Elvis Presley passed away on August 16, 1977. While that wasn’t one of his best days, I happen to hold that date in particular fondness.
When my brother and sister were young, they often would visit for a week or so with my husband and I during the summer while they were out of school. It was a novelty for them to spend time in New York, where we lived at the time, and they were good company for us and our new baby boy. We loved having them around, they were fun kids.
The summer of 1977 was a memorable one. The Son of Sam was still at large. There was a blackout that July that lasted for days and resulted in horrific rioting and looting in the city. It seemed as though it was HOT all the time. The Yankees were in their 75th season and they were on their way to another World Series. So when my brother Tom came to stay with us that August, it was only natural to head up to the Bronx to catch a game.
Even though he was just 14, Tom was one of the funniest people I knew. On the train he kept up a running monologue that was hilarious, relating a complicated saga that involved my father, a pile of laundry and an alarm clock that had a short in it. I cannot for the life of me remember how these things were connected, but he had us laughing so hard we were crying. There was an older black lady sitting on the seat behind us, trying to pretend she wasn’t listening to him. She was actually shaking silently with laughter as he pricelessly mimicked my father.
The game itself was a nail biter. The Yankees were leading by 5 until the ninth inning when the Chicago White Sox pulled ahead and the score was 9 to 10. It looked like the game was over. But Chris Chambliss hit a two run homer in the bottom of the ninth and the Yankees ended up winning 11 to 10.
So we were in great spirits as we headed home. On the train, a man was reading the late edition of the Post. It was flopped over so you could only see part of the headline, “ELVIS AT”, but not the other two words. So Tom starts leaning over to try to read the rest. He kept sinking down and down until finally he was practically lying on the subway floor. At that point the man slowly lowered the paper and stared down at him. Without moving Tom looked up at us and said “DIES 42”. And the three of us got hysterical laughing. Poor Elvis.
Of course thirty five years on and Tom is a grown man now, with a family of his own. He is still hilariously funny and witty and I love him. But we had a disagreement ten years ago over my mother’s seventieth birthday party and he hasn’t spoken to me since. I’ve made overtures, without any luck. I miss him terribly.
I note the anniversary of Elvis’s death every year for a different reason than everyone else. I think of a fine, long ago summer evening and three people who no longer exist as they were. I gratefully remember my little brother, my handsome young husband and my sweet naïve self as we shared a few happy hours filled with fun and affection and innocent laughter.
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