Back when I worked at "Wrinkle City" (A/K/A the retirement community), our security manager had a skewed opinion about the health of the residents: if they didn't die around the New Year, they would be good until summer. And statistics say his opinion is correct-January IS the month when most people die-followed by December. Which is probably why my social calendar has been filled recently with more wakes than parties. These wakes are stressing me out, and it has nothing to do with who is in the casket.
When I'm at a wake seeing old friends I haven't seen in years, I get flashbacks to my 20th class reunion. At my 10th reunion, I only cared about knowing how many people had gotten married. But at the 20th, well, I truly felt time starting to pass me by. After 20 years, my life was shaped, the mold set, the direction fixed. I changed physically; the years showing on my face and body. I had a career where I traveled to Europe before marrying Wingman and having my kids, but so many of my classmates had more. Much more.
Pulling out the memorial cards in my black coat pocket, I've been to a full house of death since right before Christmas-three men and two women. True, they all lived good long lives, and were probably well-prepared for Judgement Day but that didn't stop the mourners from their own judgement. Of me. I went to one where the person I went to pay my respects to, wasn't there. I didn't know that he was estranged from his family, and one of his sisters played nasty with me probably to get back at him. I spent the short time I was there cowering in a corner, (my own doing) talking to a friend of Wingman's, who invited me to Wingman's upcoming class reunion. OK, I'll call that one a draw. Then I attended two, where the kindest comments ranged from "not everyone can carry off gray hair like you" to "so...you're not working right now? Call my secretary and we'll do lunch. Now that I'm CEO of XYZ company I'm usually too busy to get out, but I'll make time for you." (snide aside: yeah, but not too busy to be banging a chick your son's age).
For the last couple, which were last week and last night, I used "the best defense is a good offense" theory. Control top pantyhose, modestly sexy black suit, makeup including concealer for the bags under my eyes. I greeted some of the most critical mourners with "I'm so sorry we haven't stayed in touch. You know, with Wingman dying and the house flooding, I just haven't had time to do much else but be my own GC rebuilding my home. Oh, but I did go to Korea to see my son and his family. Did you know that I became a grandmother TWICE this year??? I put them off so they didn't ask about the career or lack of it, the frustrations, and yes, even the loneliness.
I read an article about passive-aggressive behavior people experience at reunions, which is similar to what I feel at wakes. Besides the obvious, which says not to think of it as a competition, the article states that you should be mysterious (huh?), bury the hatchet if you're holding a grudge against someone and try to renew old friendships. Oh yeah, it's best to take it easy on any former love interests (the ones you dumped) and don't go to it with any expectations (about hooking up with the ones you never got).
Which isn't to say that I haven't looked at these wakes as, well, shall we call them "opportunities" to see what's out there. Since I have a friend who attended a wake and met her fiance there, I ignored the reunion advice about looking up/hooking up.. Last night, a decent looking gray haired man entered who I remembered from high school. He played in a band, had big rocker hair way before there was 80's big hair and lived next door to my regular babysitting clients. I said hello, and told him who I was, which didn't draw even a small spark of recognition from him. Strike one. He was wearing a Sargent Pepper-style velvet jacket which had seen some better years. Strike two. He told me his band broke up after recording an album and touring all over the United States, and he's now semi-retired working as a courier. Hmmm, interesting past, currently has a job so not a deal-breaker. Then his phone went off, and he said that it was his hospital reminding him about his blood transfusion for chronic blood cancer. Oops, well, will you look at the time...gotta go, see ya.
When Wingman died, so many people attended the wake that it was a big blur. But I remember each and every high school friend who showed up, both Wingman's and especially mine. It made no difference to me if they were millionaires or paupers, fat or thin, married, divorced or never married-they were there when I needed them. And I would never, ever judge someone who took the time to comfort me.
I lie. At Wingman's repast, one of his friends hit on me to go out to dinner. He commented on my nice big home and casually mentioned that he had been living in his car, but had recently moved home with his parents. Without a second thought, I judged him to be a complete and total loser.
And I'll probably run into him at Wingman's reunion. Let the stress begin again.