Jim Sandefer: Our Age 70 Party

The following article about our 70th Birthday Party in June, 2018, was written by Jim Sandefer, which was published in The Norman Transcript:

Those were the days, and now ... 
by James C. Sandefer

I just returned home from attending the first ever Age 70 high school reunion in the town where I grew up, Norman, Okla. I’d been there two years ago for a Norman High School 50-year reunion, so I expected the people and things around the area to be basically unchanged. Nope!

Reunions, regardless of the number of years being celebrated, are always ideal opportunities to reunite with classmates, rekindle some subliminal feelings about the past, and eventually discuss the way things are today.

It’s fascinating how a group of old friends brought together on two nights for a few hours after years of minimal, if any, communication can cooperatively and precisely re-create a time of transitory reminiscence.

However, before sharing my observations about this special two-evening event, I’ll express my appreciation to Pam Troup and the reunion committee for volunteering their time in planning and bringing it to fruition, Bill Hickman for continuing to maintain our class website, and David Walters for gathering/playing over 1,000 music track from our era and taking a slew of photos-thanks to all of you for your time and effort. In addition, we appreciated the Volare restaurant manager and the pleasant service staff that took care of us on both evenings.  

In case you’re wondering, there were nearly 90 attendees on Friday night, and the foul weather impacted attendance on Saturday evening but it didn’t dampen our spirits. 

As always, we welcome the attending spouses and have noticed over the years how they pleasantly and actively participate in and enjoy our events.  
Now let’s take a look at the actual reunion, and one thing that has remained steadfastly critical for all reunions past the 30 year mark; individual name tags adorned with a high school graduation photo; the bigger the better. At this stage of the life adventure, the majority are wearing glasses, contacts lenses or carrying a pair of “readers” with them everywhere they go unless they’ve had a vision correction procedure.

Next, and also of importance, is the positive result of repetitive reminders at the previous three reunions—never begin a conversation with the phrase “Do you remember when we…?” Eureka, it finally sunk in. I actually overheard quite a few classmates use the opening line “I was thinking about such and such the other day and…” Ah yes, the mind, what a wonderful thing to waste.

Regarding the venue, Volare, it became necessary to split the event using rooms on two floors because of the surprisingly large turnout. So there was a lot of elevator riding from one floor to another, but we adjusted to it.

The first reunion night, Friday, was a casual reconnecting opportunity and ideal for the purpose of either learning or reaffirming what people are doing these days. Interestingly, many have retired since our last reunion in 2016. As usual, all of this was initially preceded by the statement “Well, you still look great!” The second night we really got into the issues of health, medications, surgeries, etc. that have become prevalent for most of us.

As usual, the majority of attendees remained actively engaged until the scheduled conclusion of the event at 10 p.m. Understandably this was a unique occasion for reuniting with friends that live nowhere close to one another. But technology has allowed many to stay in touch via email, on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Surprise; some still communicate by phone.

Let’s move on gradually and carefully to evening number two on Saturday night. There was a noticeably smaller turnout due to the wet weather, but their morale wasn’t dampened at all.  

There was ‘60s music playing during the entire evening with a buffet available on the 3rd floor while those who opted for the 2nd floor could order from the main menu. A Happy 70th Birthday Cake and other desserts were available whenever we wanted it. Once dinner was done and the usual exodus to the restrooms had been accomplished, many in-depth conversations were ready to launch, but not before Pam was required to come through on her promised to cut off the tie of any guy who wore one, and some of us showed up sporting some of the most hideous neckwear imaginable…snip, snip.

As the evening progressed toward 10 p.m., the crowd began to say their farewells. It was interesting to hear the comments about the time because most reaffirmed that they rarely stay up that late unless they ate the wrong thing for dinner.

As we know, all good things come to a conclusion and so it was with our Age 70 reunion celebration.
I believe each of us parted with the renewed awareness that we age faster than we realize as it’s actually happening, but we’re grudgingly learning to deal with it. This is the unavoidable way that life reveals itself. As we have learned, our most feasible option is to make each day an enjoyable one and focus on it rather than constantly looking back or speculating on the distant future. Experience has taught us that we cannot revise the life that’s behind us, but we can still experience some pleasant things that are resting on our path.

However, possibly the most important thing I was reminded of during this reunion was where I am right now in life. I appreciate that we can briefly venture back in time, and it’s definitely fun doing it with a group of childhood friends that keep things in perspective rather than making the journey alone in the solitude of our minds when our thoughts and recollections are running amuck or refusing to engage at all.  

We don’t know when another high school reunion may suggest itself, but I’m convinced that it will happen and I hope even more of my classmates will attend. Undoubtedly we’ll again take a look back in time, but we’ll probably spend more time looking toward the future since there’ll be even less of it to consider by then.

Also rest assured that I haven’t given up on my quest to gain an official age recount because regardless of the presumed facts, there’s no way I can be this old. But one thing’s for certain, no matter what our age may be at any given time, “old” is always  gonna be someone who’s had 10 more birthdays than we have.

Thanks to my lifelong Tiger friends for again making these two evenings so pleasantly memorable. Final fact: 70 is merely the number of years people have been enjoying us!