The Year of Turning 50 — Facing My Mortality After Tim Russert

Mon, June 23, 2008


I know after reading that headline, you’re probably thinking, “Well, THAT’S a tad melodramatic!”

And as a general matter, I would agree with you. But as I inch closer and closer to the next birthday, the knot in the pit of my stomach becomes larger and more insistent.

Then, Tim Russert died.

He was only 58. That’s not all that far from 49. Granted, I think I’m in better physical shape than he was — I’m not overweight (just a little mushy around the middle), I’m not on any meds and I certainly don’t have the level of stress in my life that Russert probably had.

But given the fact that his age is so close to mine, it’s really given me pause. Especially since we used to see him all the time.

Not, not personally, but in the neighborhood. He was a regular at the pizza place we frequent and we saw him just a couple of weeks before his death when we were out with PunditGirl at one of the spots we like to eat outside before the D.C. summer humidity makes that either impossible or masochistic.

One day here. The next day gone.

It’s so easy to put distance between ourselves and our ultimate fate when we’re talking about celebrities — people we don’t usually get to see up close and personal.

But there’s something too close for comfort about someone dying who we consider to be a contemporary. Maybe I’m fooling myself at 49 that 58 is young, but I need to believe that to get past my own looming milestone. And having someone who seemed healthy and vibrant who is part of the same generation — someone I would see every now and then in person — drop dead at his desk, has thrown me.

Fortunately, having an eight-year-old helps me stay in that comfy state of denial most of the time — I don’t have the energy to think about time marching forward while I’m driving to day camp or to the pool, putting together the latest craft project or helping PunditGirl with three digit addition and subtraction.

It’s just going to take me a little while to find my way back to that zone.

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7 Responses to “The Year of Turning 50 — Facing My Mortality After Tim Russert”

  1. JerseyMomma Says:

    I don’t think your being melodromatic– sudden and unexpected death at 58 yrs old is a scary thought for anyone. Thank God for all of the reports that Americans are living longer than ever before– helps take the sting out of that tragedy!

  2. bethiclaus Says:

    While I tend not to think much about dropping dead – I’m in my twenties – Tim Russert’s sudden and untimely death certainly does make me think. After all, he was young and vibrant, or at least semmed to be. For me, it’s mostly thoughts about my parents, who are exactly his age, and the fact thatr though they’re young, anything could happen.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Well, if you make it till 50, you’ll have lived 5 full years longer than my mother, who died of brain cancer about a month after she turned 45. There is, frankly, no such thing as a guarantee.

  4. Caroline Says:

    There was certainly SOMETHING about Tim Russert’s death that stopped ppl in their tracks. You connected with him b/c, for a celeb, you saw him fairly frequently – he seemed a part of your ‘hood. I think that’s it. We ALL saw him all the time on MS/NBC. He made the rounds and always remained steady as our level headed voice of reason. He was a nice regular guy that was always there – and now he’s not. But Peter Jenning’s untimely death didn’t even warrant this sort of shock or mourning. There was something about this man. And I think about my father, overweight and in his late 60s (whose own father passed after a heart attack) and think “my God, he’s living on borrowed time.” I don’t have much of a point here I guess except to say the death of a good guy, a man apart of all our “‘hoods”, is gone and we are taking stock in what we don’t have and what we might not have tomorrow. I’m with ya.

    Anyway, I say just keep telling yourself that 50 is the new 40, reconnect with your own “inner” punditgirl, and you’ll be fine.

  5. anniegirl1138 Says:

    We kid ourselves about time and aging. 58 is not young. It is on the high side of middle age, if that.

    My husband asked how old George Carlin was and I told him “71″. He thought that was young.

    My first husband died at 32. Now that was young.

    A friend’s son was murdered at the age of 3. That was too young and too tragic.

    It’s matter of perspective but to have lived 58 years and enjoyed your life and career (because it seems as though Russert did) is luck we should all have.

  6. Karoli Says:

    I feel exactly the way you do. I’m 50 on August 24th, and sometimes get swept in a wave of anxiety (or depression) over it.

    For someone who has always felt much younger than her age, 50 is weighing heavy on me. Or maybe it’s menopause.

    Whatever it is, I don’t like it.

  7. TEOM Says:

    I’m about to turn 50 too, and I have been looking around for that cozy sense of denial. My memory is not what it once was, though, and I forget where I put it.

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