Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"And we were friends and it was good."




1993 
I’ve been lifting weights. I kind of like it, but I must tell you, if the idea of an out-of-shape, middle-aged woman lifting weights sounds funny to you, you’re absolutely right. It looks pretty funny, too.
          I work out on Nautilus machines, instruments of torture conceived of and built by men who hate squishy women. Then, when I am winded, sweaty, and exhausted, I do leg lifts, crunches, and things like curls and flys. No matter which way I turn when I’m in the weight room, there’s a mirror in front of me. Mocking me.
          Why am I doing this? Because, like every other year of my adult life, I gained weight over the winter. Because, when I was trying on a dress and had my stomach sucked in, my daughter said, “Just suck your stomach in, Mom. It’ll look fine.”
          Because 1993 is the year of my 25th high school class reunion.
          I remember thinking, when I’d been out of school eight years, that I could have been a doctor by then if I’d wanted to. Now I’m thinking, I could have a kid who’s a doctor if any of them had wanted to. Admittedly the kid would be a really young doctor whose only house calls were to home to have his or her laundry done.
          I remember my 20th class reunion, when I went on a diet and got my hair done and even borrowed my friend’s shoes because they matched my new shirt. I remember my relief because that our name tags had our senior pictures on them because I knew without a doubt that no one would remember me except for the ones I see all the time at school and at the grocery store and once a year at the fair. “Stay with me,” I told my husband. “If no one knows me, I want to go home.”
          “What if you don’t know them?” he asked.
          “I’ll know them.” I was as sure of that as I was that they wouldn’t know me.
          Some knew me and some didn’t. I knew some of them and some of them I didn’t. Some of us had changed dramatically and some of us hadn’t changed at all. Some of us had children who were nearly grown and some had toddlers. A few were grandparents.
          I had a really wonderful time. My husband checked on me periodically. We got home at three AM.
          So here it is five years later. I’m still on a diet and still wondering if anyone will know me when we all get there. Many more of us are grandparents by now and have probably changed even more, so that people will squint at our name tags and say, “Oh, yeah, I remember…” (You say that a lot at class reunions.)
          And it’s a joyous thing, being with people who remember the same things you do. If you’re feeling old, you can look at them and think how young they still look and know you’re the same age. You remember sitting in the same classes, on the same bleachers, riding the school bus for what seemed like hours every day.
          It makes me wonder, while I’m lifting weights and checking to see if I have yet developed triceps and calf muscles (I haven’t), if others are doing the same thing or facsimiles thereof.
          I’m glad my class reunion isn’t the only reason for the diet and exercise, because it’s not a very good one. No one there cares what size you are, what color your hair is, or how much money you made last year. Because, although not all classmates love each other even after 25 years, there is a sense of togetherness developed by memories shared that makes us see each other in a kind light. We delight in each other’s glories and mourn each other’s losses. It is the best of times.
***
North Miami Class of 1968
          2018
          Still dieting, and I’ve only gained about 40 more pounds since 1993. I’m calling that a success.
          Our 50th class reunion was this past weekend. We partied and ate and talked and took a million pictures. We remembered…oh, a lot. We were different now. Our hearing is compromised, our joints either wearing out or replacement models. Doctors’ appointments are a much bigger reality than we’re happy with. We’ve suffered losses and we’ve experienced glories. We mourned and we delighted. And we laughed, walking around and around the room and trying to make sure we greeted everyone. “I missed a few,” I said on the way home. “I missed a few,” a friend texted the next day.
          But not many, not intentionally, and we’ll catch them the next time the class of ’68 converges and gathers in celebration of that sense of togetherness the shared memories gave us both then and now.
          It was the best of times.

Someday many years from now
We'll sit beside the candles glow
Exchanging tales about our past
And laughing as the memories flow
And when that distant day arrives
I know it will be understood
That friendship is the key to live
And we were friends and it was good. - Eileen Hehl


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

TAKE YOUR MOMENTS


by Debby Myers

Elvin Myers
My husband just got a phone call that his father has passed away. My father-in-law was 86 and he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Although I didn’t meet him until seven years ago, I’ve heard from many that he had a long, wonderful life. When an older person dies, that is often the comment you hear most.

What I see in him is a man who had many experiences―some breathtaking, some tragic, some hysterical―and he was strong, proud and loved. As he began to deteriorate from the man I knew, I didn’t want to remember him in that way. I couldn’t bring myself to go see him the past few months, knowing he was dying. I think it was because every time I lose someone I love, my memories of them come flooding back. I want my memories of him to be when he was talking and smiling…living. It may sound selfish to some.

My own father died almost 30 years ago at the age of 48. No one said he had a long,
Ernie Range
wonderful life. On the contrary, he’d had a rough one. It was a heart attack, sudden but not really unexpected. My parents were divorced and I hadn’t see him much―not since I was a teenager. Yet he was still my dad. That connection was there.

I’ve been told you can see him in me. My memories of him are so vague. I wish I’d known him better and I wish I’d spent more time with him. I wish we had talked about his childhood, his memories. Hindsight is definitely 20/20.

The death of a parent is different than any other. They gave you life and it feels like a part of who you are dies with them. In my case, the loss was overwhelming. I needed to fill that void with memories―the good ones—of my dad. I was angry because there were so few, so long ago.

None of my children ever knew my dad, so I am their only link to him. Whenever I got the chance, I would tell them something about him. That he loved basketball, that he made up little nicknames for me and all my friends, that he liked to drive, and loved Elvis Presley.

I’m so glad my husband will have so many memories of his father to share with our grandchildren about their great-grandfather. That’s the circle of life we speak about. It’s so important to keep one’s spirit alive after they pass. In truth, it’s the one thing I think they want―not to be forgotten. It’s so important to tell our children and grandchildren stories of those who have gone. I wonder what my children will remember about me. I like to think I’ve given them many good memories.

In all aspects of my life, I’ve stuck by a phrase. In 4th grade I was cast in a play at school called “Cowboy on the Moon.” From a young age, I remember wanting to be in the spotlight and I had no fear of performing, sometimes to a fault. At one of our final rehearsals, my teacher, Mrs. Demuth, said to me, “Take your moments up there and help others have their moments too. Your moments are how you will be remembered.”

So, readers―do it! Take your moments! Over the next several weeks, our family will be sharing their moments of my father-in-law. May he now rest in peace and know he will be remembered.