It most likely was the clip of Johnny Carson, provided by himself, of his 50th high school class reunion that caught me between the eyes. He was celebrating with old people, and I decided there and then that it would be the proverbial cold day when I would be so inclined. That wasn’t a genial step back to the past, that was a gathering of aging retirees, with a bingo tournament not far behind.

Wrong, I know, and raging denial, for sure. But in truth, we are not the acne-fighting kids we were decades ago. Then a waiting world was ahead of us, and we were filled with optimism. Now a large portion is in the rear view mirror. Even in the minds of positive thinkers, we’re in the final third of our lives, and the extent of that is dependent on diet and dedication to hours at the gym. So for me, the appeal of a last hurrah is limited.

One of the worries of showing up, of course, is the annoying career competition and basic, overall status in today’s world.

I saw a comic once who talked about getting an invitation to his class reunion that was to be held six months hence and his subsequent anxiety at trying to drum up a career in the time remaining that might be worth talking about. That is, what if you had spent the total of your adult life working in your father’s gas station? And how does that measure up against smug Bob who became a titan at GE? 

Then there’s the business of who married well, and who did not…or even did. Whose kids made the police blotter, and whose made the dean’s list.

These things, unhappily, can be a subtext to it all.

I know: your opinion may be different, insisting that a good time is generally had by all. My own 25th was indeed memorable. But five decades in, it seems, you’re talking pretty close to endgame (this could be the last time we see George and Martha, dear, so try to be civil).  I mean, have you ever heard of a 60th reunion, let alone a 75th? Well, perhaps some day, but after a half-century it’s generally accepted that this one is pretty much adios.

So for mine I did the no-show. Some patriot, me, huh? But I am definitely not against a party with old friends. In fact, some years ago in the small town where I donned a cap and gown, they called for a general reunion of all the classes, regardless of year of graduation and it was amazingly good. You’d walk down a corridor, check out the name tag of a guy passing by, note that his class was 20 years prior to yours, and think, “Wow! That guy is way older than I am. I’m a kid by comparison!”

What people should — and absolutely could — do is simply get out the names now and again and throw a simple party for all who were interested. Pick a theme. Who knows? Get together with your one-time classmates and brag a little, grouse a little, show off your dancing moves, arrive in an outrageously expensive rental car, and for the most part keep your clothes on. And make it terrifically fun…so much so that everyone will say, “Why do we have to wait another quarter-century? Let’s do it again next year! Screw the cost!”

Real life never does, it turns out, run according to a pre-set schedule. We can all attest to that. A small measure of spontaneity can work well with that understanding, and to perfection when you want to throw a party. The idea here is that it’s not over until you say it is, so why be bound by the calendar?