The double-whammy of losing both George Romero and Martin Landau in one day has given me pause for reflection. I'm 64 years old and will hit the big 65 in November. That is a completely mind-boggling concept for me to accept...but it's reality, and I have no other choice. What I can't figure out is why I feel so young! Seriously. And because I have such a strong memory, the days of my childhood and teen years seem very close to me. I've never experienced any kind of illness or traumatic injury; the only operations I've ever had were for tonsils (age 2), appendix (age 13) and a broken wrist at age 12 (which I can remember vividly because the pain was just incredible--yet, it was in July of 1965!). Actually, I'm in pretty good shape, which--on one hand--is just peachy, but it also plugs into the the feeling I have of being "young."
So, despite my feelings, the world continues getting older around me. It really hits home when people I've known (celebrities and "real") suddenly begin looking elderly and frail, and then they pass away. The first person in my life to do that was my paternal grandmother, who died in the fall of 1977. To me, she was always an "old lady" because she looked like the typical grandmother of the 50s and 60s--always wearing an apron, always putzing around in her neat little kitchen. But I remember one day visiting her with my dad, and while they were outside discussing storm windows, I suddenly noticed how old my grandmother looked. This was approximately 1976 or so. It was kind of a revelation for me, actually...and a disturbing one. Within a year, she was gone, and that ended our visits and changed my own life in many different ways.
And, of course, the deaths of my parents affected me in a profound, fundamental way, as well, to the point where I'll never be the same. My dad died in May of 98 at age 74, and my mom followed him almost 15 years later (she was 86). I never saw them as "old," not ever. To me, they were permanently frozen in their early 40s. Still young, still laughing at the Three Stooges and making chocolate chip cookies and decorating the Christmas tree. I've never gotten over losing them.
Then, there were the icons I grew up with, people like Marilyn Monroe (yes, I'm old enough to recall Marilyn and her death), John Lennon, Karen Carpenter, Alfred Hitchcock, Boris Karloff, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (and Vivian Vance and Bill Frawley, too), Fred MacMurray, John Belushi, Jayne Mansfield, Jonathan Frid, Vincent Price (who I absolutely adored. He was "our" horror star), etc. I'd read about their demise and feel a piece of myself dying, as well. Though I never knew them personally, they plugged so completely into my earlier and younger life, that when they passed to another existence, it left an enormous bleeding hole. I remember being quite affected by Karen's death, especially. Only 32 years old, the world at her fingertips, and she starved herself. What a needless tragedy and such an amazing, beautiful voice! And the phenomenon continues right up to Adam West, George Romero and Martin Landau. The really scary thing is, it won't stop until I stop.
I grew up in a pop culture world of movies and television. As a child, in the late 1950s (before going to school), I spent every morning in front of the tube. I'd watch Ding Dong School, Romper Room, and my all time favorite, Captain Kangaroo. I tell ya, when Bob Keeshan passed, it was a black day for me. The Captain had gone, the man who entertained me for years. I even had a little Golden Book about him! Walt Disney was my friend, too, and when he introduced every episode of "Disneyland" and then "Disney's Wonderful World of Color," I felt like he was talking to me directly. When Lassie's end credits rolled, and she lifted up her paw as if to say goodbye, I felt like she was doing that just for me. Sad. Funny thing, this mortality. I look back and see my life stretching out like a string on a kite. But ahead, I see a much shorter string...and what waits at the end of it? I honestly don't know.
Still, I'm optimistic about my own future and have many, many projects to do. I've no doubt I will continue to write and create and enjoy this crazy life until that string runs out. It's no mere coincidence that every article I do, every interview I conduct hearkens back to another time, when things were more perfect and bathed in the golden glow of nostalgia. While the real world continues to spin, and loved ones and icons shuffle off into Infinity, I can find refuge in the world I've somehow managed to save and protect. There, nobody dies.