Sunday, April 24, 2016
I never had Prince as a passenger. As a flight attendant for his hometown airline, it seemed like all of my co-workers and friends did. The story was always the same. He boarded after everyone else up the outside stairs. He slipped quietly on the plane into 1A, his bodyguard next to him at 1B. He was gracious and kind but didn't usually speak to anyone. His bodyguard ordered him a ginger ale, no ice, with a straw. He rarely ate any food from the plane. He always had purple on, and high heels. He was so short that he could put his feet on the bulkhead in front of him and his legs were stick straight. After arriving at the gate, he and his bodyguard slipped off as easily and quickly as they had slipped on, and were met by an airline employee who escorted them down the outside stairs into a waiting limousine. At that point, some of the other passengers had a glimpse of him, and the rumor mill started--"That looked like Prince, did you see him?" and they would ask the crew and the crew would smile and confirm that he had indeed been on the same plane as they had.
I always hoped that I would have him as a passenger. Now, that will never happen. But I do have a Prince moment of my very own. 2003 was one of the hardest years of my life. A diagnosis in February of Breast Cancer. A double mastectomy weeks later. 6 months of chemotherapy. Hair loss. Doctor's visits after doctors visits. No work, and no energy to do much other than sit at home. An unexpected weight gain from the chemo. (Who knew?) Depression. But by the end of the chemo cycle, an unexpected gift came my way. A friend had box seats for a Prince concert, and invited me! I dressed up for the first time in a long time. We listened to Prince in the car on the way to the concert. By the time he started playing, we were excited beyond belief. We danced and sang and danced until we couldn't dance any more. He was our hometown hero, and the huge crowd treated him as such. He was ours, and each song cemented that. "Purple Rain" brought Minneapolis and Prince into the country's consciousness. "1999" came out and seemed so far away, until it was 1999 and it was the only song played at midnight anywhere in the world. "When Doves Cry" was heartfelt and sad and hopeful, all at the same time. "Let's Go Crazy" was a perennial party song, and was a particular favorite of mine during that difficult year.
Waking up the next day, still excited over what had happened the night before, the same group of friends headed out to our sons soccer game. As we went over and over every moment from the night before, I tried to ignore the growing pain in my chest. Soon it became obvious to others that I was in pain, and very soon my husband decided I should go the emergency room. The Doctor did all the normal tests, read through my recent medical history, and nothing was showing up. He asked what I had done the night before. I'm sure I lit up through all the pain, and said "I was at the Prince concert! I danced for hours!". He smiled. "I'm quite sure you pulled a muscle." "How?" I asked. He asked if I had been physically active the past couple months. I confirmed that I had not been. He smiled again. "You pulled a muscle dancing all night at the Prince concert. Rest and the pain will diminish within the week."
When we went to pick up our son, I sheepishly had to tell the truth to everyone. It has become a story that has been repeated and enjoyed many times by our group of friends and family. I was the butt of the joke. It bothered me at first. But now, I think back and know that that night, with Prince and my friends and family, I was happy and free and forgot I was sick, and I danced so much that I pulled a muscle. And that is my Prince story. He gave me great joy and happiness at a very difficult time, and even though I never had him on a flight, every time one of his songs play, I feel that same hopefulness and joy I felt that night at a very low point in my life
"Dearly beloved, we are here to get through this thing called life." --Prince