At her 50th class reunion yesterday, it was nigh unto impossible for me to imagine what some of those people looked like a half century ago. There's a ton more thickness all the way around, and lots and lots less hair. What there is of it is fifty shades of gray.
That's us. I don't think I even look like me. Put a crown of silver on her head, and she's the same woman. Still can't help but close her eyes when she smiles. Our daughter, our firstborn, is forty years old.
Most everyone at the renion used the handrails on the long flights of stairs we used to get up and down to the celebration, and there weren't half as many freckles on those arms as there were liver spots. Here and there bones creaked, and I don't doubt that some errant gases escaped when they shouldn't have; but had there been something public, most would have giggled. Been there, done that.
Judging from the outside (I'm an in-law in that alumni family) a good time was had by all. None of that fearful judging that goes on at class reunions early in the game--who's making money, who's making waves, who's making whoopee? No pseudo-sophistication. No pseudo anything that I could tell. When the whole room is full of people pushing seventy, everyone plays it straight. You're free to be what you are and nothing more. Or less.
My high school reunion is coming up soon. I'll need a directory. But so did my wife.
I went to a public high school, so there'll be drinks served. I don't expect any spectacles. At our age, people tend to nod off easily enough the way it is. Besides, there'll be just about as many plainly religious people at OHS, class of '66-night, come August, as there were singing hymns yesterday on Sunday morning. There may even be a prayer somewhere along the line. Wouldn't be illegal or ill-advised. Entirely apropos.
But Barb went to a Christian high school, so yesterday's reunion centerpiece was worship, a regular church service with a preacher who wasn't a preacher, but who held forth quite charmingly, I thought. But then, even if he hadn't done well, no one would have stopped smiling.
He read from Psalm 90. I don't know about others, but I will forever associate that great psalm with funerals, which the reunion wasn't at all, even though more than a half-dozen classmates didn't make through all those fifty years.
Psalm 90 ends with one of the most solicitous lines in the Bible, or so it seems to me. There's no accounting for taste, so I don't expect other people to agree with that assessment, but I've always felt that asking the Lord to "establish the work of our hands" is just plain extraordinarily human, in the very best sense. It seems to me that what we all want is to somehow make a difference. I've prayed that line ten thousand times, I'm sure, in a variety of adaptations.
When you're a kid or a young person like I was in that picture above, a teacher at a high school in Arizona, "establish the work of our hands, Lord" means you're asking the Lord to make things stick in the classroom, to help me to say what needs to be said to kids who need someone to say it. And this child too, our first. Make me a better father than I ever guessed I needed to be or now understand I can be. Establish the work of our hands, Lord, establish the work of our hands. Help me build something, Lord.
So yesterday we all said it again, a host of men and women in their late sixties, a ton of Vietnam vets, a gathering of actual saints and sinners. We repeated that verse again, years and years away from images like the one at the top of the page: Lord God almighty, establish the work of our hands.
It's different now. It's the same words, the same prayer, but now it's all said toward a rearview mirror, most all the establishing well behind us.
But we're still asking for the same thing, aren't we?--just looking backward is all.
Establish the work of our hands.
And smiling. Yesterday, her class reunion was a very good time, for which I'm thankful this morning.