Every time the world welcomes another new year, intimations of mortality overcome those of us who aren’t getting any younger.
We look at ourselves in the mirror and count the wrinkles and sagging parts of the face. Were those irrevocable signs of aging already present on the first day of the year that has just passed?
To comfort ourselves, we can dig up photos taken decades ago when we were in the prime of youth and freshness.
Or we can go down memory lane and recall the class reunions of the past year when classmates from grade school, high school or college showed up looking more geriatric than ourselves.
I think this is the main reason we attend class reunions. Other than remembering girlish pranks and the nuns and teachers who were considered “terrors” for their strictness and discipline, we want to see how life has treated friends of a similar age.
In other words, we welcome the catharsis that a class reunion brings. Seeing some classmates who look worse releases us from the anxiety and stress of aging, cheers us up and rejuvenates us.
A class reunion can be divided into three parts casually weaving from one into the other.
One part is the moment of prayerful silence for a classmate who has passed away.
But then, this is irreverently followed by tattle about the cause, date and venue of death, the symptoms of terminal illness if any, or details of the fatal accident, again, if any.
Next comes a dissection of the life lived by the departed classmate: who, when and where she married, if she got married; the position of the husband, if employed and the career of the deceased, if any; where they resided; how many children and grandchildren were begotten; the occupations of the offspring, whether businessmen, lawyers, doctors, politicians or whatnot; a family feud or scandal, if any.
The discussion is not always based on facts, rumors are freely articulated and the principle of maintaining respect for the dead is often forgotten. Sometimes, I think it’s enough to make the dead classmate turn in her grave.
Anyway, these things taken together have a cathartic effect: all of us present are glad that we are still alive and chattering.
A class reunion is not complete until those present have shared with one another the aches and pains brought on by aging.
Ailments, symptoms, stumbles and falls, allergies, medicine taken, doctors consulted, hospitalization experienced, lab tests and surgery undergone, the costs and distress thereof are minutely discussed.
We sympathize and empathize, talk hopefully about miraculous cures, healing priests and novenas and pilgrimages that almost always work.
This sharing covers health bulletins about classmates who, unfortunately for them, are not present to deny, correct or clarify the details of the condition they are reported to be enduring.
Again, the sharing is cathartic as those of us who can still walk, talk, eat and laugh are reminded how lucky we are compared to classmates who need a wheelchair, a walker, a walking cane and/or a caregiver. Especially if one or two PWD classmates are present.
But class reunions are not only about grief and gloom. We are happy to see one another again after so many years or months, even though several have become so grossly overweight in the interim that we could not immediately recognize them.
The happiness we share is magnified if classmates living in the United States, Canada and other countries happen to be in town and regale us with stories about their life abroad, complete with Facebook photos.
We are glad to acknowledge those who have excelled in their chosen field or profession, such as the lawyer, the doctor of medicine, the fashion designer, the entrepreneur, the CEO of a business corporation, the congresswoman, the government official and the associate justice of the Supreme Court.
While partaking of lunch or dinner, we happily gossip. We chat about lovers, husbands, children, grandchildren, cousins and friends who have brought joy into our lives. And the lives of classmates not present.
We shriek with laughter when we remember our pranks and jokes in convent high school, such as merrily mixing up the Eight Beatitudes, inserting a ruler under the butt of the classmate dozing off seated in front of you, and the chubby classmate who sacrilegiously used her Sodality medal as a safety pin to fasten the waistband of her uniform’s skirt after its button had popped out.
We enjoy remembering the nicknames we assigned to classmates, teachers and nuns, like “saging” (banana) to an American nun who had long, tapering fingers, “Ukala” to a classmate from North Luzon who wore her hair in long braids, and “payong” (umbrella) to a classmate who commuted to school always carrying an umbrella.
Indeed, a class reunion is basically a happy occasion and although the stories and reminiscences remind us of our lost youth and once perfect health, it also somehow liberates us from the angst of aging.
A class reunion makes us realize how lucky we are to be still actively engaged in the game of life many, many years after graduating.
Now that’s catharsis and that’s why we go to class reunions. —CONTRIBUTED