A few months back, during a get-together at the house, I glanced around the room and came to a disconcerting conclusion. While I had been busy raising children, tending house, going to work, and establishing a life, I also had been slipping into the role of elder. The trek from the children’s table to holding-down-the-fort generation was now complete.
Never is this clearer than when making pop culture references to my kids. Actually, not even just to my kids, but to anyone under the age of 20. Maybe even under the age of 30.
I remember mentioning Marty McFly to one of my co-workers a few years ago and her response was, “Who?” I almost fell on the floor. I definitely contemplated my parenting failures when just last week my youngest son asked, “Who is Kurt Cobain?”
“We’ve taken over for our parents.” I told my husband later that evening. “We’re the ones who listen to old music and tell people to turn the radio down. We’re officially old.”
He was surprised by my surprise. After all, the passing of the baton hadn’t happened overnight. It had been a long (and expected) process, just one I didn’t want to acknowledge.
I felt a similar twinge of panic last week, when I read a piece online about celebrities who have died in 2019. Some of them I hadn’t thought of in years, but their obituaries definitely pushed my rewind button. Illness may cue us to our mortality, and gray hair might chip away at our vanity, but the death of those who once entertained us is really reminds us how we’ve been around awhile.
The one that really made me step back was Luke Perry. He was most recently Archie Andrews’ dad in the show Riverdale, but to people in my age bracket he would be forever known as Dylan McKay from Beverley Hills 90210. He died in March after suffering a massive stroke. A what? A stroke? People my age don’t have strokes, I thought.
And then I realized, yes, they do. Not only that, but he was 52, so more than a decade older than me, another hard realization. I remember when I found out he was cast as someone’s dad on Riverdale and thought to myself, “That’s not a great casting choice, he’s not old enough to have a kid that age.” Oh, but he was. I just couldn’t look at him and see anything other than 21-year-old Dylan McKay.
Staying that same lane, I was also surprised to hear of the passing of another 90210 alumni, Steve Sanders’ dad, played by Steve Allen. He starred as Edward Quartermaine on General Hospital as well, but he was most familiar to me as Rush Sanders. My first instinct was to wonder if some sort of accident or tragedy had taken place; it seemed impossible that he could have died of old age.
Speaking of which, I was also surprised to hear of the passing of Mean Gene, a staple of the WWE, always known to me as the WWF. He was a ringside commentator and had the best interviews with all the wrestlers. He hadn’t changed his looks in three decades, so I had no idea he was 76.
Devin Lima passed away from cancer at the age of 41. He will not be recognizable to most, unless you’re someone who loved boy bands, but he was 1/3 of the group LFO, who was responsible for the song “Summer Girls” back in the 90s (the one that sang about Abercrombie & Fitch). This was particularly unfortunate because one of his other bandmates, Rich Cronin, died of leukemia a few years ago at the age of 36. I picture both of them as young, healthy 20-somethings from their music video, it’s strange to think they’re both gone.
I guess I wasn’t all that surprised to hear about Katherine Helmond, Mona from Who’s the Boss. It stands to reason that anyone who played a grandmother on television back in the 1980s would be getting up there in years. Still – Mona died, guys!
All these people who populated by childhood and teenage memories are gone, like so many other icons of my youth, and it’s something that turns me on my heels a little. I guess it’s time to watch some re-runs, make a new playlist of old music to listen to, and accept that time slows down for no one.