I still head to Graceland when life is too tough

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18 August 2017 8:25AM

It is 40 years this week since Elvis Presley died.

Forty years! Where on earth has that time gone? Both my kids are now older than he was when he died at the age of 42. It is absolutely mind boggling!

It was a Saturday morning at boarding school and I was washing my hair when I heard of the assassination of President John Kennedy. I was 13 years old.

I was 27 when Elvis died. I worked from home in those days, combining working for a community paper in a small town in New Zealand with being a mother to kids then aged three and five.

I was ironing when my friend Joyce rang me. Did I know Elvis had died?

I turned on the radio (no daytime TV in those days). I listened and cried and my iron blew up! I nearly ended up in the Promised Land with the King!

Forty years! I repeat – where has it gone? I was born in 1950. The war ended in 1945 and, to me, was ancient history. Mum used to talk about rationing in the UK during my lifetime.

I came across a letter once she had written to her mother when we first emigrated to what was then Northern Rhodesia. She couldn’t get over all the goods available in shops and the fact she could buy them in any quantity she wanted.

Suddenly five years ago is the click of a finger.

The year Elvis died was the same year that the first Star Wars film was released.

The Bee Gees were asking How Deep is Your Love? and the Eagles were warning us not to stay at Hotel California.

Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, was a pin-up for young and not-so-young females who had never been interested in politics in their lives (and his son, Justin, is doing the same thing now!).

We never imagined, in 1977, we would be able to talk to people, see them and look up worldwide information on a small hand-held device.

We have had disappointments, mind you. Didn’t we all believe that by 2015 we would be flying with the aid of our jet packs?

It is so hard to believe the changes we have seen. For me, of course, there has been one constant and that is Elvis himself.

He came with me to boarding school and comforted me in my loneliest moments. When I was miserable he sang sad songs to me. When I was happy or excited, he had the right song for the moment.

When I was nothing he made me something. I was the reason the nuns allowed us to go and see Elvis movies at the local theatre. I was the one the assistant at the record shop kept posters for. I was the one who made a career choice partially on the certainty that one day I would interview Elvis.

I never did, of course. I never even saw him live.

My friends at school bought into the idea, however, and encouraged me to write to him. I never did that either, but that was to protect him. I knew he received thousands of fan letters. I did not imagine he would ever reply or even see mine and I didn’t want other people to think he didn’t care!

I know it is crazy but the opposite is true – he kept me sane. I have family and friends whose lives were badly affected by long absences from home (we only got home twice a year) and from the lack of empathy, sympathy or warmth that the nuns so often seemed incapable of giving.

I survived. I had a whole “other” life where I lived in Graceland with Elvis. I did write letters to him, but only in a journal. I would pour out my problems and then write his replies. It’s amazing how well he understood me!

I say I am not crazy, but I am a 67-year-old woman who still heads “home” to Graceland when life gets too tough in the real world.

Whatever the state of my sanity, I can only end by saying: The King is dead. Long live the King!

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