Last night, while eating icecream (of course), I was flipping around the dial when my remote came to a screeching halt. Larry King Live was interviewing the family of the late Ricky Nelson.
For those of you who don't know, back in the '50's (yeah, yeah, I know, some of your weren't even born yet) the first "family" sitcom produced was "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet". It was a t.v. show using the real life characters of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson (who had been a band leader and singer, respectively) and their two sons David and Ricky.
It was a typical '50's show...mom (who wore pearls to vacuum), dad (who no one ever knew what he did for a living), and the antics of the two boys. The show was on for 14 years...and the boys literally grew up before the audiences eyes.
As Ricky became a teenager, various episodes became a "showcase" for his singing and guitar playing. He became a figure close to that of Elvis...girls fainting and swooning all over the place when he sang.
His records hit number one and, as I learned last night, he sold almost as many records as Elvis. He had made an indelible impression on the music industry, but more importantly, on the fans who grew up watching him and loving him.
Twenty years ago, on new year's eve...while getting ready for the evening, the t.v. was on in the background. I heard the announcement..."Ricky Nelson, dead in a private plane crash". I couldn't believe what I was hearing...it hit me hard for some reason. I remember it like I remember hearing about Kennedy (and yes, that's President Kennedy).
And, as I watched Larry King Live last night, it hit me hard again. There sat his four children, talking about their sweet, talented dad, who they missed terribly.
In his later years, he found his own voice and writing skills, having written the song "Garden Party"...becoming a huge hit and an answer back to his audience who didn't want him to grow-up and change.
As I sat there watching his four children talk about their dad, I tried to figure out what it was that had hit me so hard.
Several thoughts floated through my brain. When someone is a part of your childhood, it's hard to shake off the impression someone makes on you. He was such an endearing kid and irresistable teenager, and because we watched him literally grow up before our very eyes, it felt as if he belonged to us, the audience.
He had a sweet, genuine way about him. He seemed to have a gentle soul, with a voice and a manner that was calming and mesmorizing.
Each one of Ricky Nelson's children, heard the news as I did...an announcement on the t.v. And as if that wasn't bad enough, there was an ongoing (untrue) accusation of drugs on board, being the cause of the crash. That accusation floated around for months, maybe years. (It was a faulty heating system leak that brought the plane down).
So I guess, in the end, Ricky Nelson made an impression a few different ways in my life.
First, as a little girl, mesmorized by this good-looking singing teenager, swooning his way into my heart and the hearts of young girls everywhere.
Most importantly, he was a dad (or "Pop", as his kids referred to him). A dad whose life was cut short, much like my own father's. Maybe that's what hit me so at the time. I knew he had young kids, whose lives would be forever changed by this one event. And even worse, they had to do this with the public looking on. He was only 45. And in his short 45 years, he was loved by millions.
Ricky Nelson touched many lives, but none were as touched as the lives of his children. I understand the loss that remains with them. I understand their lifetime of trying to make sense of such a senseless ending. But they can take solace in knowing that his legacy will not go unforgotten by millions of fans.
Although famous people touch our lives in an obvious way, it is the everyday people that I hope make a difference as well. I like to think that my dad made a difference in the lives of his students. That being an elementary school teacher, there are children out there whose lives were changed, maybe just a little bit, because he had been their teacher.
So thanks to the famous, and the not so famous, who mark the moments in our lives that make lasting impressions in our memories and in our hearts.