Recently, I’ve been feeling nostalgic and watching old episodes of Siskel and Ebert on YouTube, having regularly watched the various incarnations of their show when they were still new, going back to the 1890s or thereabouts. Siskel died in 1999 (Ebert was felled by cancer in 2013), so it’s closing in on 25 years since they last appeared together reviewing films.
One of the things that struck me in watching them, captured in that timeless way old TV shows have, is how life is as much about loss as it is about anything, especially as you get older. Your life is framed increasingly by losses. Sometimes they are cruel–how Ebert must have felt to lose Siskel at the young age of 53–and sometimes they’re just silly, like losing your hair. And sometimes the losses simply have that weight of inevitability to them, as when an old actor or musician succumbs to old age and your mind shifts from thinking of them as here and now to being in the past, forever locked there.
But the losses can be other things. Your childhood home might be replaced by an apartment building, your old neighbourhood all but unrecognizable as time sweeps away what once was. You realize that the pace of change is relentless, that so many things we take for granted as always being there are far more ephemeral than we realize.
The McDonald’s in Duncan seems eternal, though.
I remember riding my bike through the freshly-paved parking lot with a friend the day before it opened in the summer of 1978. It’s still there today, 45 years later, though it looks contemporary, thanks to a remodel a few years back. No matter what else changes in Duncan–and Google’s Street View confirms that so many things have since I moved away way back in 1986–there are some places that seem to just stay on forever.
I don’t really have a neat wrap up for this, and I’m not saying getting older is a downer because your life becomes filled with all the things you lose, it just struck me tonight when watching Siskel and Ebert dissing on what would be Gene Wilder’s second-to-last movie as one of the worst of 1990, that so much of our lives is impermanent, even as we don’t realize it until much later, when we begin to look back.
Except that McDonald’s, of course.