still above ground

The title of this post became the mantra at my high school reunion last night. Despite multiple by-pass surgeries for themselves or their spouses, despite various joint replacements, complex medication menus, and debilitating illnesses of all kinds, despite the tragic loss of children and spouses, we were there and we all were STILL ABOVE GROUND.
We were as varied in terms of personality as we were in high school, but this time we all felt a general comradeship that wasn’t always there more than 50 years ago. The indefatigable classmate who organized the whole shindig vowed to organize another one in five years, if not sooner. After all, next time there might well be “a lot more roses.” (That was an event in-joke that I will footnote.)
Meanwhile, I made the mistake of dancing the Lindy with strappy shoes that had non-skid soles. Landed on my butt once, tried to get up, landed again, and then finally managed to hold onto my partner’s hand tight enough to right myself. Since there were only two other couples on the dance floor, of course everyone was watching. But we finished the dance (trooper that I am who isn’t easily embarrassed); the distressing part was how totally out of breath I was at the end of the song. Out of shape! Definitely out of shape! The only other dance I did was part of the Electric Slide, which I managed, with flair, despite the sticky-soled shoes, and which I ended with a “high-five” from a attractive woman who pretty much ignored me in high school.
As it turned out, I was not the only one who had been divorced. I was not the only one who was a heretic, although I was probably the most heretical of the bunch. I chatted and hugged and kissed on the cheek both men and women I didn’t even know that well back then. It was as though our five decades of life’s experiences had given us a lot more in common. And, heh, we were all still above ground.
As I checked my email when I got home today, I found that one of my classmates had already emailed us photos that he had taken with a camera a lot better than mine. I realized that, without name tags, I couldn’t readily remember the names of most of the faces because they had changed so much over all those years. There were a few I recognized right away last night, however, because, underneath the wear of years, their teenage faces, their eyes and their smiles, were still there.
Some were more successful and/or wealthy than others. Many have had to survive any number of personal tragedies for which money couldn’t compensate,. several having lost children to illness or accident. I can’t even imagine the horror of losing a child. I learned that the friend I thought had died in a tragic house fire died by much more tragic circumstances.
I discovered that I was not the only one caring for a parent, and not the only one living with a care-needing parent. I seem to be, however, the only one who doesn’t have outside help.
When I walked into the house today, my mother was sitting in her chair crying. My brother was ensconced in a side chair, immersed in some ebay transaction. She hadn’t eaten lunch yet, and before I unpacked my car, I made her something to eat, which she hungrily devoured. Later, we watched a travel video of Poland, and before she went to sleep, we danced to her muddled rendition of the Polish National Anthem.
While there were some divorced and some heretics among my former classmates, there were no bloggers. This URL is now listed in the bio information about each graduate that was circulated. It will be interesting to see if any of them will visit and comment.
I drove home from the reunion grateful for my reasonably healthy body, for my two children and one grandchild, for the past 50 years of being able to live much of it “my way.”
Footnote: During the Mass, which I didn’t attend, the priest noted those classmates who had passed away since we graduated and placed a rose for each in a vase. And so, all evening long, there were poignant comments about the number of roses there might be the next time we get together.