Muhammad Ali. Prince. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Patty Duke. Garry Shandling. Nancy Reagan. Abe Vigoda. Raymond’s mom. Frank Drebin’s boss. Grizzly Adams. TV’s Schneider. The Phantasm guy.
For these names and others you’d recognize, 2016 has been a bad year. Whenever three or more well-regarded famous people die within the same year, that year’s name is mud. Everyone curses its name and declares it Worst Year Ever. Add in one or more horrifying wide-scale tragedies, and that year will never be allowed a moment of recognition for all the good it hosted. 2016 isn’t halfway over, but if it were an internet user, it would already be receiving daily death threats and getting trolled into oblivion by millions of typists blinded by fury at all the implied promises broken by that stupid backstabbing jerk Baby New Year 2016. Remember in January when Ryan Seacrest invited us all to welcome that baby with open arms and hearts and hopes? Now WE HATE THAT BABY SO MUCH. THANKS, SEACREST.
Here’s the thing: the years aren’t gonna get any better.
The older we get, the more famous people there are, and the more celebs we come to admire, and the more heroes we eventually attach ourselves to. Sooner or later all those folks age just like we do, worse in some cases. If it happened to the immortal Dick Clark, it can happen to anyone.
Everyone’s odds of dying improve with every passing year. It’s the basics of actuarial life tables for that cross-section of humanity, same as any other cross-section. Future years will see more big names passing away, and it’s inevitable the Grim Reaper will keep landing his magic scythe on names that mean something to us. There’s no sense in anticipating future headlines like “2017: The Year Nobody We Liked Got Dead” or “2018: Thank God Its Worst Victim Was Just a Member of Air Supply”.
Within our own lifetimes, we’ll feel like celebrity deaths are ever escalating, ever worsening, as if Hollywood is somehow in danger of depopulation and celebs might become an endangered species if we don’t start launching entertainment extinction fundraisers or petitioning Congress to declare the War on Years.
Don’t hate the calendar. Hate the mortality numbers.
For others, 2016 hasn’t been such a bad deal. For many, 2016 will be a milestone for their scrapbooks, their certificate collections, their Facebook pages that will circle back around in 2021 and recheck their nostalgia levels for their Best Year Ever. Ask the 2016 babies. The marriages soon to be pronounced. Those with career achievements in the wings. The writers and artists who see their greatest works come to fruition in 2016.
In our case, we have three high school graduates on our hands. Today Anne and I finished attending the last of three Class of 2016 graduation parties for a niece, a nephew, and a cousin’s daughter (whichever convoluted cousin-rank would apply to her). The above photo was taken at the latter’s party in a side room where these four huge balloons had to be kept from blocking the main traffic areas. Fun story about that: her mom ordered them online, drove to the store for pickup, and discovered to her shock she’d inadvertently selected what appears to be the next size below Mini Parade Float. Blame the product measurement numbers for not providing her with proper context, I guess.
All three bright youngsters are loaded with potential and looking forward to all the optional timelines ahead of them. Far as we could tell, none of them were ready to punch 2016 in the face. None of them asked if they could postpone their diplomas till some other, superior year. For them 2016 is the time and place for the next phase in their lives to begin. Yay 2016!
Jim Henson, the Skipper, and Mel Sharples all died the year I graduated. John Candy, Kurt Cobain, and Grand Moff Tarkin died the year my son was born. Christoper Reeve, Ronald Reagan, and Captain Kangaroo died the year Anne and I got married. I treasure those years anyway, as do others. And I recognize some people will always love the year of my divorce or the year of my bankruptcy. Coincidental time frames neither made your good times happen nor plotted the evil schemes against you. They’re the markers, not the Fates.
If your 2016 has rocked, whether with engagement or promotion or project completion, congrats! If your 2016 has sucked, I’m truly sorry, I pray things get better soon, and I pray you find comfort from the pain and suffering. I’d offer you a free four-piece consolation set of giant gold balloons that look like Harry Potter credits if they were mine to give. If it helps brighten your mood, remember a future Baby New Year will someday turn on Ryan Seacrest too, and then he’ll be sorry for what he’s brought into the world.