“A Song in the Key of Love,” column for Aug. 13, 2013

Sometimes we sing together, my husband and I. Thanks, no; you do not want to hear us.

We aren’t by any standards what you’d call good. But we have found somehow between us a two-part harmony that is entirely, absolutely, our own.

What we lack in talent, we make up with good intentions. That is to say, we mean what we sing. What else is marriage for?

The first time we sang together was 15 years ago. Back then, he was my editor and my friend. When my first husband died of cancer, he came to the memorial service to pay his respects.

I had no idea he was there. There were a great many people, and I was, well, in a fog. But I saw him later in a video of the service. He was sitting alone with his chin in his hand, singing along with me and a thousand other voices, a great cloud of witnesses that had gathered that day, the words to “Amazing Grace.”

Does it count even if I didn’t know he was there? It does to me. Years later, after we started dating, we would find ourselves singing along to some song on the radio, or on a CD, one that for whatever reasons spoke to us both. Then we’d look at each other and laugh.

What’s not to love about a man who loves the blues?

Some women need flowers or chocolate or diamonds. Me? I’m a sucker, it seems, for harmony.

On our wedding day eight years ago, we slow-danced to a song by John Hiaat and sang the words like a vow in each other’s ears: “Have a little faith in me.”

Two years ago, for Christmas, he wrote a song just for me. My husband, not John Hiatt. It has, and needs, no words. Some mornings, when he wakes early, I hear him playing it on his guitar on the patio. And I feel my face smile into the pillow.

We have sung a lot of songs together, he and I. But the song we sang last week for Charlotte came as a complete surprise.

His son was scheduled to have surgery in California. Lest you worry, I will tell you now the surgery went well and was, thank you, all we prayed for.

But my husband wanted to be there, naturally, to be of any help possible to his son and his wife and their baby girl.

Charlotte is almost 2. Like all granddaughters, she is smart for her age and strikingly beautiful.

I am her third-string grandma. Or fourth. I get in the game off the bench, after her dad’s mom, with whom she and her parents are living, and her mom’s mom, with whom she visits often.

She barely knows my name.

On the day of the surgery, we took her for a ride, as her first-string grandma advised:

“The only way you’ll get her to nap,” she said, “is to take her for a drive and sing this song.”

I knew the song. We could sing it. So we strapped her in her car seat and drove for miles, her grandpa and I, singing off-key:

“The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round …”

We sang all the verses that we knew (the wipers and the doors and the horn on the bus), and some that we made up (the old folks on the bus go “help me, please, just go to sleep!”)

Charlotte lifted an eyebrow, gave us a look, smiled her best Charlotte smile and crashed.

We brought her home and I carried her inside, whispering as her first-string grandma had instructed, “Sh, sh, sh!” Then I tucked her in bed, pulled off her cowgirl boots, kissed her curls, and she slept. Yes, like a baby.

Charlotte won’t remember that day. But we will, I assure you, her grandpa and I. We will store it away in our big, fat, treasure trove of memories, hoping some day when she is older, to pull it out and tell her all about it.

The wheels on our lives go round and round. We hope and pray they’ll keep turning.

 

Comments

  1. Richard Flaig says:

    Hi Sharon, We’ve been dipping into your columns for some time and I really love this story…great to hear you sing together….it’s good for whatever ails you…you have a wonderful guy to harmonize with… And “what’s not to love about a man who loves the blues. ” That’d be a great hook! Best to you both/ Richard & Mary.

  2. Jacqueline says:

    Good Evening Sharon, (Florida Time)
    I do not enjoy reading long articles, but you have”sucked” me in so many times, and today’s article in our local Naples Daily News about your sweet Charlotte (Not “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte…lol) made a huge tear (not for the first time from you) roll from my eye to me neck…. Most times, it’s not “tears”… something else from laughter (ya know what I mean, right?)…..
    I am an aesthetician, and own my own salon in Naples, and I have quoted you so many times. You really get it. My first husband didn’t pass away, and I give my total condolences that yours did, and you with kids. I am so very sorry.
    I am on my second marriage, by pure luck, because after my divorce, I became, as my dear brother called me…… “A Scum Magnet”
    So, after many very bad dates, one night, I told God, “No more, I am good.. Good healthy kids, good job, good friends” ……. 2 weeks later, I met John…. 16 years older than me (You might be one of few that get this… Because he says: “My life is “Raising Rita”..lol) We couldn’t be more opposite, if he were a Martian and me an Earthling, but, it works. It works! It works so very well. He is a landscape Architect, however that should play in… ?????
    I am a “step” if you will, Grandmother too, they call me “Grammy Jack.”
    I so enjoy your stories, even if you made them all up (which I know you didn’t), they really warm my heart.
    As someone who never had the guts to think outside the box (My clients say “Hire a ghost writer, you have so many stories!” Or, “You should be on stage”
    Truly, my stage is my salon, and watching women run to the bathroom laughing…. because as one of my clients, who is a volunteer for Hospice says “Laughter is the cure of all disease”.
    With Kindness and love,
    Your devoted fan,
    Jacqueline

    PS I could go on and on about the many great articles that once I read the first paragraph…… you hooked me…. Please write a book, or just compile. I would be honored to offer an event and book signing at my shop, Google 5th Ave, Naples, Fl….. Good place (How I got here from Detroit in 1974, I don’t know) Angels???? Me thinks!

  3. Jerry Shaw says:

    Hi Sharon,
    I started reading your colum about a year ago and look forward to reading your life stories. I wanted to comment that you are right about singing together or to your spouse. My 89 year old father just yesterday reminded me and one of my brothers as we helped him shower that he sings to my mother every night when they go to bed after 68 years of marriage and he said it is the best thing we could do for our marriage.Jerry

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