In all the election craziness and packing up to leave Santa Fe last fall I missed the death of Janet Reno from Parkinson’s Disease at a young 78. So when a piece about her appeared in the year’s New York Times magazine death features a couple months back I was stunned.
As a Floridian for many years, to me Reno was a true original. And a big deal. A graduate of Cornell and then Harvard Law, she was an aggressive prosecutor as state attorney for Dade County (Miami). As our nation’s first female Attorney General under President Bill Clinton, she paved the way for women in law. The people loved her, too. She ran for governor of Florida and, sadly, lost the Democratic primary by a hair to a candidate who lost the gubernatorial race. He was a powerful white guy, but lacked the juice to win.
I think she would have won.
I think what I loved about Reno was that she made no apologies for who she was. Never married, no children, some wondered if she were a lesbian. In response, she described herself as “an awkward old maid.” Reno had a great many friends in Washington and Florida and, as a friend once commented, “her dance card is full.” She was quite a woman.
When I look around at what concerns so many middle-aged and senior women–their appearance and wanting to look younger than they are–I respect Reno all the more because there wasn’t a single superficial thing about her.
What you saw was what you got: no guile, no superficiality. That’s how I remember her.
It’s very…almost confusing…to feel as young as I feel and yet look back at all of the people and places that were part of my everyday life decades ago. When those people die, I think “How could she be old enough to die?” It’s as if I expect them to be a part of my life always and forever.
And then, I’m reminded of my own age. My own mother died when she was only nine years old than I am now. Life truly passes in a blink of an eye.
So, another public figure from my young adulthood has passed. And life inexorably marches on for us all.