on the high school football team. All six played intercollegiate sports, five football and one rugby.

As proof of these exploits, we have our fair share of lingering injuries after years of physical punishment. Scars on knees and chronic aches and pains are plentiful. Limping was prevalent, especially after a few rounds of golf. We really needed a hot tub soak and massages.

Not surprising, we managed to find a baseball game to attend, a single A contest. We managed to stay for about six innings. Most admitted that they never stay to the end of any sporting contest because of the traffic. Being hungry was our excuse to leave early. No one objected.

The dinners were particularly interesting. There was a minimal amount of alcohol consumed. This is in marked contrast to the old days when we drank to great excess, ate too much and behaved up to the limits of the law. Not one of the attendees was intoxicated during the weekend. Some said they couldn’t drink because of doctors’ orders. Other said their prescription pills wouldn’t mix well with alcohol.

We laughed a lot and reminisced. It was great fun. Of course we talked about our former classmates and their idiosyncrasies, and about those who passed away.

Of note was the absence of one member of our gang, who was unable to make the trip because of a health issue. We were in constant communication with him via social media.

And the photo ops were endless. At every meal, tourist event and round of golf, we took pictures and asked strangers to snap a few photos on our IPhones. They were then immediately posted on Facebook or Instagram for family and friends to enjoy.

For some time I’ve been concerned about my growing inability to remember names and facts, and some occasional forgetfulness. My buddies made me feel much better about myself. None of us could effectively recall facts, so we constantly called upon “Siri” for assistance. And, the boys were constantly misplacing personal items. It’s not easy to be old.

But the most humorous thing was the utter inability of some members to drive from one location to another, find cars in parking lots and obtain directions to restaurants, golf courses and the airport from their IPhones. It was hysterical and offenders were lampooned accordingly.

Is it important to keep in touch with old friends? Absolutely. I heard things about myself that I haven’t thought of in years. It was like being in a time machine.

I really wanted to be a team player and so I went with the flow, for the most part. And, I should point out that every other buddy did the same. We recognized that six old guys, who are set in their ways, could not get along if everybody was trying to be the boss. I give the group an A+ in this area.

Even though I haven’t seen these guys for many years, I feel very attached to them. I empathize with their issues, be they physical or any other facet of their lives. And they feel the same way about me.

Occasionally it got a bit melodramatic. We were constantly hugging each other and saying we were glad to be together. Even though I have not been a part of their lives for half a century, they acted like they missed me and really wanted to keep in tough prospectively.

Of course there was an eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. If we were so close in 1966, why the hell weren’t we close in subsequent years? I pondered this question all weekend.

The Vietnam War and its derivative impact on us was one factor. We were all living for today while in college expecting that we would be headed to Southeast Asia after graduation and a violent death. Ultimately some of us joined reserve units to avoid fighting the yellow man (to quote Bruce Springsteen). Some lucked out and had high numbers in the first draft lottery. And some had physical ailments that disqualified them for military service.

Another factor is we all were trying to make a life, find a bride, build a family and get a job with great potential. Some went to graduate school. Some moved to other places. When high school ended, we merely disbanded to live our lives.

In any case, phone calls were not made until recently. I’m very happy they were. The trip to Florida was highly emotional. As we departed, I fought back tears. I really love these guys, and my relationship with them affected my life. I wish Chuck, Keith, Billy, Larry, Joe and George happiness, and more happiness on top of that.

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