At Warp Speed


The first thing I wish to point out before getting even one sentence further into this column is that I won’t turn 70 for another six months. But I was invited anyway to the 70th Birthday Bash organized by friends from Nashville’s Hillsboro High School Class of 1972.

We’d gathered a couple of years ago for our 50th high school reunion, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for seeing each other again last weekend. Time is passing at warp speed. Who knows how many more chances we might have? We met at the home of one of our class members to eat and drink and talk and laugh and, yeah, to cry a little. The list of classmates who’ve passed away grows ever longer. Likewise for the list of those in precarious health.

A few classmates struggled with the stairs that led to the front door. Some refused to sit out back on the patio, despite the fact it was in the shade and a breeze was blowing, because “old people can’t take the heat.” Conversations centered not on careers or travel or even on grandkids, but on what was wrong with our bodies. Bad backs. Bad knees. Bad hips. Torn rotator cuffs. Atrial fibrillation. Skin cancer. Prostate cancer. High blood pressure. High cholesterol. Irritable bowel syndrome. And there was plenty of talk about CPAP machines.

I don’t know if anybody discussed hearing aids because I had forgotten to wear mine.

I do know there was little focus on appearance. We’d dressed for comfort, not show. Most of those who still had hair had plenty of gray mixed in. There were lots of wrinkles and saggy chins. And though a handful of classmates were still high school-slim, gravity had taken its toll on everyone. No “least changed girl” and “least changed boy” votes were taken. Nobody seemed to remember or care who the homecoming king and queen were all those years ago.

And while it would be inaccurate to say that nobody flirted—several did, including me—it was mild and half-hearted. I thought back to our twentieth reunion in 1992, when one of the cutest (and wildest) boys in the class asked me how come I never dated him in high school.

“How come you never asked?” I replied.

“I’m asking now,” he said.

“Don’t you have a wife?”

He nodded.

“Too late,” I said. Head hanging, he wandered away. This year, nothing like that happened, at least not to me.

We took a group photo while it was still light. The party broke up shortly afterwards. As we hugged each other good-bye, there was talk of the Class of ‘72 getting together again in a couple of years to celebrate our 72nd birthday, but who knows if that will happen.

My brother Rusty had offered to drive from his home, west of Nashville and about 45 minutes from the party site, to pick me up so I wouldn’t have to travel alone in the dark on unfamiliar roads. My vision isn’t as bad as my hearing, but—even in Cookeville—I’d just as soon not drive after the sun goes down. “You know that makes you a little old lady, right?” Rusty asked. I told him probably so.

Not until we pulled into his driveway did I realize I’d left my suitcase in my car back at the party site. I told him I really, really needed it because my toothbrush was in it but he said we absolutely weren’t going back and that he could find me a toothbrush, which he did. Then he and I sat in the kitchen and talked long into the night. Some of the talk was about our kids and some was about which parts of our bodies hurt. And, yes, we talked about CPAP machines. But mostly we talked about the good old days and about dear ones no longer on this earth.

Time is passing at warp speed, we agreed. Better grab on to today.

(June 29,2024)