A-B-C-D, can I bring my friend to tea?

Most of us learned our ABCs by singing a tune that dates to the 1800s, the same tune used for “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It’s based on a melody by Mozart, who borrowed it from an old French song.

Spelling through song starts early, too. Kids have been singing “Bingo” for more than 200 years. In the 1950s, Head Mouseketeer Jimmie Dodd wrote music that taught young television viewers how to spell a very important name:

M-I-C (See you real soon)
K-E-Y (Why? Because we like you)
M-O-U-S-E

Grownups, too, have songs that spell out words in their lyrics. I decided to round them up. Here is what I’ve found so far (I limited my list to pre-1970 music):

  • George Cohan wrote the spelling hit “When We Are M-A-Double R-I-E-D” for his 1907 show The Talk of the Town. He had even more success the following year with a song called “Harrigan” (“H-A-Double R-I-G-A-N spells Harrigan…”), one I play in all my St. Patrick’s Day programs.
  • Sophia Tucker popularized “M-O-T-H-E-R” in 1915. In 1947, it was heard in the film Mother Wore Tights starring Betty Grable:

M is for the million things she gave me,
O means only that she’s growing old,
T is for the tears she shed to save me,
H is for her heart of purest gold…

Five of the songs I came across in my search spell out place names:

  • Irving Berlin’s “I’ll see you in C-U-B-A,” a Prohibition-era song, was revived in 1946 by Bing Crosby and Olga San Juan in the film Blue Skies.

 Everybody’s going there this year
And there’s a reason
The season opened last July
Ever since the U.S.A. went dry…

  • Composer Harry Warren and lyricist Mack Gordon wrote “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo” for the 1942 movie Orchestra Wives. Introduced in the musical by Glenn Miller, with a recording timed to coincide with the movie’s premiere, the song climbed to #1 on the Billboard chart. It was nominated for an Academy Award but lost to “White Christmas.” [In this video, singing starts at 1:15, with an amazing dance routine by the Nicholas Brothers at 4:18.]

  • Oscar Hammerstein tacked on a spelling of the state at the very end of the lyrics he wrote for Richard Rodgers’ 1943 tune “Oklahoma.”
  • Ralph Flanagan and Herb Hendler’s 1953 A-L-B-U-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E” has a great big-band sound. [Singing starts one minute in.]

  • Country musicians Curley Williams and Billy Simmons wrote “M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I” in 1950. It was introduced by Red Foley, also recorded later by Kay Starr.

I turned up two holiday spelling songs. The first is secular: “C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S,” a 1949 country tune by Eddy Arnold, with words by Jenny Lou Carson. The other has traditional religious lyrics: “Christmas Alphabet,” released in 1954 by The McGuire Sisters.

In the 1960s, we had:

  • Connie Francis’s shout-out to “V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N” fun, her final top-ten hit in 1962.
  • “L-O-V-E,” recorded by Nat King Cole in 1964.

L is for the way you look at me
O
is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore can…

  • Van Morrison’s memorable “G-L-O-R-I-A” chorus, also 1964.
  • Aretha Franklin’s 1967 recording of Otis Redding’s “Respect.” She added a spelling bit to her version and earned a Grammy.
  • “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” a country western/pop hit for Tammy Wynette in 1968. The song highlights what Wynette’s producer Billy Sherrill called the “teardrop” in her voice.

What song have I m-i-s-s-e-d?

Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

 

 

Posted in Music history | Tagged | 7 Comments

Every breath you take

In October 2014, my mother spent the last eight days of her life in a beautiful South Carolina hospice facility. My daughter and I were there with her, witnessing the closing act of her nearly 82 years. A stream of visitors kept us company. On what I consider her “last good Sunday,” a little therapy dog was brought in. My mother stroked the dog’s silky ears and cooed, “Oh, puppy, puppy, puppy.” In the days that followed, she slowly drifted away.

I slept each of the eight nights in a recliner next to her bed, waking frequently as staff came in to monitor her condition and administer pain medication. My mother seemed more agitated after dark, perhaps because she’d never liked being alone. I did my best to soothe her.

