This one is going to be going into some weird territory today, gang. As I’m sure everyone at this point is aware, two American celebrities died within hours of each other yesterday. The first that we heard about was Farrah Fawcett. The second was Michael Jackson. Both of them had some measure of influence on my life as a kid. Farrah was, in many ways, the first fantasy of an at the time 9 year old boy. Her poster was the most ubiquitous image in 1976 and 1977, and oh yes, I had a copy as well (I didn’t actually have the poster, but I had a smaller 8x10 that I kept; I wasn never talented enough to win it at the County Fair). Michael Jackson was with me throughout my entire life, it seems; I really don’t remember a time as a kid when I didn’t know who the energetic singer of the Jackson 5 and later of solo fame was. I well remember weekends at the Golden Skate when I’d “rexx” to the Jackson’s “Shake Your Body Down to the Ground” and I also distinctly remember dancing at Maverick’s in 1979 (our town had a “Kid’s Disco” that many of us who were between the ages of 10 and 15 went to… imagine trying to pull something like that off in today’s world and climate). Anyway, “Off the Wall” was released that year, and it was one of my most played albums and I danced to many of those songs that year and for many years that followed. Regardless of the unusual and depressing aspects of his life later, this youthful powerhouse is ther Michael that inspired me to perform, and it's the Michael that I am choosing to remember today.
Today, both of these “icons” of my youth are gone. It feels strange when I see people that were directly visible in my life and who were effectively in my consciousness getting sick, having health problems and dying. It reminds me of the fact that someday, I too will die, and it also reminds me that there are “markers” in my family history that I may well have to pay attention to, and one of those markers may well spell complications for me and potentially end my life. The men on my father’s side almost to a man developed prostate cancer in their later years, as did my father. Many of them died from complications surrounding it; my dad however found it early and took preventative measures. This has taught me that prostate cancer is a strong possibility for me once I hit my 50’s. My mother’s side of the family has had a history of heart disease; my grandfather was turned off like a light switch when he was 72, with massive heart problems… problems none of us knew anything about, because “Pop Pop” on the outside looked the absolute picture of robust physical health and was a man in incredible physical shape. Thus I also have a history of heart disease as a marker in my family. Is it likely that I will be stricken with either or both of these, or is it possible I’ll skip both of them? Hard to say, but if family history is any indicator, the odds of me getting off clean on both counts are very iffy.
Thus this brings me to today, strangely feeling a weird kind of void. I realize they were just people, and they were people I did not even know and never met, but they were part of my childhood and young adult life, and now they are gone. More people from the tapestry of my growing up that are disappearing as time marches on. That’s the way life is and how life works. Someday, most of the people that made up the tapestry of my life, both unknown celebrities and intimate friends, will be gone, and for many, I will be the one ultimately gone from their lives. This is just a reminder to live each day as though it were your last, because for many, their last days come when they least expect it.