“Good morning yesterday, you wake up and time has slipped away.. and suddenly it’s hard to find the memories you left behind. Remember, do you remember?”
I looked in my rearview mirror and looked at my mom singing along to a Paul Anka song as we drove to his concert last night in Friday evening traffic. Last week Mom had streamed a new Paul Anka concert for Dad to watch. They both watched the concert while clapping and singing along. By Monday morning, my sister Kathy and I had an email explaining Paul Anka was playing at Westbury Music Fair. Mom would treat but could we go? There was no hesitation in our responses. Kathy secured the tickets. We were all set for a girls night with Mr. Anka.
By todays standards Mom would be considered a Paul Superfan. She had first been introduced to him via American Bandstand when she was 16 years old. I guess Paul Anka was to Mom as Donny Osmond was to me.
We arrived at the theatre early. We sat in the Jeep singing Anka songs and watching other fans pre-game in their cars. Kathy and I rolled our eyes as we saw walkers and jazzy scooter parking areas for other concert goers. We looked at Mom and she was beaming as we bopped towards the now opened theatre doors. After ordering a few cocktails we headed out to a beautiful deck and started to chat. The conversation drifted to Dad and his current condition. He has been back home now for a little over six months and while he’s stable, the realization that he will never return to his original peppy self has finally settled in. Watching mom talk about the current situation from such a relaxed perspective brought me such peace. Kathy and I both commented about how proud we are of her and how she is handling the entire situation. We wrapped up our conversation and headed inside for another cocktail and a trip to our concert seats.
The crowd was mixed but it was filled with similar groups of mothers and their daughters together. There were lots of couples and a den of cougars dressed to the nines who were ready to pounce on Mr. Anka should he enter their space in his infamous walks up and down the theater isles. If you are a fan of People Watching 101 – this was your night.
At 8:18, the lights dimmed, the band started up, and suddenly we heard “Diana” coming from an aisle across the stage. It was being sung by none other than Paul Anka who was looking quite swanky and sharp in his white tuxedo jacket and black T-shirt. He was shorter than I remember but hey, that was my mother’s crush – not mine. The night continued with hit after hit that included co-written hits from and for Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Buddy Holly. Paul was belting them all out and really hitting every note. Mom was dancing. She was giggling. At one point she thanked us for bringing her.
Midway through the concert Kathy looked at me and said “Are we on the Belt Parkway right now?“ I knew exactly what Kathy meant and where we were based on that very question. My grandparents lived in Bay Ridge Brooklyn and when we moved out to Long Island when I was three, we took turns with my grandparents spending the weekends in Brooklyn and then Long Island. The drive home on the Belt Parkway on Sunday nights were always the same. The street lights on top of the very tall poles on the side of the road were shining bright and had a certain way of flooding the car with the lights as we passed and then would make their exit through the backseat. I always found it to be very rhythmic and soothing as my dad drove. The radio was tuned to WCBS FM which invariably had doo-wop music playing. One of my parents favorite songs would come on… sometimes it actually was Paul Anka… My dad would take my mom‘s left hand and squeeze it gently while singing to her. Watching her face instantly calm as he sang is something that will stay with me. Even at age 10 I knew that I wanted that type of love in my life. The love they have for each other could be felt in those little moments. I came back to present in the concert and Paul started to sing one of the most iconic songs he had written for Frank Sinatra. “My Way“ has always been one of my dad‘s favorite songs. Instinctively, Kathy, Mom, and myself all hugged each other and sang along with the song as we swayed. We were all quite choked up. Time really stood still and for some crazy reason I think my dad was with us at that moment even though he was tucked into bed at home.
This morning we received a text from Mommy thanking us for the perfect evening. The truth was, I was looking forward to the concert but I never imagined I’d enjoy every single second like I did. Watching Mom so elated and animated is something I’ll never forget. Kathy and I dancing like nuts in our seats and giggling (me snorting) will make me smile for years. So yes, this was a chance to remember the laughter and the tears thanks to Mr. Anka. These are the times of our life.