Saturday, August 13, 2011

More treasures?

I briefly lost my mind today.

In my Uncle Bob's office there were two audio cassette tapes -- one of my grandfather's last celebrated birthday (he was 88 that birthday) and one of a visit made by his children (including my Aunt Muriel) during his final months in a nursing home, about nine months after the first tape.

I cried.

And cried.

To be able to go back 29 years in time to hear the voices of my grandfather and my aunts and uncles is a priceless treasure. Instantly I was transported back to my childhood days -- especially Christmas when all the family would gather in our home (we were the only children on that side of the family, so my mother had ample reason to insist that Christmas was at her house). I was not allowed to participate in the adult conversations back then, but I certainly heard them. Listening to this tape was like an immediate re-visiting of my childhood.

Hence the losing of the mind. I lay on the living room floor of my aunt's house, crying, laughing, and talking back to the tape.

The birthday tape is mostly conversation among the siblings. But I caught the remnants of my grandfather's native British accent, which he had worked hard to lose in his younger years, but which crept in occasionally anyway. For instance, "married" was pronounced "marrid" and "Cathy" was pronounced "Kethy." I heard my Uncle Norman's very broad North Jersey accent -- by far the most noticeable among all the siblings, that's for sure. No ambiguity about where Uncle Norman had been brought up!

The second tape is of my grandfather playing the little organ in the chapel of the nursing home. Mostly he played hymns, but he also played  -- and SANG -- "O Danny Boy," a song he'd sung many times as a professional tenor (his side job when his kids were growing up). It is obvious that his vocal cords were totally unused to singing by then -- he was 89 at the time of the tape -- but I can still hear the WAY that he sang and, occasionally, a note that rang true both in intonation and tone quality from his youth.  Fascinating!

I sang along with him on "O Danny Boy" and reveled in the virtual duet.

Over and over again through my lifetime, my mother and her sisters would try to figure out just whose voice I had inherited. One aunt swore that I had their mother's voice  -- but Grandpa put an end to that when he noted that his wife (my grandmother, whom I never met due to her early death) had been an alto. In my classical years, I was a lyric soprano. So, not Grandmother's voice.Listening to these tapes, I'd say that I really inherited the female version of my beloved Grandfather himself -- a lyric tenor in his professional days.

The pop group ABBA had a song in the early 1980s (or maybe late 1970s) called "Thank you for the music." It is most appropriate for me to say to my Grandpa Newark -- thank you for the music.

Treasure indeed.

- Catherine

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