Column by Richard Sternberg
Sometimes, out of the worst experiences something good happens. At the end of my column on MASH last week, I mentioned that I have learned about creating family where you found it. Amazingly, because of COVID, I found my family that I wasn’t even aware of for the past 45 years.
At the very beginning of the COVID epidemic in March 2020, a friend of mine from college who lived on the same dormitory floor started groups who met on Zoom. This was for alumni of our era. She knew people from a few years before she started and other for a few years after she graduated. She put together a group of graduates from 1968 through 1982 and then divided them into three groups. My group, classes of 1974 through 1978, decided to meet monthly. We turned out to be the most active of the three groups. This kept up for the last 30 months. Over time, as we brought each other up to speed on what had happened in our lives, more than one of us came to the conclusion that indeed we were a family, sometimes dysfunctional, sometimes at odds with each other, but isn’t that what a family is about anyway? You could actually feel and hear the love between people, many of whom had no contact with each other for 45 to 50 years.
My living group was about 30 people who lived on two wings of one floor of a building that was set out as suites or apartments. The suites varied in size from four to eight students. There was a small apartment for a graduate student or junior faculty member who acted as an advisor/tutor. Each suite had a full kitchen, a large living room/dining room area, along with individual rooms; singles for the upperclassman, and doubles for the freshman, and a communal bathroom. It was like living in an apartment, but with the difference that at least on our floor the doors were left open so that people wandered in and out of each other’s suites, sometimes each other’s rooms.
Six months ago, the group of us thought that it would be a good idea if we physically got together. COVID seemed to be easing and we decided that we really wanted to see each other. Some of us who became close actually never had met each other in person because one did not start until the other had graduated. Nevertheless, we supported each other. One member of the group, who I had never met in person before, actually came to visit me when I was hospitalized last year near him.
The person who originally had the idea of doing this started working on the reunion—not a reunion of people of one class-year, but people across classes. Finally, this came to fruition this past weekend. Forty people stretching over 13 years of those who lived on this dormitory floor came together and returned to the building in which we had lived. We are all very grateful to the current Head of House, who helped us immensely putting this together.
Not only did we reconnect with each other, but by the intervention of the current Head of House we created relationships with the students currently living there. We were very pleasantly surprised to find that they kept many of the old traditions alive and were as happy to meet and talk to us as we were to talk to them. Connections were made and many of my group of alumni plan to stay in contact and support their living group activities. They are almost like adopted grandchildren.
Sometimes, you can go home again. This weekend was clearly one of the happiest I’ve had in many years. Something good came out of this terrible pandemic for me.