I remember my dad reading the paper and saying, "Aw, Peggy Lee died." Or "Aw, Count Basie died." Or "Aw, Cary Grant died."
I remember just how he said it, too: He said it in a muted version of the same tone that he would use to announce that a onetime colleague or an erstwhile friend had died.
What Dad did not do was express outrage or sadness—this is madness!—that we heard all last year on Facebook as aging rock-n-rollers, actors and sports heroes died before they made 90, before they warned us they were turning final and worst of all, and before we did.
When Eleanor "Sis" Daley died some years ago in her 90s—she was Chicago's first lady through the 1950s, 60s and 70s—a young public radio producer ran with her microphone to the home of Studs Terkel, breathlessly asking him for comment.
"Whaddya want me to say, kid?" said Studs, then pushing 90 himself. "That's what old people do! They die!"
I thought of that when a friend blamed 2016 for taking Zsa Zsa Gabor from us.
Statistically, are some of our shared cultural icons dying a little younger than they used to? Some are, I guess. When actor Alan Thicke died at 69 in December, a Facebook friend called it "insane." And I grant you, at very the end of the year, losing Princess Leia felt like the work of Trump. But Carrie Fisher would have been the first to admit that she was hardly The Greatest, and you didn't see me crying when Ali died last spring.
Mourning famous strangers is not a grown-up thing to do. If we thought we knew their spirit, let's carry it on. We have to be the heroes now.
Happy New Year, everybody. Now let's get after it.