When the end came, early on a Thursday evening, she went quietly, without fanfare. Not really her style at all.

The 24/7 backdrop to those eight days and nights was the roar of my mother’s oxygen machine. I inquired early on whether the oxygen was extending her life unnecessarily. No, the nurses said, it was a comfort measure consistent with hospice guidelines. Without oxygen, they told me, my mother would feel like she was suffocating.

I could never quite tune out the sound of that oxygen machine.

A couple of weeks ago, when I arrived to play at the assisted living community where Jeanette lives, I heard it again. Jeanette’s oxygen machine was plugged in behind the piano, and the unit sat right next to the bench. She was at her lunch table a few feet away, tethered by long tubing and a nasal cannula.

I set out my sheet music and started playing, accompanied by the whoosh of the big machine at my right elbow. If the device had had arms, it could have joined me for a duet. It was that close. The noise distracted me for a while, but soon became familiar.

And oddly comforting.

Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

Posted in Aging, Death, Hospice, Volunteering | Tagged | 4 Comments

‘Tain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it

Eric arrives for his lunch shift at the assisted-living center looking disheveled, as always. He’s probably in his mid-20s, wearing wrinkled blue scrubs over a t-shirt. His dark hair is short but uncombed. Tattoos cover both arms. The residents love him.

There’s a quote usually attributed to Maya Angelou, although she likely got it from the inspirational writings of Carl Buehner:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

That’s the secret to Eric: the way he makes everyone feel.

With a room full of hungry people to tend to, Eric gets started. His first assigned table is next to the piano, where four women wait silently. He greets them like he’s happy to be at their service.

“What can I get you to drink today?”

Without hesitation, Dot orders a double vodka and orange juice, her standard answer. “I really wish I could get that for you,” Eric responds, with regret that sounds genuine. “How about just the orange juice?”

Each woman gets Eric’s full attention as she requests a beverage, sometimes two or three. Because dehydration can be a big problem among the elderly, beverages are never limited. I’d like cranberry juice in a cup, and a glass of half ginger ale and half iced tea—lots of ice—without a straw. And also some water.

He takes this in stride, ever accommodating. “I’ll go get your drinks and be right back to take your lunch orders.”

He’s true to his word. As he carefully sets the cups and glasses in front of each woman, he calls her by name and recites the contents down to the last detail. “No straw, right Adele?”

Now it’s time for the big decision: what to eat. Again, Eric focuses on each of the four women in turn, asking first if she’d like him to fasten her clothing protector, basically an oversized bib. Not a requirement, just an offer. The food selection process can be s-l-o-w, but he’s patient as she ponders her choices. He helps navigate the day’s printed menu. Cottage cheese plate? Beef stroganoff? Chicken/broccoli casserole? If she can’t decide between the fish fingers and the turkey in gravy, Eric might gently suggest considering a half-order of each. But he leaves her in control, her dignity intact.

Eric has the advantage of a man’s lower voice, which cuts through hearing loss. He doesn’t have to shout to be heard. And he avoids forced levity, that unnaturally chipper tone people often use when talking to children or the elderly.

There are other lunch servers in the room, but it’s Eric I watch. With each interaction, he makes the residents’ lives a bit better, the atmosphere a little warmer. Small kindnesses matter.

Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

 

Posted in Aging, Volunteering | 4 Comments

Make mine music

“Are you a volunteer?” The question came from Jason, a young man helping assisted-living residents back to their rooms following my performance.

I said I was. “That’s so cool,” he replied.

Why, thank you.

I’ve tried a lot of volunteer work over the years: transcribing print books into braille, delivering surplus food from restaurants and grocery stores to soup kitchens and homeless shelters, organizing a cancer resource library. But in the end I decided to concentrate on music.

piano sculpture

Jason asked if the type of music I play—American standards from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s—is my “specialty.” I thought for a moment. Yes, I guess it is.

Things haven’t always been that way. Before becoming a volunteer pianist, I played mostly classical music, along with Christmas carols, accompaniment for plays while in high school, and the occasional Broadway tune or popular movie theme.

Here’s a story to illustrate just how little I used to know about songs from the era that has now become my focus. About 40 years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I was visiting my in-laws in the Detroit area, and my father-in-law invited me to try out their grand piano.

