We were ready when Roger passed.  Gene Siskel, who passed in 1999 at age 53, paved the way for Roger Ebert.   Roger had been battling cancer for a long time.  The disease had left a mark on his face—cruel or comical; he looked almost like a cherub after the surgery.  He stayed on camera awhile and continued to write his movie reviews without on-camera presentation.  A few days before the end, April 4, the Chicago legend gave his numerous fans a prod, sent us a farewell.  He told us he would be cutting back in his commitments.

Four days later, Annette Funicello also passed at age 70.  Annette had been struggling with multiple sclerosis for years.  Her public appearances had become few and far between in recent years.  I recall a show featuring her co-star in the beach party films, Frankie Avalon, reminiscing warmly about the old days.

 Bam, bam.  Two hits in four days. 

Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, was never meant to live a long life in public.  She was the pre-boomer teen star of the Mickey Mouse Club.  She was the smiling kid with breasts.  She was the most popular Mouseketeer, the only Mouseketeer.  Ok, there was Doreen.

I didn’t much care for the Mouseketeers.  I did not like the Mouseketeer song or the ear-wiggles.  It was a touch too cute for me at age ten.  Disney, to me, was the nature films and the cartoon fantasies.  You could not reasonably dislike Annette.

We sometimes said in the late Sixties: Don’t trust anyone over thirty.  It was a way of managing our future in changing times.  The Cold War was going strong.  John F. Kennedy warned about the Missile Gap in campaign speeches—it turned out we had many more nukes than the Soviets.  But even one nuke going off in your backyard was difficult to comprehend, impossible to accept

We seem to have been given power over time…by our parents, who measured us and fawned over us, the first generation born under the nuclear threat.  It was a conceit, of course, that we could push back time to some safe zone in the future.

At 50, AARP shows up in your mail.  In your 60s, you become officially elderly when you climb aboard the Medicare and Social Security train.  When you hit the big Seven-O, everyone knows you are old.

You can look good at age sixty.  You can stay in shape.  You can’t run wind sprints with a twentysomething, but you can look almost as good.  You had more than a touch of gray hair.  There were products for that.  At 70…the products look more like coffins.

You started paying more attention to older people.  At what age would it still be cool to walk around this planet and show your face?  Maybe seventy was the new fifty?  You paid more attention to oldsters.  Grandma Posey needs a walker and has gobbler flesh at 83, but hey, she still has that pin-sharp mind.  Uncle Frank tools around in one of those motor chairs and puts his choppers in a glass at night.  Boy, if he gets you in his headlock, watch out!

You calculate what you still want to do in life, and what it will take to accomplish those bucket wishes.  Steve Jobs gave us a peek at the far side with his last works: “Oh,Wow, oh, wow, oh, wow!”  The German poet Goethe reportedly said: “More light,” on his death bed.  But I’ll take Steve Jobs’ string of “oh, wow’s.”  Unlike Goethe, he was not asking more from life.  He was reacting—we can only imagine—to some wonderful vision of experience beyond the grave.

When was the last time someone called you “young man?”  When was the first time someone called you “pops?”  When did you begin to notice you were forgetting more than usual?  You got up from your chair, took three steps and stopped—then it came to you and you became animated again.

If your core remains strong, you can imagine winning battles against time on the periphery: find something to fix cracked nails, smooth out crow’s feet, paper over spider veins.  Your mind is still working. All you need is more rest, to shave off a few pounds and you will be good for another 50,000 miles.   Sometimes younger men get out of your way.

 It was only yesterday that you were singing “Yesterday.”

 Seventy is no longer a safe place.  In the lives of Roger and Annette, battling, accepting years of poor health, it was the fullness of their time.

 The balcony is closed.

Copyright by Hudson Owen.  All Rights Reserved.