A Father's Journal: 'Burning Love' stll flickers from the age of Elvis
I was waiting in line at the People's Bank in Stamford last week when I saw an elderly lady talking to the teller in a manner that elderly ladies often do. I had a few minutes so I craned my neck and listened. At first I was a little sad. The first line I heard was, "All my friends are dead."
She went on to explain that her husband was also dead, and that the only people who called her were occasionally her kids, but mostly telephone solicitors.
There were a few people ahead of me; it was one of the rare times I didn't mind standing in line. I was proudly eavesdropping. Her voice was quite loud so maybe she didn't mind me listening. She went on and on about the 1950s. That decade was her best time on earth. She had met her husband and, if you can believe her memory, she was head over heels in love. "The '50s were great," she said. "We were young. we were in love and we had Elvis."
After the Elvis line, I didn't even care about my banking. I just wanted to hear about being in love in the '50s. Another teller called me. I was torn, but I had to deposit some checks so I stepped up and was swallowed back into my own day-to-day minutia. When I left, the woman was still at the counter doing her banking. I was tempted, but I thought it might look a bit creepy to have a 6-foot-5, 270-pound man lurk next to her and listen. I moved on.
This last week, the line kept coming back to me. "We were young, we were in love and we had Elvis" -- it sounded like lines from a song by Tom Petty. (It wasn't. I looked it up). I started conducting an informal poll. Was there a time like that that any of my friends had in the past? A time they were head over heels in love and remember a musical sound track that accompanies the slide-show memories in your head? Less than half of my peers in my unscientific study thought they were head over heels at one point and remember the songs of that time.
When I first met my wife, I really was head over heels. Early on in our courtship, we went to a Tom Petty concert. Laura scored us Skybox tickets through a client. That was fun, but I don't think of it as a soundtrack of our early time together. We did get free food in the Skybox, and they served me as opposed to waiting in line with the riff raff. Tom Petty has often said that Elvis was the soundtrack of his early years.
My wife and I were young and in love, but we didn't have Elvis.
When I was a teenager we took a trip with the family to visit the relatives in Iowa. Many of the cars we owned were in bad shape and this one must not have had a radio. My brother Patrick remembers it better than me. We drove through the desert of California, across the southwest to Iowa. On our arrival, the first thing the relatives said was, "Elvis is dead." Apparently, he had been dead for several days and we had neither radio nor air conditioning during the hot muggy summer of Elvis' death. It was hard for us to hear about the death that August of 1977 because a week with the windows rolled down had left us almost deaf. I was young, deaf and had never been in love.
Years later, after I had been in love and had kids, my other brother proposed another road trip. He wanted to make it to all 50 states before he turned 50. Would I accompany him to his last state, Arkansas? Hell, no. He countered how about Memphis, see Elvis' Graceland and then drive over to Arkansas for 15 minutes? Kiss the ground in Arkansas and come back? I was in, even though I am not that big an Elvis fan.
We drove to Graceland in air-conditioned comfort. I saw his plane, some Cadillacs and the Jungle Room. A little underwhelmed. By that time I was a middle-aged, jaded man.
When I told my wife about the woman at the bank she thought it was a sad story, and maybe it is. But I think it's a happy story of a hopelessly-in-love young couple listening to Elvis. There are many sadder stories than that.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday. He can be reached by email at Tlawlor@mcommunications.com.