Sorry, gentle readers. I’ve left you in the lurch. And for what? Well, let’s see…
There’s the old Time Flies When You’re Having Fun excuse. And yes, having fun was some of what I did in the month of October, since I wrote that valentine to my sweetie back around Columbus Day. I might also blame my missing blog posts on the boxes I’m still unpacking, the trips we took to Maine, the house guests I entertained (and who entertained me) and the general whirling dervish that is autumn spinning away from summer and diving headlong into the holidays. But honestly, here’s the true culprit: I have a college reunion coming up. And with every reunion comes a reunion committee appeal to write a personal narrative for the class report.
This should be easy. The expository essay is what I do. Why the angst? Because I needed to circle around this assignment a time or two or twelve, to figure out what I wanted to say.
So, yes, I’ve been busy burning brain cells–fussing and revising every time I flipped open my laptop, editing in my head every time I walked around the reservoir, thinking of a new angle, every time I found myself awake at 4AM. I’ve started and deleted at least three drafts. Bottom line, it’s not helpful to be at a complete loss around how best to describe having been sideswiped by life, not once but twice since our last report, with a deadline looming.
Whatever we do for him, it never feels like enough.
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Here’s the thing: If I were writing my reunion report the way I write my blog posts, it would have been a cinch. Just tell it like it is, no sugar-coating required. Shit happens. If you’re lucky, you learn a thing or two in the cleaning up phase. But reunion class reports are not, in general, a place to overshare on the negative side. Class reports are heavy on success stories. Mine would be more a story of coping than victory. Why bother with this at all?
Honestly, I can’t explain why I’ve felt this compulsion to not dodge the assignment, to not sweep the hard parts under the rug. I have hundreds of college classmates whom I’ve never met, whose names ring no bells. I owe them nothing. I could just save up my memories for five years hence, and hope for some distance, editorial and otherwise, between me and my lousy mammogram and the sister tragically gone from this world. That, and the ongoing concerns I have for her son, my nephew, who is the usual subject of my 4AM tossing and turning. He’s a part of my life, in ways I’d never imagined a reunion ago. Do I put that in my report? Do I skirt around the facts? Do I mention it obliquely?
Then I remembered my last reunion.
Five autumns ago, I joined a beloved classmate on the sunny side of this football stadium. Having skipped the class luncheon, we huddled together, pretending to watch the game as we discussed our not-for-publication reunion reports—about our worries for our kids and their futures, our parents in decline, the various things that keep us awake at night. I don’t suspect that our conversation was unique to us, because no matter how blessed any of us may be, no matter how lucky we are or how hard we’ve worked, and despite whatever intelligence we may bring to the table, there are always things that just…happen. Add to that the law of averages, which has a nasty habit of playing catch-up, and I suspect I’ve pinpointed a common mid-life bond. It’s a universal truth: no one gets through this life without some bumps and bruises, without some missteps and heartache and tribulations, without unforeseen events playing havoc with well-laid plans. To pretend otherwise seems pointless.
Which is how I got stuck on Speak Up. “Fine, thanks,” would not be my answer to the “How are you?” reunion report question. I would own my imperfect experiences. I would share the joy and the sorrow, or at least, allow that they’re part of life.
Which is what I did, in the end. And with three whole days to spare, I sent my little Here’s What I Know So Far report to my classmates.