Sunday 25 Sep 2016

Grandfather Sang
AJ Robinson

You never know when the singing bug is going to bite. When I was a kid on Martha’s Vineyard, the Wednesday Night Sings at the Tabernacle were always fun. For me, I just assumed that singing was part of that day’s activities. Yet, there was one member of the family who did not seem to sing: grandfather. He didn’t come to the sings. Grandmother would occasional trot on down the hill from their cottage, but not him. Singing just didn’t seem to be his bag.

Until one night, that is.

For some reason, one lost in the mists of my middle-aged mind, we went out to my brother’s home in West Tisbury. There was mom and dad, my brother Greg and me as well as grandmother and grandfather. It was a warm summer’s evening, and the home Greg and Anne had built out in the woods was a cute little place with a chicken coop and a garden. They were quite the back-to-nature-types. They weren’t home, but it didn’t matter, their place wasn’t locked. Back in those days, few people did lock up. So, we sat inside in the kitchen and just chatted, waiting for them to get home.

As I was a young boy, conversation bored me – I’d sooner be in school than sit around talking. Fortunately, my brother had, at that time, three dogs: Bernard, a St. Bernard, with real original name; Lady, the German shepherd and one of their puppies, Chappy. I ran around outside and played with them. A couple times, Bernard stood up on his hind legs, planted his front paws on my shoulders, and just about pinned me to the ground! Back then, I was small, and he was quite big. I’d lie there as the three of them would encircle my head, and then I’d get licked to death, metaphorically speaking. Oh, my mother was not happy to see me after that! Between the slobber all over my face and head, and the dirt on my clothes, I was going to need a big scrubbing that night.

Yet, there was one very sweet memory of that night, and it was not the play time with the dogs. No, as I lay there for about the fourth “washing” I heard something. It was grandfather; he was standing out on the porch, and he was singing. I had never heard him sing before. Actually, in retrospect, he was pretty bad. I think even Paula would have rejected him from “American Idol”. But, for me, for that night, he sounded like Enrico Caruso and I didn’t even know who that guy was, other than my mother saying he was a great singer.

I could hear grandmother inside; she had quite the lovely laugh, and she was most amused at grandfather’s efforts. “Ah, I know it’s a beautiful evening now, Pop is serenading me,” she said.

It seemed grandfather did sing once in a while. It was just that he usually only sang to his lovely “June Bride.” I couldn’t help but feel privileged.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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