Friday, March 21, 2014


On Saturday I emailed my mother a question about a sewing needle and found out my Nonnie, my maternal grandmother, was not doing well. She sometimes knew people, but a moment later might not. And I carried this thought - would she know me? -  all that day. That night I dreamed I was standing outside the little Catholic church of my childhood, wearing a black dress. I saw my Nonnie and approached with hesitation, "Nonnie?" and she beamed and said "Jeannine!" and we embraced tightly, laughing and sobbing.


The thing you should know about her was her voice. She sang. With Evelyn, there was always singing. On stages and in choirs, and once or twice - almost - on the radio. Maybe, most probably, if things had been different, she'd have had a professional career. She sang while making cannelloni, while driving in the car, at my mom's second wedding. She sang for her six kids, and she sang for her grandchildren, and most recently for her little blond-headed great granddaughter. Always, the singing. Always, the voice. It was the thing that was solely hers.


Nonnie told me once that when her mother, my great grandmother, had Alzheimer's disease and didn't know anyone, she would walk in to her mother's room for a visit, and her mother would immediately hum a melody. So even in a memory woven with cobwebs, her mother recognized her daughter.


"My little girl, pink and white as peaches and cream is she ..."

Until a few years ago, when I saw Carousel for the first time, I had no idea that this song*, Soliloquy, was ten minutes long, mostly about a boy, and sung by a man. For me, it was these few words and Nonnie's song; her song for me.

She was a soprano, a lyric soprano when she was younger, and I don't really know what those designations mean, but her voice was so clear and true, it went in through your ears, wrapped itself around your heart and squeezed. When I watch The Sound of Music or Mary Poppins, I see Julie Andrews, but hear Nonnie. Very similar. And how lucky to be able to listen to Nonnie's pretty voice any old time I wanted.


My first Evelyn, the original, my Nonnie, died on Monday in California. 

May she rest in sweet peace. 


And this morning, the first pink blossoms on the neighbor's tree, and the first bluebird - like a little neon light with wings - greeted me on the brick steps of my office. 

*This bit of song starts at 4:08


d smith kaich jones said...

Oh Jeannine. I am so so sorry. I was already teary eyed reading her story - all it took was the bluebird, and those pink blossoms, to make me cry a little cry.

I am glad you had her in your life, and I am glad she had you.


mrs mediocrity said...

Oh, I'm so sorry to hear your news. What a beautiful, loving tribute to a woman clearly loved very much.

I heard something a while ago about how music is being used with Alzheimer's patients, that somehow it is the one thing that can trigger memories... and your story reminded me of that.

Hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

a lovely tribute to a sweet sweet lady. sorry for your loss friend.