As I sat down, he asked, “Can you play for a quarter?” Or at least I thought that’s what he asked.

Turns out, his question was actually “Can you play Cole Porter?”

Who? I was clueless.

So, you see, I’ve come a long way.

When I retired and came up with the idea of playing the piano for older audiences, I knew I wanted my programs to have emotional appeal and bring back memories of times past. At first, I pulled my set lists from a small pile of sheet music that had been passed down through my family, songs popular when my dad and his sister were young.

To expand my repertoire, I started checking out songbooks from the library and buying them at used book stores. I looked for vintage sheet music at estate sales. Along the way, I learned a lot about “The Great American Songbook,” which is not really a songbook at all. It’s a label used to refer collectively to the popular songs from the first half of the 20th century, songs by lyricists like Dorothy Fields and Johnny Mercer. Songs by composers like Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael and, yes, Cole Porter.

After 12 years, my work as a volunteer pianist has expanded into a part-time job, albeit an unpaid one. I drove more than 1500 miles last year to bring music to residents of retirement communities and senior facilities.

I still play classical music, but not for my volunteer gigs. My older audiences want to hear selections from The Great American Songbook. I know because they tell me so: We like that you play our music.

It’s nice to have found my niche.

Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

Posted in Audiences, Music and emotion, Volunteering | 2 Comments

Things you say and do just thrill me through and through

“You’re pretty good on that piano, young lady.”

Wayne was in his usual spot at a table near the front, wearing his usual outfit of plaid shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap. He’s a talkative 91-year-old World War II veteran who keeps up a steady patter while I play. Wayne and his wife used to sit together. She died, so he sat alone for a while. He has short-term memory lapses and can get on people’s nerves. One memorable hour, he sat only a few feet from the piano and told me after every song, “I used to play steel guitar.”

An extrovert like Wayne needs company. Enter Wilma, also widowed. A few months ago, I noticed she started joining Wayne at his lunch table and they talked about the music, about old times. She was patient with his repeated “I used to play steel guitar.”

Wilma is a beautiful octogenarian with bright eyes and a flawless rosy complexion, which she swears is the effortless result of soap, water, and moisturizer. We should all be so lucky. She takes great care with her clothing. The day this story took place, she wore pale lavender slacks and sweater, with a matching beaded necklace and a big flower brooch. Her white curls looked soft as whipped cream.

As Wayne and Wilma ate lunch and I played in the background, I heard him ask her several times, “Wanna dance?” She seemed tempted, but not sure if she should. They kept debating, through “Oh Johnny Oh,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” and “Side by Side.”

When I announced I would play two more songs and then wrap it up, he tried one last time: “We should dance.”

Wilma relented. “Okay, a slow one.

I selected Tommy Dorsey’s theme song, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” from among the sheet music I’d brought with me. It was written in 1932 by George Bassman, with lyrics by Ned Washington. It’s the only song Bassman is remembered for, while Washington penned words for many successful tunes, including “My Foolish Heart,” “The Nearness of You,” and “Stella By Starlight.”

The aides pushed aside some empty tables to clear a little dance floor. Wayne and Wilma started tentatively, but were soon in sync. He worked in a couple of twirls. And gave her a smooch when the song was over.

The activities director captured the moment with her camera phone. “For our newsletter,” she said. Other staff passing through stopped to watch the duo. This is the kind of thing that makes their day worthwhile. One aide commented, “When I’m old, I hope I’m blissfully in love like that.”

If there’s an upside to Wayne’s memory loss, it’s this: Each time he’s with Wilma, he gets to fall in love all over again.

Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

Posted in Audiences, Dancing, Dementia, Music and emotion, Volunteering | 3 Comments

Wired for sound

“We had a big-band performance here last night,” Fay told me. “I liked the music, but I was wearing my hearing aid and I had to turn it off.”

Betsy chimed in. “I stuffed Kleenex in my ears.” She was determined to stay at the concert, and she didn’t want to offend the band members, who all volunteer their time to entertain seniors. “I rolled the tissue into little balls so you couldn’t see it sticking out of my ears.”

