When Michael Jackson died, I was upset. I loved his music, and despite his unusual lifestyle, I believed him when he told his side of the story. Farrah Fawcett’s death wasn’t a surprise; she was battling cancer and we had some time to process her death. But then I saw on the internet that Billy Mays died. I was surprised, but it was my ten-year-old son who was inconsolable. He’s still crying in his bedroom.
Billy Mays’ voice did something for my son. By the time he was walking, when Billy would come on the TV with an OxyClean commercial, Conor would run to the TV and stare at him. It was something in his voice. Conor recognized it from his bedroom and would run to see him hawking whatever product was being sold on the commercial. We read the article on the internet together and learned about how Billy had become the spokesman known for his loud, emotion-filled voice.
By the time Conor was four, he was begging me to buy whatever Billy was selling. I didn’t, not because it didn’t seem like a good deal, it’s just we didn’t need anything he was selling. I just saw one of his commercials for OrangeGlo and thought about calling it and ordering it because we have hardwood flooring in our master bathroom and need something to clean it. I put it off, like I do for most products sold on TV.
They say that Billy was on a flight from Philadelphia to Tampa, which had a hard landing when its front tires blew on landing. According to the article, Billy had hit his head but commented that he had “a hard head,” when asked if he was okay. Maybe he wasn’t, but it wouldn’t be the first time someone died from a head injury, not knowing how severe it was. My heart goes out to his wife, Deborah. My son wanted to send her a card, but we don’t have an address.
I think part of the problem is that my son has never “known” anyone so young who died. His great-aunt died a few months ago, but she was ninety-five and it was a blessing. He felt badly but seemed to understand it. Billy Mays was only one year older than I am. So was Michael Jackson, but he was the son of a Moody Blues fan, so he never really heard Michael Jackson’s music on the radio or CD. He didn’t know Farrah Fawcett or Ed McMahon, so those deaths had no meaning for him.
In a strange way, Billy Mays was someone Conor knew and loved. I just wish he could have met him when he was alive. We’ll always have the memories of Conor running to the TV to watch his commercials, totally entranced by his voice. Another voice has been silenced, and although he may not have been as big a star as Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, he was a bigger star to my son. He took a piece of paper and drew a heart on it and tore it into pieces. He said he just couldn’t say it. I think he said it well. “The Billy Mays Family, Tampa, Florida” would make it to them.