Longtime Lynbrook resident Michael Edwards died on Oct. 24 after battling Alzheimer’s. In lieu of an obituary, his sister, Dory, wrote a reflection about his life.
Michael was 8 when I was born. I came into the world when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, and when Elvis Presley rattled his way into a world that shook, wiggled and rocked. That is the way that I continue to remember my brother. Even late in his life, when he was dealing with Alzheimer’s and he stared out the window of his room in the nursing home, he still recognized us, and laughed at the old stories that we related to him.
My mother and father’s basement is where it all began. The old Victrola record player was safely placed on a table not far from the washing machine, and all the records and albums were tucked with care in a secret safe created by Michael. My sister was just a year younger, another brother three years behind, and so, the stage was set for the world of “doap,” “sock hops” and A Capella. A shrine of Elvis was taped to the table that graced the Victrola, and the basement soon became a shrine to rock ‘n’ roll.
As an 8-year-old, I used to sneak down the stairs and watch the show. There were dance practices of the lindy, splits and the stroll. Sometimes there would be 20, even 30 people. The side door was a perfect way for an extra carload to sneak in, and most of the time, my parents never knew that their basement was “American Bandstand,” Lynbrook style.
Most of them went to Lynbrook High School. My sister’s boyfriend, Billy, was Michael’s best friend, and he and my sister Mary Ellen (like Michael and his wife, Nancy) have been married for over 50 years. It was my brother Fred who set them up, and he too, was ever present in the basement, especially when a fight broke out. The fights didn’t happen a lot, unless someone from another neighborhood snuck in. I remember one time when my mom came down the stairs swinging a baseball bat. It’s never easy being a mom to children who embrace the moment. The Saturday night. The last dance. The first kiss.
Michael still remembered those days as he sat in a wheelchair, looking out the window. Sometimes he cried with uncontrollable joy for the memories that he held onto like a life jacket. He refused to leave the shore of his life behind. And who could blame him? He grew up in a time of bobby socks, poodle skirts and make out sessions under the boardwalk in Long Beach. A time of music that moved his soul to a world of romance and magic. A world that was existential and in the moment. Each song was a three-minute dance of a surprise waiting to happen.
Recently, I was waiting at a traffic light. The song “It’s All in the Game of Love” came on. I remembered Tommy Edwards sang it and maybe that is because Michael’s last name is Edwards, too. “Many a tear have to fall … and it’s all in the game.” If only Alzheimer’s was a game, and we could fix it with a dance, or a beer, or a ride in a Chevy convertible. If only we could beat it the way we used to beat the fee to the beach by jumping off the boardwalk.
It was sad for me to watch Michael losing his memory. It’s even sadder to think of a time long ago when the world of a teenager was a world of love to be shared with the likes of Elvis, The Cleftones, The Cadillacs, Johnny Ray, Fats Domino and Tommy Edwards.
And Michael Edwards, too.
My brother, who looked out his window waiting for the sun to rise again, when the darkness will be lifted, and the memory was vivid and real.
Trust me, Michael. It was real. And you, my brother, you were a very big part of it all.