My mom’s parents lived up the road from us when I was young. I remember very little about them, as Grandpa died a day or two after my 4th birthday and Grandma later that summer.
I remember that Grandpa kept candy in his desk drawer. I remember that they both liked picnics on the beach. I remember their car.
I remember watching Davy Crocket on The Wonderful World of Disney one Sunday night when Grandma, my sister and I were all home sick and weren’t able to go to church that evening. My sister and I must have been sent to stay with Grandma while Mom and Dad were gone. We ate popcorn as we watched.
I remember finding a piece of driftwood on the beach that looked like a duck and giving it to Grandma because she loved ducks. She was pleased. I remember that.
And I remember being in the car on a trip – in my memory we were in Oregon, but I’m not really sure that we were – and I was bored out of my skull. Grandma, my sister and I were all in the back seat and Mom and Dad were in the front. I was grouchy and I called my sister a dumb dumb.
And I got in trouble from Mom.
I was silent for a moment. And then I began to sing. Quietly.
“Dum, dum, dum, dum,” I sang. “Dum, dum, dum…”
I got a little louder.
“Dum, Dum, Dum!”
I thought I was being so clever.
Until Mom turned around and said, “I told you not to use that word. You are not to call your sister a dumb dumb.”
And Grandma said, “Oh, she’s not calling names. She’s just singing.”
I looked down at my lap. Tears pricked my eyes and waves of guilt washed over me.
Because I wasn’t just singing. I was calling my sister a dumb dumb in song.
Grandma probably knew, too.
She smiled at me. Patted my leg. And I stopped singing.