I didn't see it coming. I knew my life was different, but I was so happy after the shock.
17. Psychotic Reaction
I was in front of the television that Thursday afternoon when the news broke: Michael Jackson was dead, No final hurrah on stage at the O2 in London, which would have been the culmination of months of production rehearsals. The King of Pop died on June 28, 2009. No more new Michael songs, and no new scandals. His time on earth had come and gone. He was fifty. I am three years older. The only times I had considered death, my own death, was when I was ill in the hospital with pneumonia. when I received "let's check this out more" on a breast exam, and the times I had thought seriously about ending my life all by myself.
How could he be dead? We grew up together. We experienced the passage of time from a similar age. We were both very young when President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. We grew up watching the same three television stations, even though we lived states apart. We grew up listening to the same songs that played on AM radio. Of course, there were differences. He became a world-wide known entertainer, and I went to college and started teaching English in school. We both wrote poetry. We both had lots of relationships and for whatever reason we ended up not married for long. He was raising three children without a resident mother. I understood how irrationally urgent he was when he decided he was ready for fatherhood.
I had been urgent and reckless about motherhood, but endometriosis left me unable to bear children. I never felt stable enough, or rich enough, to pursue adoption as a single female. That sort of thing didn't happen frequently in the 1980s. About the time Michael started his family, I left teaching. My days were filled with 12-year-olds, and I would never have one of my own. I decided that if the "emotional pain" part of a job, outweighed all the positive things, I should probably do something else for a living. I decided to take control of my life, and there were a couple of times in Mr. Jackson's life when he must have gone through a similar decision process.
I remember when cute little Michael was 12, and lead singer for the Jackson 5. I saw them on "The Ed Sullivan Show." I was 16 and far too mature to consider little Michael as anyone but little Michael. Jermaine was closer to my age, but I thought Michael was cuter. But, I was 16. Sixteen-year-old girls are not socially interested in 12-year-old boys, but I would skate fast when one of the Jackson 5 songs played at the skating rink.
Age differences don't matter so much when you get older. People born many years apart find themselves drawn to each other, from interests or goals in common. It happens frequently in this day and age. But I never quite got past thinking of Michael as a short little kid. When I wasn't paying attention, he grew up, filled out some, moved like no one ever had, and recorded albums that sold millions.
When others were moving on the floor to "Dancing Machine, "Billie Jean," and "Thriller," I spent my away from work grading papers and visiting the gym for aerobics,
December 8, 1980, was my first experience losing a rock idol to death. John Lennon was my favorite Beatle, and he was shot dead in front of his high-rise New York apartment. I think part of me died that day. I never thought about any Beatles dying. Now the four lads from Liverpool could never reunite again. I felt like I had lost a personal friend. Lots of people felt that way, and we grieved together and alone and wondered why.
I was so shocked by MJ's death, that I couldn't even come up with a respectable comment until the next Monday. My 23-year-old friend Jennifer had heard the news, but she was so removed from what I had experienced growing up alongside Michael, so to speak.
He hadn't been my idol. I had hoped and believed the charges of molestation by MJ were just a hyped-up scandal. However, such talk and charges had gone on for so long, even I had doubts as his second trial for a similar charge played out again in the daily media of the new century. And in this 21st Century, Michael's nose was no longer distinctly broad, flat, and African-American wide. Because of grading papers at night, I missed out on a lot of early MTV. But there was an obvious physical progression. As his nose continued to shrink with elective surgeries, his skin color faded from rich brown to almost ghastly white. Michael Jackson had been black, and he was still black, but he didn't look black anymore.
My opinion of Michael didn't change until after his death. I was overwrought. I hadn't given him the kudos he deserved, and now he was gone. I did lots of quiet time thinking during those first days of July. I couldn't say anything until I decided what I thought about Michael, and how his life as an entertainer had actually affected me.