On a String

The kitchen wallpaper. That is what I remember best. The kitchen wallpaper. Yellow and brown faded flowers with burnt orange pistils. The wallpaper was faded, or perhaps that is just the memory. 

He sat in a brown, wooden kitchen chair and I sat on his knee. He slowly breathed in smoke from his cigar and then blew it out in rings that traveled first passed his large nose, then over his large glasses, and finally up and around his white, thinning hair. Then taking a break from his cigar he sings the song. 

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, and now I am found, I was blind, but now I see.”

As he sang I would see a vision of a little boy, clad in clothes from the 1800s, being carried home by his father. These visions were most likely inadvertently taken from a picture I once saw of tiny-Tim, but none-the-less, it was the picture of being carried by a father, that naturally corresponded with the words, “I was lost and now I am found.”

Flashing forward, there is a man: gaunt and barely breathing. His eyes are closed and he lay in bed. Nurses come in and out of the room. My grandmother holds the man’s hand, weeping and begging for him to stay. 

And the moment leaps across time. I am here and I am there. 

Months ago, almost a year ago, now that I think about it, was his birthday. We were supposed to think of a favorite memory of this man and write it to him. And I couldn’t bring myself to do it. There were too many. And yet, at this moment, as time and space collide together and he is standing on the doorstep of heaven, it comes to me. 

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.” Can he hear it now?

I walk over to him and grab the hand that is not being held by my grandmother, his left hand. It is ashen and thin, a complete contrast from the hand that held me almost 20 years ago. And I whisper, “Papa, it’s Jennie.” His eyes flutter as if to acknowledge that he knows. “My favorite memory of you…” Someone in the room chokes back tears as I continue, “my favorite memory of you is when you used to sing Amazing Grace to me. I would sit on your lap and you would smoke your cigar and sing. And now I sing Amazing Grace to my son, just like you sang to me.” 

I sing to my son. My colicky, sweet son. He cries, and I rock and sing to him. And the moments tie together on a string. My papa to me, I to my son, and us together as we watch my papa enter into heaven, where his own son - lost at 37 weeks - waits to greet him. The moments all tied together on a string.