Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve is highly overrated

I'm trying to remember if I ever had a truly memorable New Year's Eve.

Now some of you who knew me back in the day, which I believe was actually a Thursday, probably could ask yourself if I ever had a memorable night at any time of the year. Until my early 20s, when it came to social skills, I was riding the short bus.

I had my moments, though. I had a really spectacular Valentine's Day 1970, and a couple of Independence Days that weren't too bad. But I never remember anything all that great happening on New Year's Eve.

I suppose I probably enjoyed the Pleasures of the Harbor a few times -- I have been married, between two wives, for something like 20 different December 31sts. But I don't remember more than one or two when I was single, and those that stick in my memory are usually there because of social fiascos.

I've talked with friends and colleagues about the question, and a lot of them agree with me that New Year's Eve is highly overrated. People think they're supposed to have such a great time that they try too hard, and trying too hard rarely works out well in social situations.

Am I wrong?

Did everyone else have wild, wonderful times?

I'm curious.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A look at our blessings as 2007 ends

We are so blessed, blessed almost beyond imagination in the class of 1967.

We were born in an era of peace and tranquility and came of age in exciting, interesting times. We live in a country that often falls short of its ideals, but remains one of the safest, most prosperous societies in human history.

In the 40 years since we graduated, many of us have loved and lost, but others have stayed with each other and raised families. When I look at Dale Abrahamson and Susan Spell, or think about Steve Rust and Janet Thornton, I am filled with admiration for folks who knew their minds at a very young age and stayed with their choices through the good times and the rough ones.

Some of us have grandchildren already. My daughter and her husband are planning to have their first child in 2008, so God willing, I'll be joining the club sometime next fall.

I thought Nicole and I were doing really well to plan our retirement at 60, but boy, was I jealous to see how many of you have already called it quits.

Was it Browning who said, "Grow old with me, the best is yet to be," or was it some other poet?

My senior English teacher, Rachel Maguire, would be disappointed that I can't remember.

That's OK, I think all of us remember what really matters.

Love and friendship.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

This is still the best time of the year

I haven't been posting as much lately, and our three other posters seem to have vanished completely, but it's understandable.

Unless you're living at the YMCA, heating Top Ramen in a cup and re-reading "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," this is a pretty busy time for most of us.

Editor's note: Where did that image come from?

We'll be leaving a little later this morning to go to the mountains, where we'll spend Christmas Eve and the better part of Christmas Day with our son, his girlfriend and her family. With both our kids grown, we're fortunate to still have one of them around for one more family Christmas.

Because really, family is what Christmas is all about. I could probably count on one hand the specific Christmas gifts I remember receiving over the years, even though I'm sure I wanted some of them desperately at the time.

But I'll never forget the look on my kids' faces when they got gifts from us they had been wanting but weren't expecting to receive.

I don't really have a favorite Christmas. This will be my 16th with Nicole and all of them have been special, even if a few of the early ones involved a little more drama than I would have preferred.

One that stands out for a different reason was 1989. I was working in Reno that year and had college basketball games to cover in Los Angeles on the 23rd and in Reno on the 29th. I wasn't planning to fly cross-country, but my mother sent me a plane ticket and asked me to come for a very special reason.

It turned out to be my 94-year-old grandmother's last Christmas, and it meant so much to me to have one last opportunity to spend some time with the best person I ever knew in my life.

Two months later I was flying east again, this time for her funeral.

There's no great point to this, other than the easy one. Let the people you love know exactly how you feel about them this Christmas. It may mean more to them in the short run, but in the end, it's the greatest gift you can give yourself.

Merry Christmas to all my old -- and new -- friends from the Class of 1967. To Dale, Gail, Nan and all the rest of you, I wish I had known you better then, but I'm glad I'm getting to know all of you now.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The most wonderful time of the year?

You may already know this, but the suicide rate spikes right around this time of the year.

If you think about it, it's understandable. All the Christmas spirit, all the shopping, cooking and baking, and all those wonderful songs ...

Editor's note: Like "Leroy the Redneck Reindeer?"

Well, maybe not that one.

"And it was Leroy The Redneck Reindeer, hooked to the front of the sleigh. Delivering toys to all the good ol' boys and girls along the way."

Face it, folks. At Christmas time, you're supposed to be happy. You're supposed to get a lot of hugs and kisses, drink a lot of egg nog and listen to the sound of children's happy laughter.

But if you're alone, Christmas is the time of the year you feel it the most. Maybe you're divorced and your kids live in another state. Maybe you never had kids, and your parents have long since passed away.

Christmas is one of those times when if you're unhappy, it feels as if everyone else in the world is happier than you are.

For some folks, Christmas is something to be survived.

So if you have friends or relatives in this situation, give them a call. Give them a hug. Drop them a line.

Christmas is about friends and family.

It's nice to have them.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

College expenses can be crippling

How much did it cost you to go to college?

Don't worry, I'm not asking for specifics. The odds are pretty good that it was a lot less than it costs now, even if it did strain our budgets at the time.

I mention this because of an announcement by Harvard -- yes, the Harvard -- that from now on, families making up to $180,000 a year would be required to pay no more than 10 percent of their annual income for a child's tuition at the school.

Considering that the total cost of a Harvard education as of this year is about $46,500 a year, with tuition about two-thirds of that, that's a pretty good deal.

