As I sat completely absorbed in the musical production Sunday afternoon, I felt a small twitch inside of me. The seed of a question began to sprout in my curious heart, the roots growing way down into my bowels and down my legs and into my feet.
By the time the second act of Sunset Boulevard had begun, the question was growing unbearably larger and more uncomfortable until it nearly burst out of my mouth and shouted itself loudly into the audience…
“JUST HOW OLD IS NORMA DESMOND?”
Is she 70? 80? 90? How old is too old when you are a film star? How old is too old anyway? In my life? in anyone’s life?
Perhaps in the back of my mind I was thinking about birthdays. After all we were attending this show with John and Marlene, a lovely married couple, born within days of each other and this was their “Birthday Weekend”. She being the older side of the couple and celebrating sixty trips around the sun, but announcing that she was actually just turning six. She looks much younger than Mother Goose…
Perhaps I was thinking of my friend, Russ who is celebrating his birthday today… His age is unknown to me, but I know he is closer to 100 than I am.
Perhaps I was thinking about something that Joni Eareckson Tada had said about watching old home movies of times before she became paralyzed. Someone asked her if watching those days made her feel sad.
In classic Joni style (positively saintly and encouraging!), she replied, “No, I wouldn’t want to go back to those days. I’m looking forward to the future when I’m in Heaven and completely well and healthy and strong and walking and running in my perfectly glorified body. I’m closer to the future days than I am to the past days.”
I’m thinking that probably I am closer to Heaven than I am to my younger days as well. When we get into our fifties, we have more days behind us than days before us. Is that obvious to every one of my readers over the age of fifty?
None of us knows how many days we have left to stroll down Sunset Boulevard…
So just how old is Norma Desmond? I waited and waited for an answer to this burning question and finally the young man she had dramatically drawn into her life, Joe Gillis, settled it for me, and I quote:
“There’s nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you’re trying to be twenty-five.”
Of course, fifty isn’t fatal.
And I’m sure Mother Goose has a good forty years of stories yet to tell.
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12