Elvis Is Still Alive…Kind of


When the church my father was pastoring gave us our first stereo, I was thrilled! Excited!

Sometime previously, I’d started listening to a radio station that played pop music–something I wouldn’t have heard at home otherwise because my parents were big on classical music (on public radio, probably)–and never missed listening to the top thirty countdown on Sunday afternoons.

So, with the gift of the stereo, I was all set to buy some of my favorite 45s. Thanks to a timely birthday party, I had five dollars to spend at an actual record shop. Yes, I bought Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater” and the Everly Brothers’ “Bird Dog,” but I HAD to have Elvis’s “Hard-Headed Woman,” which I still remember so fondly I refer to it on the first page of Do I Ever, one of my quirky romantic novels.

That wasn’t the last of Elvis’s records I bought over the years.

I was no longer much of a fan at the time of his death forty-one years ago however; I preferred his older songs. Honestly, I was probably badly disillusioned at the condition he’d ended up in and at the circumstances of his death.

But several things started working on my mind–and on my point of view. I had a couple of Elvis’s greatest hits albums, and I enjoyed listening to them occasionally.

But I also had at least an in-law relationship with Stan Kesler, who wrote Elvis’s first nationally popular song, “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.” He’s the father of one of my wife’s sisters-in-law, and he’s just the nicest ninety-year-old you could ever hope to meet in spite of bad health, poor vision, and equally poor hearing. And he’d worked at Sun Studio, where Elvis got his start.

How could I possibly not at least have some interest in Elvis because of Stan?

I’d heard the tale years earlier from a co-worker, Sharon, who used to live in Memphis and babysit for a local songwriter. She sent me this reminder of the circumstances a few years ago:

” I met Elvis when I was babysitting for one of his song writers, Stan Kesler (I Forgot to Remember to Forget), in the late 1950’s. He came to the door dressed in all black with the collar of his shirt flipped up and hair in his eyes. He wanted to pick up some music Stan had for him. I made him stand on the front porch while I called Stan to verify, also to get my ‘senses’ back. Elvis was so impressed that I made him stay on the porch that he invited me to dinner at Graceland. I was picked up in a pink Cadillac. After dinner, we looked at photo albums in the music room.”

Sharon’s encounter with Elvis–even her original telling of the story–occurred years before Stan Kesler became an “in-law in-law.” But the fact Sharon had babysat one of my wife’s sisters-in-law made Elvis seem even more down-to-earth than I’d thought previously.

We just got back from vacationing in Memphis, and I bit the bullet–I HAD to see Graceland while we were there and possibly get a fresh understanding of why people are still so crazy about Elvis.

Walking through that mansion and learning about the various things about it that make it so special made me realize that perhaps Elvis hadn’t simply been trying to spend as much money as he could. He put himself into every aspect of his home.

No wonder I couldn’t help feeling a sense of Elvis-ness in every room.

I know Elvis isn’t really still alive, but since he appeared to have been a sincere Christian in spite of the fact that his life didn’t always show it (he’s probably entertaining folks in Heaven right now), I’ve come to appreciate how much more he was and continues to be, even in death, than I’d ever realized.

I have to concede that maybe he is still alive…kind of.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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It’s a Small World After All

I doubt that many people who’ve been to Disneyland or Disney World left without having their fill of the song “It’s a Small World After All.” Personally, I’m still sick of it!

But that doesn’t mean I’m not conscious of “small world coincidences.” Let me share a few I know about.

Karen was one of the young ladies in the Baptist Student Union at Frostburg State College (now University). That’s in western Maryland, if you’re not familiar with it. I graduated in 1968. In 1984, when we moved to Richmond, Virginia, we joined the church Karen’s father had once pastored.

Okay, that wasn’t a huge “small world” illustration. Let me try again.

One Black Friday while I was still working at Target, I’d been stuck in Electronics; I’d never worked that area before. Let me tell you–that’s a busy place on Black Friday! One customer looked at my name tag, which only said, “Roger.” Then she asked, “Is your last name Bruner?”

