How do we stay young? Clean living, regular exercise and mindfulness all play a part. But what about the less obvious stuff? The things you forget to mention to your therapist. The things that catch your emotions when you least expect it.
My late Uncle Al, who lived to be 102, was an emotional teddy bear, full of love. For the last quarter of a century, I had grown accustomed to his tears. As joyful a man as ever jaunted through a deli, he could grow misty-eyed at the mention of his grandkids, or a great golf round, or World War II. Honestly, even the sight of a sky-high pastrami on rye could bring a tear to his eye. Am I destined, like him, to be a big, fat crybaby?
Based on the last week since my 40th high school reunion took place, I’m inclined to believe that I am following Uncle Al’s footsteps. How else do I explain feeling choked up recalling the dozens of wonderful friends I spoke with who looked happy and healthy? Why would the recent memory of snapping group selfies cause emotion to clench in my chest? No excuse to feel down when I had been transported back to the 80’s, listening to what could’ve been KROQ’s Swedish Egil or Richard Blade’s playlist, right?
Back then a perfect Saturday night consisted of Taco Bell, a movie at the Westwood Avco, and hanging out at the houses of friends whose parents always seemed to be…elsewhere. All summer long we hung out at Tees Beach where no one had heard of SPF or basal cell carcinoma. Social media and cellphones hadn’t been invented.
We had to call each other on a landline. My personal phone (which my dad had found used in one of his rental properties) was bright red and you dialed your friend’s number, which you had memorized.
Flirting was alive and well, which isn’t the same as sexting. 501 jeans and polo shirts could get you through almost any occasion. Hair was big. Cars were big. Hearts were huge.
We looked out for each other. Stuart got me through Chem. Debbie styled my outfit for my first date. I drove Rhonda to school in my Chevy Citation, also known as the Silver Snail. Becky included me on fabulous Palm Springs weekends with her family. I shared all my secrets with Jon who knew when to listen and when to tease the shit out of me.
Then there was Scott who drove me to the library and to Haagen Daz for a scoop. He had a wicked sense of humor and a gentle way of making everyone feel special. The last time I saw him was at our 20th high school reunion.
I can’t believe it’s now my 40th high school reunion. That you, emotion? Cheeks wet. Nose goes sniff, sniff. Definitely crying. I watched the In Memorium video at last week’s reunion. I watched it again at home, in private. Scott and too many other beautiful souls are gone and none of us can truly understand how. Accidents, illness…and then there are mental health issues, which all too often are invisible. Until they’re not.
So while I had an amazing time catching up with friends: Where do you live? What do you do? Tell me about your kids.
Maybe I should’ve simply taken their hands into mine, and asked: How have you been? Are you okay?