Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tradition

posted Thu, 24 Aug 2006

My grandmother, who twelve years ago wrote me a letter in which she suggested that I “find [and marry] a nice widower who needs help raising his young children,” met SH tonight. We stopped by the assisted living home where she lives. A nice place, really, although I think they should have “Mrs Johnson” on her door instead of “Helen.” She’s 92 years old. She deserves to be called “Mrs” and not by her first name by a bunch of young whippersnappers. Unless she invites them to do so, of course. But it’s her option. That’s Mrs Johnson to you, thank you very much.

SH and I reviewed her latest paintings – she is about to start one of dogs pulling a sled across the snow – and looked at the collage of old photos and family sayings that my mother put together for her. “Someday you’ll wish you could take a nap” was something my mom told me once. Perhaps my grandmother used to say it to her kids, too. “Hell’s bells” was from my grandfather for sure; so was “If you’re coming home this late, don’t bother going to bed.” I guess you were supposed to go straight to the barn and start milking cows.

When she learned SH is Lutheran, she said, “I know about Lutherans! My husband was Lutheran. Boy, was he ornery! But he was nice. He was nice.”

She asked SH what his hobbies were. He told her he likes to sing, so she asked him to sing her a song. He protested, but I glared at him. “You can sing a song for my grandmother,” I said.

“But I don’t know any by heart!” he said.

I started singing. Everyone in the world knows “You Are My Sunshine.” Sure enough, my grandmother knew it, too, so she started singing. SH joined in. We sang the chorus, then the first verse, then faltered. OK, everyone knows the chorus and the first verse.

Except my grandmother, who knows the second verse, so she taught it to us. Then we sang the whole thing over again.

Her neighbor, Grace, heard us and wandered into the room. We talked some more. I told her we needed to get going and she said that we hadn’t sung yet. “I already sang for you!” SH reminded her.

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