What Stage of Grief is This?

I have a song stuck in my head.

Round and round on a loop, I hear it.

Getting a song stuck in your head is a common enough occurrence, but I am one of only a handful of people capable of having this particular song in there.

Once, on a cold night in Maine, I sat playing cards with The Empress of Whisky, her father, and her uncle. It may have been snowing; I can’t recall. It was definitely cold, though, and when I say that, I mean the Mainers were saying it was cold. So, you know, death to anyone born south of the 43rd Parallel.

Anyway as we sat playing cards and drinking*, my father-in-law began to sing.

*(I should make a note about the drinking. I don’t recall everything exactly — not because we drank that much, but just because it’s been some time — but I suspect The Empress of Whisky was living up to her name, while I may have had a strong beer or whisky, and her uncle was drinking something vodka-based, likely a gimlet. My father-in-law, however, almost certainly had a glass of Grand Marnier. He occasionally indulged in a Heineken, and he would gamely try anything — oh, the fun we had taking him on brewery tours! — but, for preference, it was always either that beer or his favorite orange liqueur. On this cold night, I’m certain it was the latter.)

There’s a phrase about people who play card games: “Winners tell funny stories; losers yell, ‘Shut up and deal!'”

My father-in-law always told funny stories, win, lose, or draw.

He also told stories during dinner, on car rides, while watching sports … the man was full of stories.

He was also full of life. Big, bold, life. Gregarious is the word that keeps coming to mind — so apt for him.

He would sometimes sing.

The whole family is musical, mind. They all play instruments, and they all sing on pitch, in time, and with harmony. It is not uncommon for one to break into song, with the others then joining in. It’s rather beautiful.

On this particular night, my father-in-law began to sing, his big, booming voice bringing forth an unfamiliar tune.

Despite the unfamiliarity, The Empress and her uncle were quickly harmonizing to the lines, and eventually I even found myself humming along in tune. (I do not, generally, sing.)

It’s a happy song, and it’s a perfect song for a cold Maine night, and we’re all smiling along as my father-in-law deals the cards, making up lines as he goes, everyone following along … when the song turns unexpectedly bawdy.

At which point we all cracked up and both song and game had to be put on hold while we composed ourselves.

For the rest of the night, usually upon some significant play in the game, one of us would sing or hum the melody, and that’s all it took to crack us all up again.

So that’s what’s in my head. A song that originated with four people and is now known to a handful more (all family) through a bit of judicious sharing, generally during another night of drinks and games.

It’s in my head, and it won’t go away; it just temporarily fades only to pop back up, much like it did the night he composed it.

And every time it does, I smile a little.

But then, he was always making me smile; why would that stop from beyond the grave?