My husband, Mike, looks at me and says bluntly, “You know this is a mistake.”
The cashier hands Mike his credit-card receipt, and my husband signs his name on the line. I look down at the eight-week-old baby cradled in my arms.
“You’re probably right,” I say. But still I can’t help but smile.
Meanwhile, our children, five-year-old Olivia and two-year-old Jared, scamper about the room excitedly. They are like two unleashed puppies. They have to smell, touch, and taste everything.
“I wanna hold him! I wanna hold him!” They scream.
“Wait until we get home,” my husband says.
“I won’t drop him. I promise,” says Olivia.
“He’s scared,” I say. The baby whimpers softly in my arms. I can feel his little heart pounding through his chest. And he is shaking. “Mommy has to hold him right now,” I tell them.
“What are you going to call him?” one of the clerks asks us.
“Elvis,” I say without missing a beat.
“His name is Elvis Arnold,” Olivia chimes in.
“Elvis? That’s so adorable,” she says.
“All right, let’s take him home,” my husband says with tinges of regret and uncertainty in his voice.
Somebody else in the store says, “Elvis is leaving the building.”
And with that we exit the puppy store with our newly adopted yellow Labrador retriever, named Elvis.
Elvis, the “hot-dog king of rock-and-roll,” became an official member of our family on a sunny Saturday afternoon in October 2001. But Elvis Presley, “The King,” has been part of our family for a much longer time. And he has shared some of our most precious and unforgettable moments together.
Elvis Presley is the one thing my husband and I truly adore together. We are opposites through and through. My husband loves sports. I love the cinema, especially independent cinema. My husband loves casinos, cards, and gambling. I love reading, writing, and relaxing. My husband plays basketball, while I practice yoga and meditation. My husband loves loud “classic rock.” I love anything “eighties.”
But despite these differences, Elvis remains the one pop-cultural phenomenon that we both share. And even though I prefer the young Hollywood Elvis and my husband prefers the older, Vegas Elvis, it’s hard to argue with the overall merits of The King. The man is as legendary as the music. We can listen to him anytime, anyplace, with anyone. We do not tire of Elvis, ever. Simply put, we don’t really know why we love him, we just do.
When Mike and I were married after seven long years of dating, Elvis sang to us: “Take my hand/Take my whole life too./For I can’t help falling in love with you.”
Olivia says, “Is Elvis dead?”
I’m preoccupied, in the middle of making dinner. “No, of course not, he’s just sleeping,” I say after looking over at the dog, who is snoring rather loudly.
“No,” Olivia says. “I meant the real Elvis, not the dog Elvis.”
“Yes,” I say turning away from the stove. “Remember, I told you Elvis died.”
“How come he died?” Olivia asks.
“Because he was sick, and taking all those bad medicines, and he was old,” I start to explain. But I stop because I’m not sure how to explain the sad and unfortunate early demise of Elvis.
In reality, Elvis wasn’t old — he died young. And he was only sick because he was taking so many prescription pills. If he had cleaned up his act, Elvis could have continued to be an incredible entertainer these last 25 years. I sometimes imagine that Elvis would have won an Oscar, or starred on Broadway, or headlined his own prime-time sitcom called The King and I.
But how do I explain to my daughter that the man who brought so much joy to others could not find joy in himself? How do I explain to her that ultimately, Elvis extinguished himself?
I think about Elvis’s ability to touch the lives of millions through his music. I think about his exceptional fame. I think about how he was one in a billion and how we will never see another Elvis Presley again. And I think about how some things cannot be explained.
“I don’t know why Elvis had to die,” I say. “Except that everyone dies sooner or later.” And in the end I realize that Elvis was just a man, flesh and blood, like the rest of us.
“But I don’t want him to be dead,” Olivia says sadly.
“I know,” I say. Like so many other fans, my five-year-old daughter longs for Elvis to be alive. She too feels a magical and spiritual connection to a man whose life expired twenty years before she was even born. I like to believe that in a way, Elvis is very much alive. He lives every day in the music, movies, and memories that he left etched in our minds. The very essence of Elvis has transcended ordinary death in such a way that he continues to touch and inspire new generations. Like William Shakespeare or Claude Monet, Elvis will endure throughout the ages. He will be studied, honored, and often imitated, but never, ever duplicated.
And Elvis will still be here, “taking care of business,” long after the rest of us mere mortals are gone from this earth. Elvis does live. At least, in my house he does. He lives physically as a dog and spiritually in the gifts of song and entertainment that he bequeathed to us. My family adopted Elvis a long time ago. And we intend to keep him and love him forever.