It probably had something to do with my choosing to watch the last forty minutes of Terms of Endearment. This was a movie that hung around my twenties, back when I was studying film and learning to appreciate screenplays. All those words and acting were making me believe that the worst thing that could ever happen was to lose your daughter. Your wife. Your best friend. Emma's death was a revelation of sorts for me, back in the days before I was truly familiar with loss. Thirty-some years later, I could feel the sharp edges of every departure that came after that. Friends. Relatives. Strangers. The occasional celebrity. Well, more than the occasional celebrity. My wife has become used to my calls from in front of my computer, letting her know who has passed on, the ones that matter. To me.
Sometimes they aren't really a surprise. Finding out that Nancy Reagan had finally just said "no" to this existence wasn't a shock. She was ninety-four. She outlived her Ronnie by a dozen years. It was perhaps more of a surprise to find out that Abe Vigoda went to sleep with the fishes, after years of being presumed dead. Then they left him out of the Oscar Memoriam segment. That was an eye-opener. Or an eye-closer, I suppose.
It was into this fluid stream that the announcement was made that Peyton Manning was retiring from professional football. Actually, it was the announcement of the announcement of what was already essentially a foregone conclusion. He was leaving his post. He wasn't sick. He wasn't going Gipper or Brian Piccolo on us. He was simply moving on to his next career plateau. Broadcasting? A job in the front office? Selling pizza? Peyton Manning is thirty-nine years old. He's got a whole extra life waiting to be lived out there. It just won't be on the football field.
And that made me really sad. Even if this announcement had come while he was still playing for the Indianapolis Colts, it would have been somewhat monumental. He helped make part of the argument about the Greatest of all time a reality. I remember when his boss, John Elway packed it in. He had just won his second Super Bowl, and his best years were sadly behind him. Sadly.
There is no way to equate the loss of a daughter, or wife, or friend with the retirement of a professional football player, except that in the way it denotes time passing. The way things change. New faces become old. Old faces disappear. Peyton Manning was seven years old when Terms of Endearment came out. That's an old movie now. Peyton is an old quarterback. He won his second Super Bowl, and he is packing it in. Now maybe he'll have a chance to catch up on some of those old movies. Don't forget the Kleenex.