Some of the names and nicknames in this story have been changed to protect the innocent. And the not so innocent.
First, the backstory. Ever since I have been on Facebook, I have invited my Facebook friends to join me at Graceland for the Candlelight Vigil. I have invited people to either go with me or meet me there. Most years I will get several people who express an interest but when it comes down to it, they rarely go. No one has ever met me there. 2009 was one of the first years I extended this invitation. I’m one of those people whose friend list on Facebook includes a range of friends from people I see almost every day to people I haven’t seen in years. It also ranges from people I know really well to people I barely know. Shortly after I invited my Facebook friends, I received a message from a former coworker who expressed an interest in going. We will call this lady “Joan”. Joan had left the place where we worked together to go back to nursing school. She was someone that I didn’t know that well but she was a big Elvis fan and would ask me about Elvis week regularly because she knew I went every year. She had worked in our department for a short time and brought her husband who she called “Big Eddie” to a department picnic. Joan was not a short woman but was small and almost fragile. She looked even smaller when she was standing next to Big Eddie.
It had been over a year since I had worked with her. While we were Facebook friends, she rarely posted anything and never sent me any messages. The message she sent about wanting to go to the Candlelight Vigil didn’t surprise me based on how devoted she was to Elvis. I didn’t really expect her to go. When I started getting what appeared to be more serious inquiries about the trip, I shared my typical schedule with her. I usually try to arrive late in the morning. Most years I don’t leave until after midnight. I spend a lot of time outside in the hot August Memphis weather. Since I am there mainly to people watch, there can be a lot of downtime in the day when nothing is happening. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from joining me when I tell them this. I’m just trying to paint an accurate picture of what the day at Graceland will be like. I don’t want to alter my routine for anyone and I don’t want to put anyone in a situation where they are uncomfortable. Joan was still interested. A few days before the event, I gave Joan my phone number and she called me to work out more details about the trip. When we started talking, she seemed concerned that my wife would object. I assured her that my wife would be ok with us going. She was also concerned if anyone else would be going with us. I told her that my friend Nick might be joining us. Then she started asking me what kind of guy he was. She said “he won’t be trying anything will he?” I assured her that Nick is an upstanding man that could be trusted. The questions continued and finally she tells me that she is separated from her husband. Then she asks me if it is still ok if she goes on the trip. I assured her that it was although I was having second thoughts about the whole idea. If it was important enough for her to ask, is there something going on that I should be concerned about?
It wasn’t until Nick and I picked her up on our way to Graceland that we found out that she had only been separated from Big Eddie for two weeks. That was the same time that we found out that she had a restraining order against him. She still had a lot of friends that worked where I do and asked me not to tell anyone there about her going with us on this trip. She also didn’t want me posting any pictures of us as a group on Facebook for fear that it might get back to Big Eddie. She didn’t have to worry about it. I had no desire to tangle with Big Eddie. I would be very selective in telling anyone about it.
She spent a lot of time on the trip to Memphis telling us about how she was feeling with her situation. We were basically playing amateur counsellors. She also had self-esteem and self-image issues. When I worked with her, she rarely was made up. She appeared to be an older, plain woman. Not unattractive, but someone you really wouldn’t pay much attention to. She was also someone who looked really nice when she fixed herself up. And she was spiffed up for this trip. We were her support team, reassuring her that she still had a lot going for her.
When we arrived at Graceland, we decided to do a tour of the house. When we were at the end of the tour, I asked Joan if she wanted her picture taken in front of the house (with her camera of course). She said yes. There was an area across from the front doors where people were gathered to take photos. There was also a local television camera crew there. When she saw them she said, “I want to be on TV!” WHAT!?! I thought to myself, you don’t want anyone to know that you are here, but you want to be on TV?!? All you need to know is that evening, she was on the news on a Memphis station singing Suspicious Minds.
Later, we were at the Elvis tent watching impersonators. The batteries in my camera were running low and I needed to go back to my Jeep for replacements. I told Nick and Joan and asked if they wanted to go with me. Nick wanted to stay and watch the singers and Joan wanted to go with me. I understood that Joan didn’t really know Nick that well and might be uncomfortable left with him. I still wasn’t sure about Joan’s motives for coming on the trip and was a little uncomfortable going back to the car with her. When we got to the Jeep, there was a group of people at the car next to mine. The group was from Texas and included two Elvis impersonators. One looked like a skinny Elvis and the other looked like fat Elvis. Joan struck up a conversation with them and even talked about meeting up with them later during the candlelight vigil. Thank goodness for Texas Elvis impersonators!
When we met back up with Nick, Joan started talking to one of the cops that was on duty at the Elvis tent. We found out later that she gave him her phone number. We found out several days later that she connected with him on Facebook. We found out several days after that he was married. Anyway, gave her a distraction and let Nick and I worry a little bit less about ourselves.
We ate prior to getting in line for the Candlelight Vigil but we tried to get in line later than I normally would. Joan was not satisfied with our place in line. She said she was going to see if she could find the Texas Elvis twins. A short time later, she had found them and came to get us to join them in line. The Texas Elvis twins were there with their wives and a few other family members. The fat Texas Elvis was interviewed in the same television report where Joan sang Suspicious Minds. We enjoyed spending time with them and getting to know them. As we left Graceland after the vigil, I got hugs from the impersonators and a kiss on the cheek from one of the wives.
In the weeks following the trip, I would share this story with several people but very few of them at work. I would hear back from Joan on the latest from her cop friend. Even later I would hear about her completing her nursing program. At some point, we were no longer friends on Facebook but I hear that she is married again. But not to Big Eddie. Thankfully, I have never heard from or heard any more about Big Eddie.
Singer, Songwriter, Entertainer, Storyteller