Tuesday’s RemembeRed memoir prompt, from The Red Dress Club, asked us to dig deep, from our childhood, and write about something we still remembered from heart. I immediately thought about my paternal grandfather and the songs he used to sing.
The songs were nothing you would probably recognize, songs about sixpence and pretty little girls, songs about tiny bubbles and wine, but they were his love language. They were lyrical treasures I could share with him. He would sing them in the car while Grandma caressed our cheeks, sitting in the backseat, reminding us to spit out our gum if we felt sleepy. He would hum them in the morning, pouring his cup of coffee, reading the paper. He would sing them by my bedside when I was sick at Christmas. He would belt them out while we took long walks together. He would croon them while making lunch for me on our special weekly visits and he would sing them when he thought about Grandma, telling stories of his beautiful bride.
When grandparents die, you see a grief deeper than you ever imagined, a sorrow that lingers, shadowing your parent’s thoughts and your immortality. You get a glimpse of your future loss. As generations pass, your parents become the patriarchs of their families.
“Papa is in the hospital, ” my mom said over the phone, her voice strained and tired, “You’ll need to get a flight soon if you want to say goodbye.”
While flying back to San Antonio, I heard Papa’s voice in my head, his songs playing over and over. I pictured us dancing at my wedding. We were fortunate enough to have a live band perform. Besides the traditional Daddy/Daughter dance, I also requested a special song for my Papa, a song that conjures vivid memories of catching him dance with Grandma in the kitchen, singing sweetly in her ear:
Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles)
Make me warm all over
With a feeling that I’m gonna
Love you till the end of time
So here’s to the golden moon
And here’s to the silver sea
And mostly here’s a toast
To you and me
So here’s to the ginger lei
I give to you today
And here’s a kiss
That will not fade away
During our dance, Papa held me close, and sang sweetly in my ear, the same song he had sung dozens of times before with Grandma.
I didn’t make it home in time to say goodbye, but while my mom and I were cleaning out his house, we found a tape marked “Dot and Me” (my Grandma’s name was Dorothy). We gingerly placed the tape in the player and held our breath. Papa’s voice echoed clearly through the house, together with Grandma’s. They had made a tape of themselves singing.
He had left us his songs.