Oh, the aural challenges of growing older.

The type of hearing loss most of us experience as we age is called “presbycusis.” With this condition, lower-pitched sounds like vowels still come through pretty well. But high-pitched sounds like the consonants “s” or “f” or “p” don’t carry as much acoustical power and become increasingly difficult to hear. Discriminating between words gets harder. A person with presbycusis can often hear what is being said, but can’t understand it. Everyone seems to mumble. The high voices of children or the chirps of birds might not register at all.

Hearing aids can help with presbycusis. But because they are designed primarily to improve speech perception by amplifying the higher-pitched sounds, they often don’t pick up the lower frequencies of music.

Music ends up sounding distorted, with some notes too loud, other notes inaudible. Music just doesn’t sound the same as it used to, my elderly listeners tell me.

Here’s how an article in the Spring 2016 issue of Audiology Practices explains why hearing aids “fail to deliver”:

“All hearing aids … use microphones…. And all microphones have three annoying characteristics: they pick up what is loudest, they pick up what is closest and they have absolutely no idea which sound is important to the listener.”

When I play the piano for an older audience, I try to find the sweet spot, a middle-of-the-road volume that isn’t too loud for those wearing hearing aids. My music also needs to be loud enough to reach those who, despite not hearing well, don’t wear hearing aids. For them, most sounds are muffled or faint and they’d like me to crank up the music a bit. I get complaints from both camps, sometimes during the same performance.

It’s a delicate balance, and I do my best to make adjustments.

Can you hear me now?

Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

Posted in Aging, Audiences, Piano performance, Volunteering | 5 Comments

Milkman, keep those bottles quiet

I think I have misophonia, sometimes called “selective sound sensitivity.” There are certain noises that run through me like a knife. Not just the usual ones that bother everybody, like the screech of nails on a chalkboard. I’m annoyed by the sound of a yapping dog, for instance, in a way that others seem not to be.

Misophonia literally means “hatred of sound.” But not every sound. The specific irritants vary among those who suffer from the condition, but commonly include loud chewing and slurping, sniffing, persistent throat clearing, knuckle-cracking… Let’s just say it’s a long list.

For people with misophonia, trigger sounds might cause slight discomfort, or a full fight-or-flight response. It’s hard for others to understand our very real struggle to cope with the sounds of daily life.

In the 1990s, my husband directed the University of Wisconsin-Madison Biotron, a controlled environment for plant and animal research. One of the rooms in the building was designed to allow complete isolation from the outside world. It floated on huge springs to minimize mechanical vibrations. Thick concrete walls kept out all sound. A wire cage embedded in the concrete made the space impermeable to electrical interference. From the moment I heard that a room like this could be built, I’ve wanted one in my house.

My misophonia extends to some types of music. Dissonance puts me on edge. Extended jazz improvisations lacking any sort of regular meter upset me, too. And I can’t listen to twangy vocals without feeling unsettled.

One of the places where I play lunchtime background music has wood laminate floors in the dining room. Here’s what happens each time I visit: I arrive as scheduled and begin playing. Residents make their way to their assigned tables. So far so good. But then, each person pulls out a chair, which scrapes across the laminate floor with surprising volume, the noise bouncing off every hard surface in the room. The residents abandon their walkers and transfer into their seats, then adjust their chairs with a series of additional scrapes to get close enough to the table to eat. This goes on for the first 20 minutes of the hour I’m there, at 22 tables for four.

For most people, this would not be a big deal. I know that. After all, the residents are simply settling themselves for their meal. But the incessant scraping pains me. Literally. The raspy noise fills my head and drives me nuts.

Fleeing is not an option. So I take deep breaths and try to slide further into the music, which by now only I can hear. And eventually, the scraping stops. All is calm, my music accompanied only by quiet conversation and the soft clinking of forks against plates.

Too soon, the early arrivers have finished eating and prepare to leave. The scraping begins anew as chairs are pushed back from the table, walkers fetched, and the ritual repeated, in reverse. The cacophony lasts for the final third of my hour-long performance.

But those middle 20 minutes? My pleasure.

Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

Posted in Audiences, Piano performance, Volunteering | Tagged | 3 Comments

99 bottles of beer on the wall

When I was growing up, every kid knew alternate lyrics to the Christmas carol “We Three Kings”:

We three kinds of Orient are
Trying to smoke a rubber cigar.
It was loaded, it exploded…

Those of you born after 1960 probably sang this one:

Jingle bells
Batman smells,
Robin laid an egg.
Batmobile lost a wheel
And Joker got away.

Many adults, too, delight in replacing original lyrics with something silly. Comedy writer Allan Sherman was a master at setting new words to other people’s melodies. His clever parodies include “Won’t You Come Home, Disraeli” (“Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey”) and “One Hippopotami” (“What Kind of Fool Am I?”) and “I See Bones” (“C’est Si Bon”).

World War II Army nurse Muriel Engelman recalls ribbing the pilots by singing these words to the tune of a popular 1944 song, “I’ll Walk Alone.”

I’ll walk alone, because the Air Corps’ afraid of the Buzz Bombs
I’m not afraid of the Buzz Bombs, but I can’t get away, so here I stay.
I’ll walk alone, because the Air Corps’ afraid of the ack, ack..

She explains on Kathryn Atwood’s blog, The Song’s the Thing:

“We nurses dated some pilots whose air base was at St. Trond, Belgium, I don’t remember how far they were from Liege, somewhere like a 45-60 minute ride away but they weren’t getting buzz bombed and when they came to see us they weren’t comfortable with the bombs coming in every 12-15 minutes and they would want to take us to their air base where it was peaceful, so we teased them about it with that song.”

During a recent informal performance at an assisted living home, a small group gathered around the piano after lunch, singing and sharing memories sparked by the music. My set list included the 1911 barbershop quartet standard “I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad,” one of my grandfather’s favorites. I can still hear his voice when I play it:

I want a girl, just like the girl that married dear old Dad
She was a pearl, and the only girl that Daddy ever had.
A real old-fashioned girl with heart so true
One who loves nobody else but you…

When I announced that “I Want a Girl” was my next selection, Una piped up.

“There are other words to that song, you know.”

“Oh, what are they?” I asked.

“Well, they’re not very nice.”

Una didn’t seem to want to expand, so I dropped the subject and got started playing. Pretty soon she was singing in her high, thin voice:

I want a beer, just like the beer that pickled dear old Dad
It was a beer, and the only beer that Daddy ever had.
A real old-fashioned beer with lots of foam
It took six men to carry Daddy home
Oh, I want a beer, just like the beer that pickled dear old Dad.

“My dad taught me that,” she said afterwards, misty-eyed. For a moment, I glimpsed the little girl she must have been when he did so.

Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

Posted in Audiences, Music and emotion, Volunteering | Tagged | 5 Comments

To make a long story short

I value concise language. I try to keep my posts under 500 words, so they take only a few minutes to read. But writing short can be harder than writing long.

French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal expressed this sentiment in 1656 when he wrote in his Provincial Letters, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” The quote has since been attributed to many, including Mark Twain.

A modern example of writing short is tweeting, with its 140-character limit. While I sometimes admire the imaginative ways tweeters stay within those confines, I’m not sure that narrating the minutiae of our everyday lives is worth writers’ or readers’ time.

Given my minimalist tendencies, it’s no surprise I’m drawn to the “Six-Word Memoir” project founded by Larry Smith, whose online storytelling community gathers at Smith Magazine. As Smith explains in a video on his website, Ernest Hemingway was once challenged in a bar bet to write a novel in six words. Here’s what he supposedly came up with:

For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

Wow.

That Hemingway anecdote is likely an urban legend, but it inspired Smith to start asking people, “Can you describe your life in just six words?” Indeed they could, and the “Six-Word Memoir” project was born.

Told to marry rich. Married Richard.

Life’s GPS keeps saying recalculating, recalculating.

Son’s autism broke and rebuilt me.

Interest in the six-word memoir surged. Teens participated in the project:

Mom just revoked my creative license.

Smith visited his nephew’s third-grade classroom in New Jersey and gave the kids a chance to write their own six-word memoirs. One little girl’s solemn response awed him:

Nine years stacked within my soul.

