Two weeks ago, in my first post, I talked about writing what I was feeling as I approached my 60th birthday. I am not a great writer, far from it, but blogging seemed to me to give you the opportunity to talk about what was on your mind and if no one read it, so what?
At this point in my life, I find myself looking backwards way more than I find myself looking forwards. First off, it’s easier. Second, I have a great memory for people, places, how I felt in a situation and I can even remember snippets of conversations from 40 years ago: who said what to whom at a fraternity meeting, how “the straw that broke the camel’s back” happened when I had my first mega-crash and burn end to a relationship in college, what I discussed with a different woman at some other time and how my wife and I got together in the first place, got along, what made us break up and what got us back together a month later. I frequently surprise my wife by telling what we did on a particular weekend when we were dating or living together. My mental acuity fades at about the point when our first daughter arrived and it’s gone down steadily since then, but I can still surprise people with what I can remember.
I have noticed that the growth of the internet coincides with the aging of the Baby Boomer generation and it was not at all strange or uncommon six, seven, eight, years ago to get unexpected e-mails from people asking “Hey remember me” and I always did. Well there were a couple of exceptions but no one can remember everyone.
One spurious e-mail, from an elementary school classmate in 2001 led the two of us on a search to find everyone from our sixth grade class. Why? Because he had a crush on some girl and wanted to know how life turned out for her. I suppose the fact that his marriage was on the rocks might have been part of his motivation. And using the 2001 versions of Google and Lycos and Yahoo and word-of-mouth and telephone directories, we started a quest to find 38 people, with whom we had only one thing in common: we all sat in Mr. Rich’s 6th grade class in the Bronx in 1961. Nothing more and nothing less.
Right off the bat, I knew where a couple of people were. Someone else had seen me posting on usenet and contacted me. I went to high school with a couple of guys and our alumni association webpage listed e-mail addresses. Someone knew where someone else was or we located a sibling of one of our classmates. Someone was still in touch with someone else’s cousins and gave us a phone number or an address. Luckily I had run into one woman in the early 80’s at Macy’s and remembered that she was using her uncommon middle name instead of her more common first name and we found her.
As the hit list grew, it became harder to find the stragglers. It might be easy to find someone named Klingensmith, but how do you find a John Hall or Jeffrey Cohen or Steven (or maybe) Stephen, Levine?
We located 29 out of 38. One or two people wanted no part of this and told that to me quite
emphatically, obnoxiously. But more were pretty curious about it but the big question was: “why 6th grade”? I couldn’t tell anyone it was because Keith J. still had the hots for Sharon W., could I?
We found one woman in a very roundabout way. She had a distinct first name but we couldn’t remember the exact spelling of her last name. Then I remember that she had a step-brother with a different surname and had no luck finding him either and one night one of the group found him living less than five miles from me, 700 miles from our home town. But there was no phone listing for him in the directory and no one I knew, knew him. So I dragged my butt down to the Tax Assessor’s office and got his home address and rang his bell one Saturday morning. After getting past his initial anger that someone had pierced his shield of anonymity, we had a nice visit and I called his sister that night.
In October 2002 we held the reunion in a suburb of New York City with 22 attendees. Within the group we had a former FBI agent and small town police chief, Editor in chief of a newspaper in New York, a business broker from Florida, the owner of a software company in Seattle, two college professors, several teachers, a USPS executive, a poet and specialist in oriental medicine, a public health expert for the State of New Jersey, an author of an novel and many screenplays, an electrical engineer, an IRS agent and of course a combination accountant and potter from North Carolina.
I still exchange e-mails with a couple from that group, one came to visit my sister when she was hospitalized in November.
So that’s the start of how I have been looking backwards,
There are love affairs to talk about, acceptance, rejection, teen-age angst, social ineptitude in college, selling shoes to Ladies during the late 60’s and early 70’s (that’s a book in itself but it is not going to be politically correct to talk about it) and maybe I will get to some of this in the short term.
Let’s see what I can come up with.