Celebrity Sympathy

I was standing in line to greet Rick Springfield clutching a single, red rose.

This was the culminating event of the weekend, a gala, black tie event with all of the celebrities in house.  A formal dinner was followed by a concert in which several different acts played, Rick being the penultimate.  By now, we were used to seeing him in the same room with us.  We’d watched him play tennis (badly), we had seen him by the pool with his kids, we’d posed for photos that raised funds for charity with him, we’d watched him humbled as he saw the fan club donate funds and gifts to the Ronald McDonald House.  We’d seen him laugh and cry, we’d sat with his wife and best friend and had conversations about parents, children and travel.   By now we were all amazed that the event had brought us so many amazing experiences as a fan, and we were enjoying the icing on the cake of our expectations.

One by one, the women went up to Rick, still in his tuxedo from the event. They would say something quiet in his ear away from the rest of the twenty or so of us who were standing nearby.  One of the organizers had bought two dozen red roses, enough for each of us to present Rick with one as we all took our turns speaking to him.  Sometimes what was said was funny; you could see the pair laugh as they pulled away from each other.  Sometimes whatever was said was sad; a serious look would emerge on their faces.  Most of the time it was somewhere in between.  I edged closer to him as the minutes passed; I was near the end of the line.  I knew exactly what I was going to say.

“Rick,” I gulped as I stepped forward to hand him a single red rose.  Suddenly, my eyes filled with tears and I could barely choke out the words.  “I just wanted to thank you for singing ‘My Father’s Chair’ tonight.  I’ve always loved the song, but since losing my mother to cancer four years ago, it means so much more to me now.  It is exactly how I feel; you captured the emotion of losing a parent so perfectly.”   I stopped to compose myself, and Rick gathered me up in a hug that didn’t seem to stop.  I turned up my face towards him and continued.  “I think…no, I know…that she’s the reason I was able to come here and meet you.  She always knew how much of a fan I was and how much your music meant to me.  I felt her here, I think, tonight while you were singing.  Something just came over me…” I stopped again, unable to continue.

Rick pulled away to look at my face and smiled kindly at me.  “I felt it too,” he responded.  “I think there a lot of souls here with us tonight.”

I knew people must be staring by now; I’d taken twice as long with him as everyone else had.  I thanked him and he gave me another quick hug before sending me on to the knot of women who’d already taken their turn.  They were all assembled, waiting,  as Rick had promised to take a group photo with everyone.  Faces appeared in front of my still blurry vision as I stumbled over to the group.  I heard their voices but couldn’t make out the words.

Because I wasn’t there at all.  I was back, in my bedroom, looking at the walls plastered with images torn from magazines.   Looking at a turntable with a record moving lazily in circles,  a scared little girl staring at it while she turned the volume higher than the voices screaming right outside her door.   I could see her writing endless letters to her favorite rock star, asking, begging, looking for a scrap of attention that would tell her that she was worth more than what the voices outside were telling her.  I could nearly feel her overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, anger and timidity.  I could see my mother opening the door, checking to see if I was OK, her telling herself that at least the music had drowned out the worst of her and my brother’s fight.  I could see all of it, years and years away from it.  I could feel the sharp edges of it smooth and soften as I rolled Rick’s warm arms and words over and over in my mind.

“We talked about our parents,” I said quietly.   I felt more arms gather around me and pull me in a cocoon of healing and heartfelt emotion that I could have never even imagined fourteen years ago.

I looked up, and around, and all over, and smiled.

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One Response

  1. […] Still, when I looked through those old photos, one leapt out at me.  The moment it captured, one of the first moments I’d ever shared with Rick.  It was after a charity event, where he’d sung about his dead father.  I’d used my mother’s inheritance to attend.   It all came together, his loss and my loss and I thought:  my mother made this happen for me.  She led me to this man who had been my unknowing savior during my teen years.  And I told him so. […]

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