Lo and behold, she was a former English student of mine from two hundred miles away and more than thirty years after I taught her.

And do you know what was really weird? She recognized me by my voice!

I used to have a good friend in Australia. At that time she was working for an American company that did business in Oz. She told me about a friend she had in America and one she had in South Africa. Somehow she learned that those two people were friends with one another–and it had nothing to do with their friendships with her.

That was pretty wild, wasn’t it?

Then there’s the lady I used to work with. This was at least twenty or twenty-five years ago. She told the story of baby sitting at the home of a song writer in Memphis when the doorbell rang. The song writer was getting ready to go out, so this lady answered the door, only to be facing Elvis face-to-face.

She was so shocked that she closed the door and went to find the song writer, who assured her it was okay to let Elvis in. He was so pleased at being treated like a regular person that he invited the baby sitter to a meal at Graceland. That was before he’d fixed it up as much as he did later.

He sent a limo to pick her up, and after the meal they sat in the entertainment room looking through old photo albums.

In 2003 I married Kathleen. Several years later I learned that one of her sisters-in-law was one of the kids being baby sat that evening while her dad–song writer, musician, and recording engineer Stan Kesler–went out.

Stan is still alive, but in poor health. I feel blessed to have met him.

Do you have a “small world” experience you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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My Dynamic Mother-in-Law

I’ve been blessed with two wonderful mothers-in-law over the years. The first is now deceased and enjoying the blessings of heaven. She was a wonderful woman, and my divorce from her daughter didn’t make me stop loving her.

And now there’s Anna, who has been my mother-in-law for the past thirteen years. She’s ninety now and in reasonably good health. She lost her husband, J.A.–he had only first and middle initials–at the beginning of this year after going downhill almost from the beginning of my marriage to Kathleen,

She loved and supported him in ways Kathleen and I wouldn’t have had the patience to do, even if we had lived closer. But JA’s demise enabled her to do much of her grieving during his final days, especially after he entered hospice. So his funeral was a celebration of his life, complete with military honors.

Many widows at Anna’s age would’ve grieved themselves into the grave. Or at least thrown their hands up in the air at having to fend for themselves.

But not Anna.

She didn’t waste time moving on with her own life. Yes, she gets some help from her two sons–one lives close enough to be more help than the other–but she still lives by herself at Bellevue Woods, a retirement community owned and operated by Bellevue Baptist Church. “Retirement,” not “Assisted Living.” She doesn’t need that.

Although she rarely drives, she does drive to the Methodist church she faithfully attends. She also stays busy in community activities.

When one of Kathleen’s brothers gave his mom a laptop for her ninetieth birthday, she willingly started learning the basics. She still gets excited when she sees a response  to an email she has sent.

She accompanied one of her sons on a road trip from Memphis to Texas to visit family members she hadn’t seen in a while. How wonderful that she was willing to do that once–and to accept the fact that riding that long in a car is not something she’ll do again.

Even more important to Kathleen and me, she will be flying to Richmond (arriving tomorrow) to visit us for Thanksgiving this year. Although Anna must change planes in Atlanta–that’s an ordeal even for younger, more mobile people–Kathleen has arranged for wheelchair transport between terminals.

What’s extra-special about this trip is it’s the first time she’s been free to visit us in the thirteen years Kathleen and I have been married. Not for lack of a desire to come, though. But because JA’s needs tied her closely to home.

I haven’t seen Anna in two or three years, but Kathleen is probably more accustomed to the fact that her mother has aged and slowed down. But that doesn’t change who she is or how I feel about her. Kathleen normally talks to her mom by phone once a week–I hope we can teach her to use Skype while she’s here!–and she always, ALWAYS has Kathleen tell me she loves me.

What more could I ask for in a dynamic mother-in-law?

What about you? Do you have a favorite relative or in-law? How about sharing a little about him or her?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger