© Another Day in the Country
Kristina and I were driving along I-70, coming home from Colorado. I was at the wheel, and she was texting with a friend when she started to chuckle.
“I just told my friend that I was on a road trip with my 78-year-old cousin and my friend said, ‘WHAT?’ I guess it did sound a little weird to be taking a jaunt with a cousin who was 50 years older than you, but I told her,” Kristina continued, “that it isn’t like you are really THAT old and we have fun together.” Then I had to laugh.
I’ve never taken a road trip with anyone who was 50 years older than me. That’s a big gap in the generation span; even my grandparents were only 40 years older. This was an unusual occurrence, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, which was the whole reason I’d embarked on this road trip adventure in the first place.
Some friends called out of the blue, “Pat, we’re coming through your area on the way to Colorado. Wouldn’t you like to go with us?” They were on their way to Loveland, where we had gone to high school at a Seventh-Day Adventist boarding academy. “Your class is an honor class,” they said, “You should be there. This is your 60th!” Like I needed to be reminded.
I knew this event was coming up. I’d been invited. I knew the dates. I’d written a letter to the class organizer saying, “Thanks, but I don’t do school reunions.” I remember when alumni weekend came around when I was in school. We’d look at these folks who were returning after 30, 40, 50 years and think they were like dinosaurs — mostly extinct. They were really old and crotchety. And now this was my 60th anniversary of my high school graduation!
On an impulse, I decided to accept my friends’ invitation for a road trip to Colorado. “I’m going to be with you,” I said. “I could care less about the reunion; but YOU I’d like to spend time with.” And, if this was how I had to do it, I would go — they live in Georgia, after all, and that’s a long ways away. “When will I ever get invited to do a road trip with friends I’ve known since I was a teenager?” I reasoned. “This is it! I’m going.”
Once I was in Colorado, sitting in one of those alumni meetings, my friend confessed, “We didn’t think you’d really do it.” Surprise!
On Saturday afternoon, we, the Class of 1955, sat in a circle sharing brief summaries of our lives. You would know that after this amount of time, we heard a lot about death of spouses and illness, with an equal proportion stating lists of children and grandchildren, even great-grandchildren! On that score, I only had one grandchild to report.
In the circle I sat beside a classmate who had been a red-headed girl with a big laugh, a husky build and a loud mouth. She was a character then, and here she sat in the same shape — her hair still red after 60 years, without help from Clairol. She was still lively and brash. I discovered she’d had four kids, and put herself through college in night school by babysitting other folks’ children during the day. She’d graduated, gotten a master’s degree, and started a Montessori Academy, kindergarten through grade 12, which she ran until a few years ago. Who would have thought wild Bonnie could have pulled that off? I was impressed. “I just come to reunions to see who’s worse off than me,” she said with a laugh.
Sitting to my right was a quiet guy who I’d gotten better acquainted with in college when he and I were both newlyweds. In the class sharing circle I discovered Freddie had survived two bouts with cancer and was on a chemo maintenance program, still smiling, still loving his cute little wife with dimples, still walking with that certain slow swagger he’d always had. Old age requires courage and I admired his attitude.
I came away from this encounter with a profound sense of gratitude for my life in the country and the health that I enjoy!
“I’d like to say that I’m doing well because I’ve tried to make good choices,” I said to my classmates, “but I think it’s probably just genetics.”
It’s thanks to all of those who’ve come before me, immigrants brave enough to launch their lives toward a new country. It’s parents who loved the Lord and their girls enough to make sure they got a good quality education with solid values.
At the last minute, I decided to stay for another week in Colorado with cousins, so that I was able to spend time with them and their kids and their kids’ kids. Who knows when I would see them again? And then, Kristina — one of those precious cousin’s kids who now lives in Kansas — and I climbed into the truck with her little 2-year-old, and we headed home to spend another day in the country.