“I didn’t know whether to call her parents—or The New Yorker,” Smith says.

Smith has taken the project to AARP conventions and music festivals. He has worked with veterans and green activists and suicide prevention groups. He has asked celebrities to try the six-word form. Novelist Amy Tan offered this gem:

Former boss: “Writing’s your worst skill.”

I wondered, could I paint a picture of a volunteer experience with just six words?

How about this one:

Dementia stole speech. Still, she sings.

You can say a lot in six words.

Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

Posted in Writing | Tagged | 8 Comments

The song is ended but the melody lingers on

My mother loved people, parties, and stories.

She died in October 2014 after many years of poor health. A couple of months later, near the date of her birthday, family and friends came together to celebrate her life. We cried a little (she would have wanted that) but mostly we laughed. The din of socializing created an atmosphere she would have liked. We ate pizza, looked at old photos, reminisced.

I set up my keyboard and played a musical tribute.

The last time my mother heard me play the piano, she had just moved into an assisted living facility and was very unhappy. I thought it might help if she had some way to distinguish herself among the residents, a little local fame. So I gave an informal piano performance that included her favorite old songs. She got the chance to brag to everyone as they arrived in the room: That’s my daughter playing the piano. It helped her feel better. And she’d certainly earned that small reward for all those years of driving me to my piano lessons.

My mother never saw herself as the frail woman she appeared to the rest of us during her last decade. She was tough, a tiny dynamo, who lived life on her own terms. So my first selection at her memorial gathering was a song that captured her approach: “My Way,” a Sinatra favorite released in 1969 after Paul Anka re-wrote the French lyrics especially for Ol’ Blue Eyes.

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way …

In recognition of my mother’s cherished Irish heritage, I played “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and “Danny Boy.” She was very close to her father, a dear man who died much too early at age 64. He liked to sing “Carolina Moon,” so I included that in my set list. Finally, I played a 1925 tune that my mother always got a kick out of because it features her name: “Paddelin’ Madelin’ Home.”

Then family and friends stood to tell stories and share memories. A theme emerged: My mother was feisty, frustrating, and dearly loved. Mac Davis’s “It’s Hard to Be Humble” was part of my sister’s remembrance. We passed out lyrics sheets and invited everyone to sing. Many did—with great enthusiasm. In my mind’s ear I heard my mother joining in, her alto voice roughened by years of smoking.

My daughter’s tribute at the memorial captured my mother’s personality from a granddaughter’s perspective. With her permission, I’m reprinting it below. I can’t imagine a more fitting toast.

Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

My grandmother was a joiner. She had many hobbies and collected friends in every random place. She loved things like playing bridge, golfing, bowling. Over the years, she taught me the rules to many of these activities along with guidelines to what her version of an ideal person looked like.

One part of being a gamer is you learn to keep score, and oh did my grandmother keep score. If you were important to her at all, she had a report card filed away for you in her brain. In her last years, her once famed memory started to fail, but where she lost the ability to use a microwave, she had no trouble remembering who sent her a thank you card, or called on birthdays. Sometimes this habit of hers annoyed me and was hard for me to understand. But, what I came to grasp, and then appreciate, was that she played the game too.

She showed up for every big moment in my life. Sure, I was the only grandchild for years, but she did all the right things even after I was joined in rank. She followed me to China, saw me graduate, drove by herself to Wisconsin to dress up with me for Halloween or come to my birthday sleepovers. She remembered to send me a card and 5 dollars for every holiday, 10 if it was a big one. She contributed yearly to my college fund with savings bonds at the anniversary of my adoption. She was by far my most present grandparent, and there was never a moment that I was excused from her standard of what was right, because I belonged to her and she loved me with huge expectation.

In my mind, she won. I give her full marks and high honors. So, let’s count ourselves lucky to have ever been considered for grading, and raise a glass to our permanent records and my champion of a grandmother, who has no doubt turned those records in to God, along with her strong opinions on who deserves a little extra time in purgatory. Cheers.
© 2014 Jessa S.B. Sharkey

Posted in Music and emotion, Reminiscences | 7 Comments