Yesterday, I had the privilege of having lunch with a classmate of mine from high school. I hadn’t seen Frank in 51 years. He was coming into the Los Angeles area with his wife to visit family and friends and then to head off with a couple or two in their RV’s to sightsee some national parks.
Now, really, I didn’t know Frank well at all in high school. He went to St. Anselm’s grammer school in San Anselmo while I came from St. Raphael’s in San Rafael. The two schools were only about ten miles from each other, but us Catholic kids were all going to end up in the same Catholic high school. He was a handsome, rather shy fellow who ended up dating my best friend whose energy was the spark plug for our clique.
Shortly after I signed up for my high school’s Facebook page and subsequent web page, Frank was one of the first to contact me. I was surprised. And I was pleased because I don’t think we said much to each other in the three years he attended Marin Catholic High School. He probably got some gossip from my boyfriend in junior year because they were best friends and I think we probably double dated for awhile. Of course, I wondered why he contacted me but after a few chatty emails about family and life and grandchildren, we were instantly connected. I think people in our class are curious as to how we all turned out.
As I walked around a corner of the Third Street Promenade on Saturday on the way to the entrance of the restaurant, I suddenly realized that I might not recognize Frank. Come on, fifty years, so much gray hair, glasses, widening of the girth, wrinkles, more wrinkles. But when I started to walk toward the entrance, I would have recognized Frank anywhere.
Three hours later, I began to know and understand this kind, generous, embracing human being. What we hit upon as former students together in high school was how the values we learned in our school, at home, and in our social environment have carried us through our lives with strength and generosity.
Here’s how Frank put it: he is a man devoted to time management and making room for all the important things in life that are crucial to his happiness. In order to create his happiness, Frank devotes 30% of his day to work (which includes helping other people and finding time to still be on the emergency ski patrol in his home town), 30% to his wife, three adult children and grandchildren (he created a family blog and they check in with each other once a day, and, most important, Frank gives over 40% of his day to being surprised at what life will bring him. I am impressed with Frank’s very balanced and conscious life.
How Frank arrived at this blissful state is a miracle. He had to overcome a difficult family situation, a mentally ill mother, moving constantly, changing schools, living in an orphanage, and surviving a life that would have done most young men in by the age of 15 when he finally landed at Marin Catholic High School. Frank told me that the turning point for him in was in his sophomore year when a few of the boys in our class offered him a daily ride to school in their car pool. And then he met and started dating my best friend whose humor and warmth gave him confidence. Frank began to come out of his shell and discover the kind and caring man he was going to be . High school was never hell for Frank. He excelled at sports, became quite popular and was able to withstand the sadness of having to move again – this time across the country to New Jersey to face his senior year without his gang of friends. But Frank had grown into a man by then and this time he brought along his self-confidence.
I have been given many gifts in life, but one of the special gifts turns out to be a man whose exemplary life inspired me with his friendship and honesty. I’ll see Frank again next year at our 50th high school reunion, along with other fine men and woman who shared life together at a special time and place.
It strikes me that we should all take a piece of Frank’s journey and find out 40% solution to happiness.