Peggy Keener: It’s happened again

Published 9:30 pm Friday, September 16, 2022

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The high school class reunion—the only event in our lives when we know the age of everyone in the room. But, to be clear, this is not the time for comparing the wear and tear of the folks in that room as such scrutiny can be freakishly disturbing.

I have just experienced my 66th AHS Class Reunion. Without a doubt, things have gone into a downward spiral. There is, nonetheless, a blessing in this wrinkling, withering away of ourselves. I’m too tired to care. Okay, so I’m overweight, pruney and have a wonky walk. That pretty much describes everyone there.

I will admit to having panicked when I walked into the festivities though, only to realize I didn’t know a single person there. Who were those people? And where were my classmates?

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The truth in all this scariness was that we were mercifully saved by the charity of our blinding cataracts, glaucomas and general faltering vision. God knew what he was doing when he programmed our body parts to fail altogether as if my classmates and I were on a synchronized swim team. Yes, yes, the good Lord, in His almighty wisdom, knew how rough reunions could be on us and he was softening the blow.

Let’s talk about ears. OMG, the ears! Each of us has two but that didn’t help one iota. No question about it, “what?” was the most oft heard word at the event. As for dentures … well, they’re the very reason corn on the cob is never ever served at a class reunion.

I’m rather put out with myself for not planning ahead for I could have made a bundle at that reunion. If only I’d set up a kiosk where, for a pretty penny, I could have sold hearing aid batteries, magnifying glasses and Depends, along with short term rentals on walkers and canes. And this does not even account for the killing I could have made in trafficking classmate’s-name-cheat-sheets. Dang! Too late now.

But, what I really want to know is when the word “prostate” became common social jargon? And what’s the deal with that other thing … the prostrate? For Pete’s sake, who would have ever dreamed that one day we’d all be bragging about such problematic organs along with how many replacement parts we’ve have? Lord a mercy, I even know folks who have their medication lists printed on their t-shirts. For some it requires both the front and the back!

I couldn’t help but notice that our former tall jocks are now shrunk down to the height of us girls? (Can we blame misbehaving prostates for that, too?) Furthermore, while the men commiserated their woes, we girls couldn’t help but snicker as the guys trod a regular, every-thirty-minutes-path to the bathroom. Enough said.

I was greatly annoyed with myself for forgetting my chinstrap. You know the device that swaddles one’s wattle … the under-hang of suspended flesh that sways to and fro from the bottom jaw? I don’t need it so much during the winter as it hardly shows if I wear a turtleneck, but I sure could have used it at the reunion.

Furthermore, I was even more regretful that I did not wear my blond ponytail wig. It does such an excellent job of hiding the sparse gray/whiteness that now pathetically adorns my head. Moreover, I had also planned on wearing gloves. You know, something to hide those dastardly age spots. (I do so hate the word “liver” as it conjures up that particularly awful offal meat organ.) But then there was the problem of warm weather and just how fashionable mittens (and the chinstrap) would look with my summery frock? And besides, would they have clashed with my knee brace and truss?

Oh, heck, did I care? Well in truth, I did. In the end, I came up with a great compromising solution for both the age spots and the gray hairs. I wore a muff made of gauzy chiffon. And a tight swimming cap.

The unvarnished, gospel truth about reunions is this: we’re not fooling anybody. Our past high school histories make each of us as transparent as Frederick’s of Hollywood undies. Come on now, all of our classmates know our roots. They know exactly from whence we came. That leaves this: what have we done since graduation? And dare we ask?

Should we demonstrate our accomplishments by wearing our medals or carrying around sandwich boards with our gold framed diplomas and awards? And if we were slouches in high school can we possibly convince our old friends that we finally made something of ourselves or are we forevermore shackled to that person we were on graduation day?

On a decidedly sobering note, our Class of ‘56 looked like a gathering of the cousins of Casper the Friendly Ghost. All of our faces were the same washed out beige. Back sixty-six years ago Austin thought it didn’t have a racial problem. The truth was that Austin had a gigantic problem and we were the proof. Anyone not related to Casper didn’t even want to live in our town. Thank goodness times have changed. Now we are a variegated community with over 50 languages spoken in our high school. Good for Austin. (Does anybody know how you say “yippie” in Swahili?”)

But, back to the reunion. I know darned well that everyone there was making deals with God for their memories to be intact for just one more night. More than anything we dreaded hearing questions like: “Did I go to the prom with you?” … while all along the questioner was secretly thinking,

“Did I go to the prom with YOU??!!” Or how about the anguish of … “Was it YOU I gave my first kiss to?” The only word that softened this blow was the hearing-impaired listener’s response—”what?”

We girls often got this question, “What was your maiden name and how do you spell it?” As if that’s going to happen. Like we who dwell in the foggy memory department are really going to remember those letters as they’re spelled out to us. No, no! Let’s face it. We’re shot. So very, very shot.

In the end, I suppose the absolute worst, most heartbreaking question was, “Aren’t you the principal’s wife?” But wait! There was an even worse scenario. It happened when a classmate peered at one of us with a dismaying, discomfiting, downright bewildering look and implored, “Do I even know you?”

Thank goodness someone had the good sense to suggest that reunions only happen every five years. We need that time in which to lick our wounds. Still, the soiree turned out to be a joyous … though perplexing … affair. And I sincerely loved meeting all those friendly strangers.