Nostalgic in Nederland – April 2013

YOU KNOW YOU’RE OLD when you get an invitation to your high school class’s 50th reunion.  Yep!  That would be 50 – as in half a century!  If you’ve been deluding yourself that you’re just middle-aged, this is where you have to finally face up to the fact that you’ve definitely, completely, and irrevocably made it to OLD age.  I mean, really – do you honestly think you’re going to live to be 136?

And, of course, having gone to the trouble to cross the pond, I felt obliged to make the most of it and make a grand tour through Texas and Louisiana, visiting a boatload of friends and family. ( I still can’t put those last 3 words together without thinking about MCI, which used to have a “Friends and Family” dialing plan, where you got a discount on calls made to other folks who used MCI as their long distance carrier.)   I managed to:

  • Spend a couple of nights visiting friends in Houston
  • Attend reunion events for a long weekend
  • Visit a cousin in Jefferson County
  • Visit cousins and friends in Kemah, TX
  • Visit family and friends in San Antonio, to include having a special week-end on the Riverwalk with cousins who came from Dallas and Virginia
  • Drive to Alexandria, LA, to see more of my cousins
  • Go to Baton Rouge to see another friend
  • Go back to Houston to visit even more cousins, to include spending the weekend at one cousin’s lake house.

So here are the basic statistics:  I spent 3 weeks, drove 2000 miles (without inflicting damage on persons or property), went to 2 states, 9 cities/municipalities, and saw 27 family members and 42 friends (33 of whom were at the reunion).

Here’s an unsolicited ad for the Ford Fusion.  I had not driven a care for almost 3 years, so you can imagine the fear and trepidation with which I approached the prospect of taking this trip alone (as my husband typically does all the driving when we travel).  Except for a few tense moments in Houston, I managed OK.  Even for the longest trip of all – from San Antonio to Alexandria, LA (437 miles) – I was very comfortable in this car.  The seat in my Volvo S80, which had more seat adjustments than I can recount, wasn’t this comfortable.

If you want to know what going to your high school class’s 50th reunion is like, just watch “Cold Case.”  It’s a detective story about a squad that just investigates cold cases.  During the course of the investigation, all the principals in the case – victims, witnesses, and perpetrators – morph back into what they looked like at the time of the crime.  So when you first see someone you haven’t seen if 50 years, it’s “Well, is this someone I should know or is it a spouse?”  Then you start recognizing people’s features and gradually they morph back into their younger selves.  Then you start trying to pull the names out of your brain.

Our class only had about 180 folks to start out with; we know that at least 31 are dead.  There may be others, but we’ve lost touch with some folks and, oddly enough, the high school reunion coordinator is typically NOT the one who gets notified first when someone dies.  Only 34 classmates came.  But it was very nice and comfortable.  We’re all long past trying to impress each other like we may have been at the 10th or 20th reunions and, for the most part, are just glad to be alive, enjoying life, visiting with everyone else, and re-hashing pleasant memories.   [Granted, I never felt like I fit in during high school and, for reasons unrelated to school, I have far more unpleasant memories of my life during those years than pleasant ones— but I had some good friends and had some pleasant times, so it was nice re-living those.]

The folks who put the reunion together did a wonderful job.  There are so many things to deal with – and so much that can go wrong – that it’s a miracle when it all comes together (not unlike planning a wedding).   I even won the prize for having traveled the farthest —a throw honoring our mascot, the Nederland Bulldogs.  One amusing thing about being from Nederland is that, whenever I try to speak German in Berlin, folks often ask me if I’m a Nederlanderin (i.e., a woman from the Netherlands).  Well, I guess I am!

2013 - April - NHS Bulldogs Throw

 I realized once again how fortunate I am, given some of the things my classmates have experienced – career-ending car wrecks, cancer and other life-threatening diseases, divorces, deaths of spouses, and the bitterest of all, loss of a child (something we ourselves just narrowly escaped, but, fortunately ‘almost’ only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades).  And yet folks just keep on keepin’ on, which is the bravest thing of all. The only way the reunion could have been better is if all of us had been alive and more of us had come.  I’m glad I went.

Finding my Daddy.  The funniest damned thing happened when I was in town for the reunion! On my way out of town, I stopped by the cemetery to pay respects to my Dad and step-mom. When I was driving into the cemetery, I passed the office, which had a sign saying that you could buy flowers there.  I figured I may as well do that.  Alas, you can only use fake flowers in this cemetery and the flowers they had available were both crappy and expensive.  Expensive would have been OK, but I couldn’t deal with the crappy part.  The lady told me that I could get them lots cheaper if I went down the street to the grocery store or Wal-Mart.  So I did.  When I came back, I wrote my Dad’s name on a slip of paper and gave it to her because I wasn’t 100% which mausoleum he was in.  She went to look him up and came back and said, “I’m sorry, but he’s not here.”  I replied, “I’m pretty sure he didn’t stop being dead and, if he had, I have every confidence that I’d be one of the first ones he’d let know about it.”  She offered to look again, but I told her that I was going to have lunch with my cousin and I knew she would know where he was.

Then I left to meet cousin Judy Kaye in the parking lot at Walgreen’s.  I drove into the parking lot and saw Judy Kaye and her huge white RV, and then drove around to park my car.  I got out of the car, with a fistful of fake yellow roses in my left hand, and went to the first large, white vehicle I saw, opened the passenger door, and said, “Where’s Daddy buried?”  Well, I kinda wished I had noticed that the person in the driver’s seat had a beard and was wearing a gimme cap before I opened my mouth.  Obviously he wasn’t cousin Judy Kaye.  I can only begin to imagine what he’s telling folks about this experience.  Maybe, “You won’t believe the line this ol’ broad used to try to pick me up down at the Walgreen’s!”  or perhaps, “I don’t think the security down at the funny farm is as good as it used to be.”

[By the way, if you don’t know what a gimme cap is, it’s a baseball cap with some company’s logo — most likely John Deere — because they used to give those things away. Folks would say, “Gimme one a them caps.”  Now, of course, you must PAY for the privilege of advertising stuff.]

Well, I don’t want to leave you hanging here about whether my Daddy just upped and left the cemetery on his own.  After I got into the RIGHT car, my cousin confirmed that I HAD been at the right cemetery.  After lunch, we went back to the cemetery.  It turns out that they had changed how they filed records on folks.  For some reason, they decided to file the records on folks buried in the ground in one place and the folks buried in the mausoleum in a different place.  The cemetery lady had looked only in the records for folks buried in the ground.  Daddy was in the mausoleum — he had been a plumber and had spent far too many hours working in the muck in Southeast Texas and so was determined that his butt was going to be DRY for all eternity.  In fact, he’s in the absolute TOP row in the mausoleum.  Alas, when I finally got there, I discovered that there was no vase affixed to his marker.  Since that would take time I didn’t have, and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be back again, it seemed like a waste to go to the expense and trouble of installing one.  [Besides, spending money like that would have irritated my Daddy beyond all measure.]  So, since  cousin Judy Kaye’s parents were buried in that same cemetery (in the ground, with a vase), we put the flowers on their graves.

Gotta leave my husband more often.  I had a great time, but was certainly glad to get back home and sleep in my own bed, with my husband snoring beside me, and back to our son and his family.  I certainly expected to be glad to get back home, but there were some things I hadn’t expected – while I was gone, Harvey did a lot of things around the house to make some much-needed improvements.  After all, when I’m home, he spends so much time waiting on me hand and foot that he has little time for anything else.  I should leave him more often so he can catch up on stuff!

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