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By Paul V. Palange
When I recently told someone that I had attended my 45th high school class reunion in June, the kind soul I was talking to blurted out, “Wow, your 45th!” Needless to say, that reaction stung a little, but I didn’t get angry or start any sort of argument.
Instead, while continuing the conversation, I thought about how fortunate I was to have gone to the reunion. I actually appreciate that I’m still alive and kicking four decades-plus after graduating from high school. That brings me to another reason that I went; to honor my very best friend from the Class of 1973 at Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, Mass. If he hadn’t passed away in March 2017 after a years-long battle with serious health issues, odds are we would have attended together and had a great time reminiscing and laughing with each other and our fellow mates. I carried on without him, but frequently thought how much I missed him.
I also thought about other members of the Class of ’73 who have passed on and gave them a silent toast for their unique contributions woven into the fabric of such a caring group. The reunion was a two-night event, and during the first event that was held at a restaurant just for my class, one of the organizers had attendees pause for a moment of silence in recognition of our deceased friends that someone appropriately remarked were still with us in spirit.
Reconnecting with friends is another reason why it’s good to attend class reunions. It demonstrates that true friendships last forever and can be rekindled from that dormant state into which all of us allow many of our relationships to lapse because of our so-called busy lives and addiction to technology.
The second night of the reunion was at the high school for class years ending in three and eight, and it’s likely I will never forget the joy I experienced when I saw one of my closest friends from back in the day walking from the registration table to the entrance of the outdoor pavilion where we were partying. “Excuse me for a minute,” I said to the people I was talking to at the moment and then hustled over to embrace a guy I hadn’t seen in many years.
The happiness was mutual and as we started a tour of the school, he said, “You know, you were the first friend I made here, and I will never forget that.” We leaned on each other quite a bit in September of 1969 as we adjusted to attending an institution that was filled with some pretty high scholastic and athletic achievers from throughout Eastern Massachusetts and was staffed by a demanding faculty of Xaverian brothers and lay teachers. It was trying at times, but we got through it together. I, we will always remember that.
Firm handshakes and sincere guy hugs punctuated our goodbyes, and there’s a good chance some of the friendships that were rekindled will become somewhat active. As I was saying farewell to one my former classmates, he said that he would like to hang out more often than every five years. I concurred so now we have to make it happen. I will probably reach out via Facebook – one of the very vehicles that some blame for a decline of face-to-face interaction.
During our later years, it might be even more important to attend reunions of all kinds to nurture as many relationships as possible. Healthy and safe aging is dependent on having many people in our lives. We need to stay active for our cognitive and physical well-being. Conversations about the past, current events and problems we are facing will keep us intellectually stimulated so we can stay sharp and perhaps minimize problems such as memory loss.
In addition to uncovering precious memories and a certain sense of accomplishment, reconnecting at reunions just might prevent isolationism that could occur as people in our nucleus move away or pass on.
I’m already looking forward to my 50th class reunion, and I hope the turnout is robust. Members of the Class of 1973 are fond of saying that we were classmates for four years, but that we are brothers forever.
That’s a sentiment that should be more prevalent.