I remember the day that Elvis died. Our neighbor, Lisa Marie, who had been named for his daughter, cut through the hedge that separated our yards and appeared at the back door all dressed in black. Even aside from that spectacle, at 15, I was aware enough to get it that something big had happened, but honestly? The guy was my dad's age, and that seemed old enough to die at the time.
Ten years later, when my father did indeed die, here at the beach, after a long illness, 52 years seemed like an awfully short life, and any doubt I may have ever had about that steadily erodes with every passing year that brings me closer to that age.
This week while we've been on vacation, we've received word of the deaths of three celebrities. These days, I'm not a person who pays a lot of attention to celebrity news, but the passing of Ed McMahon and the seriousness of Farrah Fawcett's illness made their way into our meal time conversations. The shock of Michael Jackson's death today at 50 is in another category altogether. The mostly 40-something adults in our group grew up with little Michael and the Jackson Five, Thriller, and moonwalking, and although we weren't really fans, he was an icon of our generation.
In later years, his unhappiness and the strange choices he made seemed to eclipse his accomplishments; in fact, his name was like a universal punchline to my students-- it never failed to elicit a snicker or a giggle-- but I guess it all contributed to the "legend." Even so, I have to wonder if my teenaged nephews will recall his passing at all.
I, on the other hand, would like to revise my own reaction to the death of the King as well as go on the record about the death of his son-in-law, the King of Pop: those guys were way too young to go.