Elvis, Dad and Me . . . 38 years ago this week.

This weeks marks the last week of freedom for some school kids here in the US.

In Memphis, TN, Elvis fans the world over have convened to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, August 16, 1977.

August 20, this coming Saturday, I commemorate the 38th anniversary of the passing of my dad, J.Gilbert “Sonny” Fournet.

In 1978, I was in Memphis paying my respects to the King of Rock-n-Roll when I heard that my dad had been admitted to the hospital. The next few days I lived my own version of The Twilight Zone.

Vester & Joe001

Vester Presley (L.) and me

While in Memphis, I visited Elvis’ gravesite, toured Sun Studios and met and interviewed Sam Phillips’s son, Knox. I would eventually meet and pay my respects to several members of Elvis’ family, including his uncle, Vester. I even got to meet and chat with Elvis’ sidekick, Charlie Hodge and Dick Grob, Elvis’ head of security.

I phoned home, Lake Charles, LA. Mom said Dad was resting comfortably but he was far from being out of the woods. How soon could I get back? I couldn’t get out of Memphis.

Honestly, some of the trip is a blur in my memory. I don’t even recall leaving Memphis. I do recall arriving back home and heading straight to the hospital.

That was on a Saturday. Even though several members of my family said I stayed with Dad overnight, I recall waking up at home early Sunday morning, with Mom saying we had to leave because they had just put Dad into ICU.

Sunday was torture but I still had hope. I couldn’t conceive of the possibility that I would lose him.

By four o’clock that afternoon, my worst fears became reality. I was stunned. Numb.

Memphis seemed continents apart. What I had just experienced seemed like it had been in a parallel universe.

Each year since, I take time at precisely 4PM and settle back for an hour. I visit with Dad. Two glasses are part of my conversation; one filled with Jack Daniels Bourbon (for me), the other with Jim Beam Bourbon (for Dad).

We chat. We sip. I cry. We chat. We sip. I cry some more. We chat. He sips, I gulp a bit. I cry. Damn it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Never in my or my Dad’s wildest dreams did we ever think that he and Elvis would be eternally connected.

Dad  & Higgins002

Dad (L.) and friend of mine, circa early 70’s

Elvis Close Up001

 

 

However . . . Back in 1975, Dad answered my phone call to bring cash to the Lake Charles Civic Center to pay for tickets to the upcoming Elvis concert. I had just heard about it moments before I called him. I was already at the Center for an unrelated meeting.

Funny thing was that ticket sales were basically a raffle. They’d mail you the tickets after they had been drawn. I didn’t know where I was sitting until I got the tickets. When they arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I went to the Center and asked the ticket people for a map of the floor and showed them my tickets to see what they’d say as to where I would be seated. They confirmed what I had thought.

Front row, center, right up in front of the stage. I damn near fainted.

(Note: I did get to meet Elvis and shake his hand while he was on stage. My photog friends were so caught up in the moment, they forgot to take the photo!)

Later, in August, 1978, one week to the day after Dad died, Mom and I were sitting at home writing Thank You cards. When I heard this odd sound, I looked up and it was pouring down raining. Rain wasn’t in the forecast, I recalled. I looked down at my watch for some reason and, I took a double-take; it was exactly 4PM, the precise time Dad had passed away.

We chat. We sip. I cry. We chat. We sip. I cry some more. We chat. He sips, I gulp a bit. I cry. Damn it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Soon afterwards, the “mini-storm” stopped. When I glanced down at my watch, I saw that only a minute had passed. I felt, again, stunned and more than a bit unnerved. It was as if Heaven had simply announced, “We didn’t forget.”

I will never forget that moment.

I will never forget Dad.

I will never forget Elvis.

I will never forget how I felt that August week in 1978.

I will always remember and commemorate my August 20, 4PM Dad Time.

I often wonder what the two men have said to one another when visiting with our respective families, especially during this time each year. Man, wouldn’t that be an interview!

Maybe one day I’ll find out.

I have not made the trek back to Memphis since that fateful week in August 1978. I have thought about returning, though. I read that millions of dollars have been invested in new commercial development along Elvis Presley Boulevard, across from Graceland (Elvis’ mansion). It should be one helluva Elvis Week next year as they commemorate the 40th anniversary.

Meanwhile, here’s to you both! I miss you.

Cheers!

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