3 Things I Discovered at My 50th College Reunion

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

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My wife and I recently returned from a long weekend in upstate New York, where we attended my college reunion. It was a biggie — my 50th — and had been delayed a year due to COVID-19.

The sun was shining, and it felt like spring for the three days we were there, which is unusual for Ithaca, New York, in October. As students, we used to say there are only three seasons in Ithaca: winter, July, and August. The fact that we could walk the campus in shorts and golf shirts made the weekend extra special.

Of course, I don’t walk, except for short distances using two canes and a Bioness L300 Go functional electronic stimulator to counter my foot drop; usually, I ride my lightweight scooter. While riding it around campus and in town, I discovered a few things I didn’t learn in the classroom.

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Good friends will always be good friends

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by the way my old friends treated me, but I was. Nobody seemed shocked by my mobility problems, nor did anyone express false concern or pity about my health. Instead, we picked up as if we had just returned from summer vacation, swapping stories and sharing inside jokes.

Some friends who knew about my MS went out of their way to try to make things easier for me. My buddy Bob, who lives near the college, had a group of us over for brunch and somehow managed to obtain a ramp to bridge three steep steps at the entrance to his home. I didn’t use it, because it was too steep and narrow for me to walk or ride on. Bob understood immediately. He must’ve made a significant effort to obtain the ramp, but he didn’t seem at all bothered that I didn’t use it.

You can’t always get there from here

Some places we expect to be accessible, especially in a socially “enlightened” college town like Ithaca, may not be. Some of my classmates helped me in and out of a dinner venue that was barely accessible by lifting me — while still on my scooter — over a gully in order to reach the dining area. Why hadn’t planners at the college realized that a series of steps as long and large as those in the first “Rocky” movie would be impossible for someone with limited mobility to handle?

But I still know where I’m going

Even after 50 years and a lot of changes to the town, I can still find my way around pretty well. The McDonald’s is still where I remembered it, on Route 13, several billion burgers later. I easily found the campus fire station on west Green Street, where I lived as a volunteer during my senior year. No GPS needed. And the State Diner is still on State Street, of course.

That diner, which used to be open 24/7, was the scene of many late-night meals of eggs, over light, hash browns, and coffee. It’s still open seven days a week, but from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. — sort of like me.

Despite the cognitive issues that many of us with MS face, it was reassuring to discover that I could still get around my college town without the help of Waze or my wife. It was disappointing to discover that accessibility isn’t a given, but learning that old friendships don’t disappear with time was priceless. I think I already knew that, though.

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Cyndi Benedict avatar

Cyndi Benedict

Congrats on the 50th. Having just returned from a trip to North Carolina, you article inspired me to "push back" a bit on the inconsistencies I experienced on accessibility. Granted, NC mountain areas are probably not the brightest choice of vacation spots for persons with mobility issues, but some locales were in fact super helpful...and others looked at you as if you had 2 heads. My "push back" will be to at least make others aware via Trip Advisor and Yelp of the disappointments presented or victories scored at a couple restaurants and hotels. It won't change the world for those who have chosen not to listen, but it's better than nothing.

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Thanks, Cyndi. I'm sorry for the delay in responding. The editor responsible for approving comments was off for an extra-long weekend.

I push back via Trip Advisor, occasionally, but usually just vent here in my column :-).

Thanks for taking the time to drop a note.

Ed

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Lisa Miller avatar

Lisa Miller

Thank you for reminding me that there are many out there who actually care. Many hugs to all of you!

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

And thank you, Lisa, for taking the time to drop a few words. I’m sorry for the delay in responding. The editor responsible for approving comments was off for an extra-long weekend.

I know there are people with MS, far too many, who have lost friends because of our illness. I'm very fortunate that the bonds I forged, decades ago, with so many have lasted so long.

Ed

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Wendy Hovey avatar

Wendy Hovey

Hey, as someone who only moved to Ithaca less than three years ago, this was fun and touching. We're about to try the State Diner again, first time since the fire. I live in a house that is about a C+ in accessibility, if that. Hmmm. I love someone with MS, and more recently someone with Parkinson's, and read your column and others regularly to keep me educated and aware. Thank you.

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Wendy,

So, are you enjoying the hills and the snow depths in your relatively new town??? It remains a special place for me and I hope to return for a more relaxed visit...but certainly not in winter.

I'm glad you think what we write for MS News Today is useful. That's why we all do what we do.

Ed

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MADELINE l NEWTON avatar

MADELINE l NEWTON

sounds like you had a great time ...i think everyone should go to at least one reunion ...i did and had lots of fun....till the next one ...loads of love and happiness in you and your wife's life ...

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Thanks, Madeline. Reunions are all about the people and it seems as if college friendships really last. We did have a blast, even if it was a slower-paced blast than we enjoyed 50 years ago.

Ed

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Dan Pimental avatar

Dan Pimental

I swear there were three guys gobbling down the shrimp at the buffet table who were not in our class. Reconnect with those friendships that have lost touch. I realized that there were a lot of people that I missed, that I didn't know that I missed.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Dan,

I know those guys and one was me!

Absolutely, friendship is what it's all about. I was tempted to blow of the reunion because of COVID super-spreader fears. I'm glad I didn't listen to myself. It was a super good time.

Ed

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