Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thirty Short Years Ago We Lost John Lennon

I was going to bed. I was always going to bed earlier than the rest of my family. I didn't know why then, but I had been battling multiple sclerosis as a young teenager already and the one thing this disease does is make you very sleepy. So there I was in my soft blue pajamas tucked safely away in my bed. My oldest brother wondered why I was always so tired. He does not recall expressing concern about this recently, but that's because he has been so slammed with the events of his own adult life. I was sleepy, tucked away, and then I heard the noise coming from downstairs.

We had a Zenith television. It was one of those huge televisions that sits on the floor. In those days, you had to actually change the channels by hand. There were no remotes. It was also, as I recall, our first television. We didn't get a television until 1972 mainly because we lived overseas. We lived in Germany and there was no point in watching television shows you could not understand. Before that, I don't recall having a television. I don't think I cared. If we did have one, I don't remember it. Children played outside in those days. Thinking about that makes me feel really old.

So the noise startled me and I stumbled out of bed to find out what the heck was going on down there in the television room. John Lennon had been shot. As a family we were devastated. We had an original copy of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and we all loved, loved, loved The Beatles. We just could not believe it. The next day, apparently, it was all I could talk about at school. I learned this some twenty-three years later at a high school reunion. "Oh," said my former classmate, "I remember you. All you could talk about was the death of John Lennon at school the day after he was shot." It's weird what we recall versus what others recall.

Lennon's death shocked my family. A lot of things shocked us that might not shock other families quite as much. Irish Republican bombings in London scared us to death. We would determine the time and then try to calculate the location of our English family on the tube or subway. Royal family events meant a lot to us and we would get up in the wee hours of the night to watch them because we had to see them live. And one day our basement flooded because one of my brothers had left a hose in the window well during a freeze. The hose exploded and left several inches of water behind. The original copy of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was floating along with books and other keepsakes. No one got angry about this. It was an accident. We just cleaned up our basement and got rid of ruined books and items. The record was just a thing. It's John we miss. -Alison Whiteman

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