I recently returned from an extended weekend at a beautiful desert location where 32 college classmates and I had a mini reunion. We’d started with a simple goal: old friends getting together to enjoy being together.
It turned out to be an unexpected prescription for a lot of fun, reflection and re-connection.
Any chance you might need one, too? With some group planning and individual willingness, you can discover the secrets to “sponging out” the joy from your collective memories and setting a flame to current and future connections.
Back in 1964 I left home to attend an all-female institution, Wellesley College, recently in the news as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s alma mater. After completing high school, 500 of us relocated ourselves and our stuff to suburban Boston. We were competitive women who’d worked hard to gain admission and would work harder to remain to graduate. Back then, we found ourselves on the threshold of adulthood together — deciding who and what we should become as people. Inevitably we would influence and being influenced by our school’s faculty and fellow students and by the world around us. We came of age together when the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, the anti-war movement, pot, the pill and rock n roll were all colliding into our space!
Now, over (how could it be!) 50 years later, it was a remarkable experience to meet up again with these interesting, committed and talented women: the same people I’d shared four of my self-defining years with, those very people who had helped me define myself.
It was inevitable in re-meeting that we’d laugh and remember our teachers, dorm life and college dates. But beyond that, each of us began to reflect on the impact of the choices we’d made back then and also made more recently — the romantic partnerships we’d formed and maybe lost, the joys and disappointments of our children and grandchildren, the careers we’d lived, the illnesses and deaths we’d survived. Looking back over it all was (to quote the Sixties) a “mind blow!”
I couldn’t help but observe that, despite the rigors of aging — the senior moments, wrinkles and apparent losses — we’d become wiser, less competitive and even kinder women, richer people for having been through so much. We learned a lot about each other the weekend and, interestingly, we were extraordinarily authentic with each other and ourselves about our life experiences. All these years later, we now had something to bring to each other that was more, different and even better than when we were young and more innocent.
One of the unexpected treats was the palpable desire for continuing our re-connection: we wanted to keep the good energy going and find ways to support each other in the days and years ahead. One idea I proposed was to amass a collective list of books we found informative and helpful about aging, death and dying, healthy longevity and second acts. You can find it now yourself on the POP website at www.parentingourparents.org
More and more POP families are seeking to re-discover their own brand of family fun in reunions: renewing the laughter and history they shared from the past as they re-connect in the present to make their way together through the POPcycle. As loved ones begin to depart from our lives and the planet, we can take comfort from the unexpected possibilities and sweetness left behind in the wake of these reunions. Sharing the responsibilities and joys of POParenting, caring for our aging loved ones, becomes much easier when families are also spending time doing what they love together. One of the new trends in travel is “senior sibling” reunions where families re-unite for the same reason we classmates met up. One such story of senior siblings reconnecting via a reunion is beautifully discussed with hints for how to make it very workable at http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-d-hawaii-reunion-20160417-story.html.
At the close of our college mini-reunion, I felt inspired, remembering wonderful times from decades before — and, “with a little help from my friends,” I recalled some of the real bloopers I’d made. Then the 33 of us posed for the requisite class photo. The photographer suggested that those classmates who self-identified as “short” should stand in front. I thought to ask: “Where do those of us stand who now self-identify as healthier after this reunion’s prescription for fun, reflection and re-connection?”
Try getting back together with YOUR friends and family and see what fun, reflection and re-connection you can create and how youthful, healthy and happy you can feel. Then share it with us.
If you like what you’ve read here and are interested in reading more, buy the book, “Oh My God! We’re Parenting Our Parents: How To Transform This Remarkable Challenge Into A Journey of Love.“