Last night, during the Oscars, it happened again, as I knew it would. The annual “In Memorial” segment where we get to say another “good-bye” to prominent figures of the entertainment industry.
When I was young, there seemed to be a lot of old people dying off — just the way it was supposed to be. Old people died. It was nice to stop, listen to the melancholy music and remember them — more likely, try to place if I even knew who they were, or what they did to make the honorarium. My sadness was as fleeting as the time it took to post each photo. There goes another geezer . . . sad . . . now who’s up for Best Actor? Best Actress (not yet Female Actor)? Best Picture?
As the years passed, there was the occasional young person — victim a of car crash, drug overdose, untimely heart attack, suicide or murder. These vital people, in the prime of their lives and careers, were the celebrities with whom I was more familiar — my contemporaries. When their images flashed, the audience gasped. At home, I shared their grief and disbelief. It felt just awful, so unfair. Thankfully, the young were always vastly outnumbered by the aged. Rightfully so.
The past couple of years I’ve noticed a distressing change in the Memorials. Now the bigger-than-life personalities no longer counted among the living are not that old. Yes, wrinkled, gray, bald and frail . . . but still vibrant with the possibility of more — more years, more work, more Hollywood gossip stories. Why, they were just about my age, give or take a few years! Hardly that old, if you ask me!
And, I didn’t have to struggle to remember who they were, what they did . . . they were intertwined in my own personal memories. Their movies, television shows, records, books . . . were a huge part of my own life, my own memories. My contemporaries began to take their leave in staggering numbers . . . and with them they took my memories, my history, my social connection to the rich and famous. Suddenly, the Memorials were mostly people my age . . . or younger!
Each passing year the Memorials become more sorrowful. I watch helplessly as my world, the world as I lived it, knew it, slowly evaporates. Seeing the losses presented on the big screen just mimics what is happening in my own circle. Slowly but surely I have been losing friends and family. Yes, that is the nature of life, but when one is young, only the old appear to be dying. Once you qualify for a discount at the local theater, it is one’s contemporaries who are filling up the cemeteries.
For me, watching the Memorial segments of award shows places me in a “diet” frame of mind . . . I really don’t want to crush my spirit with a litany of those wonderful entertainers who have left us, but, like being tempted with a chocolate donut, my will-power leaves much to be desired. I’ll keep watching. I’ll keep crying.