When the autumn weather
Turns leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time
For the waiting game
Oh, the days dwindle down
To a precious few
And these few precious days
I’ll spend with you
These precious days
I’ll spend with you
Do you believe in ghosts?
I’m pretty sure the one in the car with me last week between the Walker short-cut and Park Rapids had snow-white hair that stuck straight up and a big red nose. He was sporting a plaid Pendleton shirt and smoking a pipe as he rode next to me in the passenger seat. I’m certain of it. He seems to show up whenever I have the radio tuned to the Oldies station on Sunday afternoons as I make my weekly trip west to teach a class on Monday.
I first suspected he was with me in early August when the song “Spanish Eyes” came on the radio. Then, another Sunday, it was “Bill Bailey” that got me wondering who was riding shotgun next to me as I wound around the corner coming into Nevis. Finally, last Sunday, I was finally certain he was there when the instrumental version of “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” came on and I couldn’t remember the second line of the song no matter how hard I tried. Not that knowing the words to any old song really matters. Unless it is a song your grandfather sang to you, that is.
The thing about losing someone, anyone, is this. You never really ever stop missing them. Not really. You just resign yourself to the fact that you do. But then, something like a car ride and a silly old song on the radio that you’ve lost the words to happens and you start searching like crazy in the hard drive of your brain for the silly old song file, which leads you to searching for other files like the one that holds the way your grandfather laughed with his thrown back or sang an Irish lullaby or smelled of Old Spice and cigar smoke. Some days you find the files, and some days you don’t.
Until late September, when a song comes on the radio as you’re driving along, alone, and you realize that you’re not really alone after all. He’s there, all around you…in the lakes and rivers and trees… in your head full of memories, and in the faces (and voices) of people you love who showed up a long time after he was gone. You find him there, more than anywhere else, actually. But sometimes he’s there in the words to a song about red roses and a blue lady. And suddenly, when you know this for sure, you’re not so blue anymore. No longer quite so alone.
He loved autumn even more than his oldest granddaughter does.
Maybe that’s the reason he still shows up in her heart when the music plays and the leaves begin to change.