Music has always been a big deal to me. When I was very small, it was enough to just like a song for its beat or its melody, or more likely just because my mother liked it. But it didn't take long before a song had to be something I felt. It had to have some kind of personal meaning to me, however insignificant or unsophisticated that meaning was, for me to want to listen to it, even by the time I was 6 years old. So I hardly ever loved a song the first time I heard it...it had to grow on me. I'm still like that, and it gets more pronounced as I get older. But the songs I do love, I love forever.
The first song I can ever remember making me cry was "Leader of the Band" by Dan Fogelberg. I was maybe 7 or 8 when it was popular. It made me think of my bond with my Papa. It also reminded me that he was getting older, and I wouldn't have him around forever. Listening to the words now, it's still so significant for so many of the same reasons, but I can't help wondering how I understood all of it when I was that young. I can never make it through the last verse without crying, even now. Especially now, I guess. Songs that make me cry are still a very short list, but that one is at the top.
This weekend, I took S to spend the week with my parents. While I was there, I received the pendant that I ordered when we were planning the funeral - a small silver disc with my grandfather's thumbprint on it. My aunt is the only other person who ordered one for herself, although the kids (and I count myself among them) went in together to get my Grandma a gold one, also. Since I got it, I've only taken it off when I've been in the tub.
I forgot to request when we ordered them that the impression be taken from my Papa's left thumb. This was important to me, because he was left-handed, and very proud of it. The fact that I'm left-handed also, that I inherited this from him, was a big part of our bond. As it happened, they used his left hand without my having to ask. My cousin J saw the traces of ink still left on his thumb.
This whole grieving process has been very odd. It's been everything I expected, and nothing I expected. It's been easy in ways I never thought it would, and difficult in ways I never anticipated. Just before the funeral, my aunt Mary (whom I had just met that day, which is another story altogether) commented that she couldn't believe he was 92. She'd never felt older. I answered that for me it was just the opposite...I felt 5 years old. And I felt that way for weeks after.
Now, I've gotten to a different phase. I'm moody, I'm petulant, I'm having all these emotions that I can't name and have no clue how to deal with. It seems that now I feel like an adolescent. It's progress, I guess, and maybe that's all grief is...a kind of regression, and then growth again.
I visited the cemetery on Sunday for the first time since the funeral, and I stayed for 2 1/2 hours. Just talking to him. For the past several years I have been, since he couldn't do the talking anymore. But he used to. Anyone who knows me would tell you that I am NEVER at a loss for words. I can talk to anyone about anything, and you might have a hard time shutting me up. My Papa was the one exception. With Papa, he did the talking and I did the listening. I liked it that way. I never realized until I was at the cemetery on Sunday how those roles had reversed, and how out of my element it's always made me feel to visit him in the past several years, after he stopped being able to talk, and to have to tell him the stories, to have the burden of entertaining him and filling him in and saying something interesting and amusing and insightful. That was always his job. At some point it became mine, but it's never really been something I've been comfortable with. I wanted his voice and his stories. Not mine. And I wanted the snippets of songs that he constantly sang. But they've been gone for years. This love of music, though - this NEED for music - is also something that was passed down to me from my Papa. It was so obvious to everyone who knew him, and his favorite songs stayed his favorite songs all of his life.
I do know that so many of the songs that have meant something to me up until now have taken on newer and deeper significance. What I saw in them before seems superficial now. I'd imagine that it's going to be like that all my life. I'll pick up new songs along the way, and the old ones will develop a patina, just getting richer and more nuanced all the time. And some of those songs are the very same ones that were his, which is a comforting thought.
There are worse ways to cope.