A version of this post was previously published April 28, 2016 on my blog.
It’s been seven days since the news broke and I’m still listening to Prince at top volume in the car, still singing at the top of my lungs about doves crying and horses running free. I’ve exhausted my inventory of appropriate-for-work purple clothing.
My kids are perplexed at this behavior. “So, when did you become so crazy about Prince?” they half-sneer, their teenage mortification on full display.
We see this attitude frequently, The Husband and I, whenever we give off any indication that we are … well, human. The eye-rolls when we kiss goodbye in the morning for a few seconds longer than usual with a sly slip of tongue or when we start dancing in the kitchen as our wedding song shuffles into queue on Spotify. To our offspring, we have no life besides folding laundry and cooking dinners that they dislike, and despite our assurances to the contrary, we never did. And we certainly have no idea what it’s like to be a teenager. Never were we caught up in the adolescent maelstrom of emotions and hormones and prehistoric jungle love.
My attempts at explaining my so-called sudden Prince obsession fall flat with my kids. Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a passionate fan, I have an appreciation of his music and his artistry. And, like all of us who came of age in the mid-’80s, Prince’s music is an indelible part of the mixtape of my life.
Which is why, like everyone else, I was shocked upon hearing Prince had died. Thursday was a surreal day; I wasn’t feeling well and took a sick day from work. By mid-afternoon, I felt well enough to pick up my son from school for a previously-scheduled doctor’s appointment. We were early, for once, with enough time to stop home so I could throw dinner in the crockpot.
“I texted you,” my husband said, greeting me somberly as we walked in the house. “Prince is dead. Flu-like symptoms, they’re saying.”
We know now, of course, that the cause was different. At the time, I froze in my tracks. If anyone knows how possible it is to drop dead of the flu in one’s prime, it’s my family. In 1985, my dad was a relatively healthy married father of two when he got the flu. I was 15; my brother, 13. Unbeknownst to any of us, the flu virus was silently and quickly attacking his heart and at 44, my dad became the fourth patient in line on the heart transplant list at Philadelphia’s best hospital to be when your heart broke. He died several hours later, having been sick for less than a week.
We could all die any day.
The aftermath of my father’s death ushered in several confusing, sad and sometimes angry years for me. In college, it was easy to party like it was 1999 because that represented a life we couldn’t fathom from our dorm rooms. Christ, we would be goddamned geriatrics — 40 fucking years old, for God’s sake! — when we turned the century, standing on the cusp of the millennium and decrepit middle age. It felt impossible, far in the future. We made a solemn, Busch beer-buzzed pact: no matter what happened in this life, we’d be together on New Year’s Eve 1999, dancing our lives away.
We weren’t, of course. We scattered and became strangers once more. People we loved and laughed with, the ones we shared long conversations and confessions with, became — and still are — just people we used to know. Instead of partying like it was 1999, on the real December 31, 1999 we were adults, on edge and hunkered down with emergency cash from the ATM, cases of water, canned food, rolls of duct tape, and backups of our financial lives at the ready for Y2K, a moniker that could have been ripped from a Prince album. Or another of his self-chosen reinvented names, for that matter.
Now, on this side of 1999, in this strange year when nostalgia becomes more and more clouded with sadness and when we face our own medical crises and wonder just how much of our time and minds are left, our own Judgment Day feels closer than ever. (This is even more painfully poignant 10 years out and will probably be downright unbearable to contemplate in another ten.)
Prince was right; two thousand zero zero really did mean we would be out of time or damn close to it.
I can’t convey all this to my wiser-than-their-years kids when they ask why I’m blasting Little Red Corvette in my decidedly uncool red 2009 Chevy HHR as I shuttle them around town. And part of me doesn’t want to.
For now, I’ll let them believe they have all the time in the world.
If you liked this post, you might like these, too:
Dear Teenage Me, On the Night of Your 30 Year High School Reunion
I see you, my Gen X child.