An awkward old maid

March 24, 2017

old-maidIn 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.





24 comments on “An awkward old maid
  1. Stacey says:

    She was a legal, rational force that is surely missed now in these crazy times.

  2. Jay Colby says:

    I was not aware of Janet Reno, but she seems like a wonderful and impactful person.

  3. I have never heard of Janet Reno before this post! So sad that she died so young!

  4. hillsmom says:

    Yes, Carol you are so right. She was the real deal, and so bright. I didn’t know, or perhaps forgot that she had Parkinson’s. A friend of mine who married quite young after two years at Bennington, It must have been during WWII as she’s older than I. after raising her family, she decided to finish college and got a degree from U Penn, and then a law degree. She was a heroine to all of us. After being widowed a few years ago, and retired from her law practice, she moved into a CCRC in the area. Fortunately, she has family and grands to check in on her. Now that dirty rotten disease Parkinson’s has claimed her, too. I stop by every now and then for short visits..maybe bring some chocolates or a flowering plant…we watch the bird feeder right outside her window. Perhaps it should be called a squirrel feeder. It breaks my heart to see how the disease is progressing. I’m not sure if she knows she has Parkinson’s.
    The last time I stopped by she said that she never thought she would be spending her days in bed watching CNN.

  5. Barbara says:

    We could certainly use her now!

  6. The Waco fiasco was on her, but otherwise, I thought she was fantastic. And I too cannot believe that people from my youth are leaving us.

  7. I remember her being very inspiring. I am now an adult, and a paralegal with aspirations of law school in the future, so she was always one to lookup to.

  8. I remember her too – I was just old enough to be starting to care about the news and world events when Clinton was President. I hadn’t realized she was gone – Parkinson’s is such a terrible way to go.

  9. Woman, like Janet Reno, are true treasures. It is a pity that her sexual orientation was even an issue or that she felt compelled to call herself and old maid. It certainly would not have been if she was a man.

  10. When I read comment by some who had never heard of Jane Reno the thought that I may be getting old creeps in. She was an amazing woman.

  11. i didn’t know about her but now i learn that she has was the general attorney of USA and was nominated by president Bill Clinton.

  12. Helene says:

    This is a little very much ribute to a woman list too soon. She was a powerful but humble public servant.

  13. Amber Myers says:

    I remember her. She was a powerful lady, that’s for sure.

  14. Glenda says:

    I remember when Janet Reno passed away. I didn’t know she passed away from Parkinson’s Disease. You are so right, life does pass us way too quickly!

  15. Raine C. S. says:

    It’s amazing when you are inspired by someone you don’t personally know enough to be impacted by their death. I have a few people like this in my life. They kind of become a lesson for who or what you want to be in your own life. She sounds like someone that many women should aspire to be more like. Thanks for the education on this great woman.

  16. Elizabeth O. says:

    It’s tough when the people that we look up to pass away. It will really make you realize how short life is. I am not that familiar with Reno but she sounds like an awesome woman, the kind that we mostly need these days.

  17. Kimberly C. says:

    I recognize her from her picture. Had no idea she had Parkinson’s. Another reminder to live every day like it’s your last.

  18. She sounds like an awesome lady! I don’t know much about her at all so I found this really interesting. We could definitely use her now!

  19. Wow, I’ve not heard of her before. She sounds like an amazing lady. We need more women like her around.

  20. Rosey says:

    That’s terrible. I haven’t heard of Janet Reno, may she rest in peace.

  21. Kelly Reci says:

    One way to avoid being an “Old Maid” is to be around people in social settings. No one says you cannot be alone and independent, but you should communicate with other people to keep current and avoid being lonely.

  22. Se manifique!! I was not aware of Janet Reno, but she seems like a wonderful and inspirational woman!

  23. Cameron says:

    She sounds like an inspirational person! No idea she had passed.

  24. blair villanueva says:

    Ahh she’s an inspiration. I wonder if she made some apprentice to continue her works.

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