Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes:
“Someone has laid all these magazines with pictures of me on my mother,” remembers Petty. “On her chest and across her body. She was just lying there, beneath these clippings from magazines and
newspapers. I walk in and … it was the strangest thing. I thought, ‘Even this moment, even this someone had to corrupt with some reaction to fame, or whatever this was.” A nurse had gotten it into her mind that this would please the famous son of the hospital’s dying patient. It was a misguided gesture, innocent but stupid, that left him hollow. Asking a nurse to clear the clippings off his mother, he then took time alone with her.
“I was just beginning to see that there’s just nobody that couldn’t be affected by fame in some way,” Petty explains, “like when I walk in some place and my music is playing, because they think I want to hear that. I was starting to see that that’s just part of the job. But I wasn’t prepared for that in my mother’s hospital room, you know? I needed to clear the room of that. I looked at her, and I talked to her. She couldn’t talk to me. But she had a kind look in her eyes. It was really hard. I left there thinking, ‘I don’t ever want to see this again. I don’t ever want to see her like this again. That’s it for me. She’s gone.’ My dad had come by, and he rode down the elevator with me. But as we were walking to the parking lot, he goes, ‘I want to go down and hit the tracks—do you have any cash?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I gave him a thousand bucks, whatever I had on me. But I remember making the clear decision in my mind that I wasn’t coming back to this again. There was no point, no way for us to communicate, and it just crippled me. I said to myself, ‘I’m not ever going to come around again.’ And I didn’t. I headed off to the next gig.”