A Teenager’s Song for Gramma

A Teenager’s Song for Gramma

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Marcia Swearingen

A Teenager’s Song for Gramma

This world is not conclusion, a sequel stands beyond—Invisible, as music, but positive, as sound.

Emily Dickinson

As I sort through stacks of sheet music next to the piano, I come across an almost-bare sheet of music—only a few measures of notes scrawled in my own sloppy script.

I stare at the unfinished waltz and my mind travels through the memories of my great-gramma Fritz.

I find myself standing in the huge garden next to Gramma’s white farmhouse in rural Iowa. Gramma loved plants and flowers. She cared for them all and prayed for them individually. I see her kneeling next to a soft mound of soil where a seed has just been planted. Gramma makes the sign of the cross over it and says, “God bless you, grow.”

Gramma Fritz was a creator. Nothing went to waste at her house. She used every scrap of fabric to make her famous quilts and “rag rugs.” She made mats out of bread sacks and doll clothes out of flour sacks. Every scrap of food was eaten, every bone boiled for broth.

Everything Gramma used was an original—like her— the meat grinder her mother used and the foot-powered sewing machine. When I told her about microwave ovens she quipped, “That’s all I need—some machine to help me get fat faster!”

That was Gramma. Witty, clever and a little sarcastic. I’d been told that “Little Anna Fritz” never outgrew her schoolgirl spunk. She could outwit anyone—like a “stubborn German”—and everyone loved her for it. She always had a quip or quote. She blamed modern commercial Christmases on “Those wise men who just had to bring gold into the situation.”

After ninety years of strength and health, Gramma got sick. Sometimes she was winning her battle with congestive heart failure, other times she was not. When I realized that Gramma, like her beloved springtime, would not last forever, I wanted to do something really special for her, in honor of her. I wanted to write a song—more than a song, a beautiful piano piece. I wanted to capture my love for her and her spirit in music. It sounded easy, but it was not. Too soon I learned that composing the kind of music I wanted took a lot more than strong will and eight years of music lessons. I kept my goal a secret, though I don’t know why. Day after day, I tried and tried, refusing to give up, while becoming increasingly frustrated.

One night we got the long distance call from Iowa. Gramma’s condition was getting worse. I had to accept the reality, then, that writing her song would take a long, long time—perhaps longer than Gramma could wait. Still, I could not let go of my goal.

Finally I shared it and my frustration with my mom. She sat beside me on the piano bench and wrapped her arms around me, speaking with comfort and wisdom—with words I would have expected to hear from my wise gramma Fritz.

“Maybe it isn’t the music you’re afraid to let go. Maybe it’s Great-Gramma.”

She was right. I didn’t want to let go of Gramma. As long as I was hanging on to my goal, I felt like I was hanging on to her.

That night in bed I thought about what Mom had said and realized I would never have to give up Gramma or the wonderful gifts she had given me. Hers was a spirit that would live forever. She was a special blessing, and blessings never really die. The fear of losing her vanished. I fell asleep remembering Gramma telling me how she danced when she was young. She and her friends never tired, they just kept dancing.

Now I sit next to the piano with my unfinished goal in my hand. Dance, Little Anna, dance. You have helped me to be free.

Angela Thieman-Dino
Age fifteen

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