Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rest in Peace....

In the Harry Potter books J.K. Rowling created Deathday Parties. It is a day for the characters in her books that are ghosts to celebrate their deaths. Rancid food, other ghosts, stories about how you died sort of like a birthday party just more depressing. Usually these are attended only by other ghosts. The living tend to find them a bit gloomy and well, smelly. Or at least she thought she created Deathday Parties. In fact Elvis fans have been throwing a Deathday Party every year for the past 34. They actually celebrate all week culminating in a candlelight vigil on the 16th. I don't think they have rotten peanut butter and banana sandwiches though.

When I was in my early teens I have a strong memory of coming home from camp one summer. We had been away all week and as we were unloading the bus in the church parking lot Caryn got the news that her hamster had died while we were away. She turned around locked eyes with Todd and spat..."Nothing good happens on August 16th. My hamster died, Elvis died and you were born!" I laughed and I have never forgotten his birth-date or her venom!

My mother is a crier. You could always guarantee she would cry when she would pick you up at the airport, or drop you off. When there was something that made her sad or made her happy. At funerals, at weddings, at baby showers. She just is a crier. I am the same way. A Kleenex commercial can just wreck me. But there were two times in my childhood when I remember my mother crying and it wasn't just an, "oh there she goes again," moment but a true, "oh no!" moment. One was when my Aunt Dorothy called to say Grandpa was dying. Mom curled up in Dad's lap and just cried. I can still see them in my head. The chair Dad was sitting in, how small my mother looked in his lap, one of my father's hands patting her back the other shooing us kids out of the room. The other time I remember my mother crying like that was when Elvis died.

When I was 5 the Aloha from Hawaii concert was broadcast. I can remember watching it with my brother and sister and my mother. And my mother singing along to every song. Years later when I visited Graceland I stopped in front of the display that showcases the American Eagle jumpsuit he wore during that special and was transported back to sitting on my knees in front of the television watching him sing and dance and how happy it made my mother to watch. I think Dad was at work, or just not interested. He was not, as one of my friend's father was, jealous of Elvis or of the fact that my mother loved him, but he wasn't as crazy about him as she was either. I think he was just amused by it all.

When I was teenager I remember asking my mother why she had loved Elvis so much and I remember her saying that he was just a beautiful man to look at, but he also seemed like someone that needed taken care of. And of course she just loved his music. Now as a teenager the images I remember most of Elvis were the later years, the bloated Elvis. The drug addled shell of what he used to be. I also remembered Saturday's spent watching all of the Elvis movies that seemed to be on constant replay when I was little. Not genius work, but a lot of fun when you are a preteen and not yet jaded by how cool you think you are. He seemed like a giant goofball in those flicks. Not like someone that you would maintain a lifelong crush on.

But because my mother loved Elvis I knew all of his songs. And because my mother loved Elvis I loved Elvis as well. And when I got a little older and started reading more about him and seeing other pictures of him I got it. He was a beautiful man. And he did project an air of vulnerability about him. And when you read about the things they used to do in Memphis, racing go-carts down the street in front of Graceland, going in and buying new cars for everyone just because it sounded like fun, and yes even the drug issues later I think you get a picture of a man who really did have a childlike aspect to him and I think those of us who aren't usually attracted to the "bad boys" still have a soft spot for the ones that need us. And Elvis projected that feeling of needing someone.

Well that, and he was beautiful to look at.

So more time went by and I became a bigger Elvis fan as I got older. As I mentioned, I have been to Graceland. I loved it. The boys humored me and all of my oohing and aahing but Brent admitted that being in Graceland, seeing all of the memorabilia, the fans, that that was the first time he realized how big Elvis really was in his prime. He was a superstar like we don't really make now days. It was just different. He was new, he was interesting, he lived a large life and he made a splash.

For those of you that are friends with me on Facebook you know I kicked off Elvis week this year by posting a favorite song and I had planned on posting something every day. Laying in bed on day 3 of Elvis week before going to sleep I started to think about things I might post for the rest of the week. And I thought about my mother and her love for Elvis. And then the date struck me. August 16th. It will be the two month anniversary of my dad's death as well. I started to cry and lost any chance at real sleep for that night. My mother might have loved Elvis but she LOVED my father. And I guess that's why he was never jealous over her crush on The King. He knew that he had come first (they were married in 1952, Elvis' first hit was in 1956) and that he continued to come first in my mother's heart.

Well that and my father was a beautiful man to look at.

  Dad and Mom 1952

Rest in peace to the love of my mother's life. Oh and to you too, Elvis.

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