I don’t want to get all 90210 emotional on people. And the truth is, I didn’t watch a whole lot of 90210 as it was actually happening. I was in my second year of college when the series first aired. TVs were sparse in college dorms back then. The only thing my dorm could agree on was Days of Our Lives, and that practically ruined my life. I’m thankful to say I kicked that habit. If there were girls watching 90210 in the evenings, I wasn’t aware of it. I was a nerd. I was studying.
But even if you didn’t watch 90210, you knew about it. You knew the actors. They were all over the teen magazines. Guys in high school and college were desperately growing their sideburns and trying so very, very hard to be Luke Perry and Jason Priestley. This show was all the talk. In office spaces. Classrooms. On ball fields. I remember sitting in a Creative Writing class as a junior at Florida State and hearing about Dylan and Brenda. More than I even wanted to.
Since then, I’ve watched some reruns. I’ve seen Luke Perry in 8 Seconds and on a corny romance on my beloved Hallmark. I’ve always been thankful that I was not in high school alongside the 90210 characters. It brought teen sex to the forefront of everyone’s minds and suddenly girls who didn’t really want to yet felt like they had to now. Because Dylan and Brenda had. It changed things.
Luke Perry died yesterday morning from the effects of a massive stroke he had last Wednesday. He was 52. I turned 48 fairly recently. 52 does not seem like stroke age to me. 52 is like I’m-getting-myself-together-pretty-good-now age. Part of the reason America is mourning him relates to what he represented and who he was. The other part of that mourning relates to who we are, how old we are, and our fears that if he wasn’t spared, how might we be? When Michael Jackson died at 50, it was because he had a full-time Dr. Jeckyl administering ridiculous amounts of life threatening drugs just to get him to sleep at night. That didn’t hit close to home for me.
But a stroke.
Coming out of nowhere.
That could happen to anyone.
And anyone is me.
Jill Filipovic of CNN said that “his death is a reminder of a youth that is receding in the rearview mirror, even as mortality is approaching way too fast.”
What do I see when I look in my rearview mirror? My own youth, yes. That one doesn’t bother me at all, actually. I am strangely unconcerned with the passing of my own youth. I have so many good, rich, fun memories of that youth. And we’ve all seen what my youth LOOKED like. It’s not hard to leave that behind. What I see most powerfully in that rearview mirror is the receding youth of my children. That’s the one that puts a lump in my throat. So little time left with the boys. So many things I’d do differently, more gently, or with more structure and discipline if I could just back that car up again.
But I can’t back that car up again. There’s no reverse.
The CNN editor, Jill Filipovic ended her Luke Perry article with this:
We may not end up walking as far as we would like. Are we happy with the trail we have left behind us?
The good news is that, as of now, there’s still forward motion. There’s still a road ahead. Where I drive today is what I’ll see in that rearview mirror tomorrow.
I’m sorry Luke Perry’s road ended. He was a positive force. But I think I’ll take it as the gift of a glance into my own rearview mirror and a focused determination to drive on.