I'm no expert on this, but I have been paying college expenses for a student for eight of the last nine school years, finishing in May 2007. We told our two young students that we would pay $15,000 a year for four years and that anything beyond that was up to them. We based the numbers on what a year at a state university would cost here in California.

Our kids were fortunate in that they finished school without any debts, but there are millions of young adults in this country staggering under the burden of college loans that they needed to start them on the way.

Some of them don't get out from under until it's time to send their own kids to college.

Some never do.

Many European countries offer free education for qualified students. My lovely wife earned doctorates in astronomy and geophysics and never had to pay any tuition. Some folks in this country would call that socialism, but it seems to me a pretty good way to make use of the talent of the people in a country.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Perspective on holidays changes with age

It's a little more than two weeks till Christmas, and we've already finished most of our shopping.

It helps that our kids are grown, and we don't have any grandchildren yet. In fact, the only actual children for whom we shop are my two young nephews.

We're not quite at the gift certificates or checks stage, but instead of getting each of our two kids eight or nine gifts, we're down to two or three for about the same amount of money. Of course, we've acquired a son-in-law and a prospective daughter-in-law as well, which does complicate things a little.

What's great about it though is that most of our Christmas these days is giving, not receiving.

My wife and I have most of what we need; in fact, we got a wonderful Christmas gift already in the form of the great health news I wrote about earlier this week. We'll buy something for each other, but mostly, we spend money on the people we love.

That's so much more fun than waiting and wondering whether we'll get what we want and as often as not being disappointed.

"What, no pony again?"

Yup, definitely better this way.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Maybe I'm an old codger, but ...

The Class of '67 probably isn't the target demographic of the proposed bailout of those folks who got into trouble with gimmick mortgages the last few years.

Most of us who own homes are probably well along into our mortgages -- if we haven't already paid them off -- and most of us probably didn't get interest-only or teaser-rate mortgages.

Most of you probably don't live in parts of the country where 1,400 square-foot homes in nice neighborhoods reached $1 million in value at the peak of the boom.

But I would imagine that most of you grew up dreaming of someday owning your own home -- picket fence, 2.3 kids and a dog named Scooter along with it.

This bailout -- helping folks stay in their homes but keeping prices high -- is kind of controversial.

I'd love to know what you think about it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sometimes God really does smile at us

We've had a bit of a scare in my house the last couple of weeks.

The kind of scare I'm sure many other people in the class have gone through before; I'm not trying to make us sound unique. But no matter how many other people go through it, it's still tough to be in the middle of it.

Shortly after we returned from our trip to Virginia for the reunion, my lovely wife began showing some symptoms that might possibly have signaled a particularly virulent form of cancer. Nicole had one test, and all they were able to say from the first test was that they needed to have another test.

Now Nicole is the bravest person I know. She hasn't complained, or cried, or talked about what I should do after she's gone. She just faced the problem, head-on.

Today we had the second test, and when we got the results, I could feel the relief as a palpable thing. A minor irritation, no cancer at all.

Sometimes God really does smile at us, and sometimes we can feel the safety in which he holds us. My mother had a friend who was a poet and philosopher, and one piece of advice she gave changed my life for the better.

"Never ask, 'Why me, God?' Instead, it is much better to say to yourself, 'So this is what it feels like.'"

None of our problems are unique, but it's still nice when things turn out for the best.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Did any of us know how lucky we were?

I got an e-mail from Darla Garber the other day in which she said I was crazy for saying she looked like a "young goddess" in high school.

Anyone who looked at our yearbook pictures from back then will see that Darla was a beautiful blonde in the full bloom of youth. Jeez, I wonder if there's ever an age at which girls look better than when they're 17.

Heck, when I looked at our senior yearbook for the first time since 1971 and saw myself in some of the activity pictures, I found myself amazed that I really wasn't the troll I thought I was.

A great philosopher -- I think it was either Plato or Spiro Agnew -- put it best.

"Youth is wasted on the young."

Ain't it the truth.

I talked to several of you at the reunion -- sorry to keep picking on Darla and Dale -- who really don't seem to have had any idea how lovely you were back then, and I found myself wondering if anyone really did. Or were we all so insecure that we could only see the flaws in ourselves?

As at adult who has fought a -- mostly losing -- perennial battle to keep my weight under 200 pounds, I marvel at pictures of a kid who was every bit as tall as I am now and weighed only about 160. When I dieted for six months in the late '80s and got down to 160, people asked me if I was ill. I didn't look ill in 1967.

I was trying to think of who had been generally regarded as the most beautiful girls in our class (by the guys, of course), and some of the names that came to mind were Karen Theurer, Susie Ludtke and Nancy Abt.

Somehow I have a feeling that even they weren't as confident about how they looked as they should have been.

In a post back in the early days of this site, I remember Dale saying that there were boys she had hoped would ask her out who never did. As a former boy myself, I'd be willing to bet that at least some of those boys probably wanted to go out with her but didn't have the nerve to ask.

Forty years probably have changed some of that. One of the happiest moments of my life was a result of my lovely wife's courage. When Nicole and I were first dating, I was seeing someone else as well. On our third date, when I took her home, she said the most wonderful thing I ever heard in my life.

She told me that she knew I was seeing someone else and she didn't think I would ultimately choose her. But she said she wanted to keep seeing me because she thought I was worth it.

Do you think any of us knew back then that we really were special, or were we all just foundering, trying to keep from drowning and hoping someday to make it to shore?