I’ll admit it…I have been a Michael Jackson fan since that first boy-girl party I attended back in Junior High, when I kissed Julie Nieves while dancing to “I’ll Be There”.

“You and I must make a pact,
we must bring salvation back.
Where there is love, I’ll be there.”

I hear that song, and I’m right back in Julie’s garage, hearing Michael through the speakers of her GE record changer…one those jobs that closed up like a suitcase. I think my mind adds in the pops and scratches from that old 45 when the song comes up in my iPod rotation.

I wonder if Julie, now a grandmother, remembers that as well as I do.

I had a little bit of a problem explaining the hoopla surrounding Michael’s death to my kids; at ten and thirteen, they have no working knowledge of just who Michael Jackson was. Something they may have in common with Joseph Walter and Katherine Esther Jackson’s seventh child.

I tried telling them about the old days, the old music, but 1971 is an alien concept to them. I tried explaining how those pops and scratches somehow made the music more meaningful. That didn’t even make sense to me…but they did….”what’s a 45?” asks my thirteen year-old.

I couldn’t tell him about Julie, how her Mom’s perfume smelled on her, and how my heart pounded as we brushed our lips together.

“Don’t you know baby yeah!
La, la, la, la, la, la, la!”

I spent hours watching the coverage of Jackson’s death this past week. Feeling mixed emotions, I was surprised to find out that his career had continued beyond that point in my life when a new release by MJ was an automatic addition to my music collection. I nearly felt guilty, as if my having abandoned him was somehow responsible for his fall from grace.

I was saddened as details of his life emerged. I knew, as we all knew, about the chimp and the oxygen chamber, about the surgeries, the molestation accusations, the alleged abuse at the hands of Joseph. I didn’t know about the immense loneliness, the drug abuse…I guess I could have figured it out, had I given it some thought, but I didn’t…I just didn’t.

I was shocked at the reports of his emaciated body; 5’10” Michael weighed 112 pounds at the time of his death. Shocked at reading that he was bald, wearing a wig to cover what remained of his natural hair, described by the LA Coroner as “peach fuzz”. Shocked to read that his hips, thighs, and shoulders were covered with needle marks.

I don’t want to think about that. I don’t want to remember Michael Jackson as the man he saw in the mirror daily.

I want to remember that garage, and the magic woven by the elf-like wunderkind with the sparkle in his eyes. I want to remember the scratches and pops in Julie’s 45, and the way she laid her head on my shoulder as the closing bars of our song played on.

I want to remember the music, and how that music made me feel.

So long Michael…I hope you have found peace.