I'm always amazed at how, when a famous person dies, it can shake you to the core, even though it's not a person you knew personally. When someone is larger than life and as famous as God, it's hard to believe that it's possible for them to actually leave this world.
I was already shaken over Farrah; anytime a well-known woman dies of cancer I feel a twinge of worry with my sadness. When, hours later, I heard on the news that Michael Jackson was gone...it didn't seem real. How could the King of Pop, simultaneously one of the most innately talented humans ever born and the butt of a million jokes, be dead at 50?
Yes, he had become unrecognizable. Yes, he probably was guilty of some kind of crime against children, though not convicted. Yes, his star had faded. But the Michael I'll remember, the Michael I think so many of us kids of the 80s will miss, was a man-child blessed with the kind of talent and charisma that either makes the person a king among men or an insane wreck. Sometimes both, each in their turn.
I really think that the universe can give someone such an incredible gift that their human brains and bodies and souls cannot deal with it. Watch Michael as a kid singing "I'll Be There" or "ABC" with The Jackson Five. It goes beyond the term "child prodigy."
Watch him years later moonwalking across the stage at the Motown 25th anniversary show. Listen to "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and try not to dance. Just try it. He was magic. It looked like he could walk on water.
Michael's magic got me through one of the toughest times in my life. I watched the famous Motown anniversary performance from my great-aunt Bertha's living room while my mother talked and drank coffee in her kitchen. I bought the Thriller album from a Barbourville TG&Y store with quarters, nickels, and dimes that my grandmother had saved for me for a month and gave me to go get that record I kept talking about. I listened to it over and over with my sole friend from that time, a girl who loved up the road from Mamaw's trailer and who didn't ask questions about our family situation. She just asked me to try to moondance with her.
For my birthday, I got some silver socks and a single white glove. From the thrift store and pawn shop attached to our laundromat, I bought a pair of Michael Jackson sunglasses in their own leather case with his picture on it with some money my mother probably couldn't afford to give me but did anyway, knowing that it thrilled me to squeals. Right before school let out and we moved back to Erlanger, Mom and I found an imitation "Beat It" jacket (in vinyl, not leather) on a clearance rack at a Sycamore clothing store for $5. Even though it was May, I wore it to my last days at Lay Elementary where I actually got envious looks from the well-to-do girls who had made my 4th grade year little short of miserable.
After dinner tonight, I got out my Thriller 25th anniversary CD with the DVD of his most famous videos from that album. I played the "Thriller" video, watching Ainsley's reaction, worried that she would be scared.
During the zombie dancing scene, Ainsley looked at me and grinned. And when it was over, she gave it her highest praise:
"Mommy, play it again!"
At least we'll have those videos of the young man in the cool jackets who could dance and sing like no one else. Forget the baby-dangling, forget the horror-movie nose, forget the Jesus Juice. Remember the scary-talented, handsome young man with the sparkling socks, penny loafers, and single glove who moonwalked across a stage and into a generation of young girls' hearts.
And who still has the power to mystify our little girls by dancing a contagious dance with a chorus line of ghouls.
Goodbye, Michael. Rest in the peace you didn't have in this lifetime. And sing and dance with the angels.