Elvis Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977, 33 years ago this week. That date also was my mother’s 40th birthday.
What’s the connection? This:
This photo of my mother with Elvis was snapped after a concert in Sheffield, Ala., in 1955 — a few months before the young singer from humble beginnings in Tupelo, Miss., would generate the kind of hysteria that would make a semi-intimate fan photo like this almost impossible. Then, he was just a handsome up-and-comer who was part of a multi-act touring show. After the release of Heartbreak Hotel in early 1956, his world — and ours — changed forever.
As for Patsy, the young student from humble beginnings in Haleyville, Ala., obviously didn’t achieve international fame, but she did become an award-winning educator and a wonderful mother. She was only a slight fan of Elvis’ music (I think we owned maybe two of his albums), but his death, falling on the day she crossed over to middle age, clearly affected her. She seemed more stunned than mournful, perhaps because the demise at 42 of the larger-than-life personality who once briefly clasped her hand was an intimate reminder that youth is fleeting, and death can arrive when we least expect it.
Sadly, my mother’s own death came far too early as well — 14 years later, at the age of 54. And unlike Elvis’, it wasn’t sudden; cancer, not an overdose, was the culprit.
These two disparate lives crossed paths just once. Fortunately for me and my family, that moment is memorialized in this photo.
It’s impossible for me to look at it without feeling wonder and sadness at the trajectory of both their lives, especially the woman who helped me become the man I am today.
Happy birthday, Mom. I still miss you.