Toot Toot Tootsie, Goodbye…

March 19, 2008 at 3:50 am (Uncategorized)

We left early for a funeral in Nelson Bay yesterday, and returned home late last night thoroughly exhausted, hence the absence of a Tuesday post. It was a Jenkins family funeral. I never met Llew’s Great-Uncle Les, but he was 90, and the church was packed, so there’s every indication Les used his time well. It’s never a consolation to those most immediately in mourning, but 90 is a damn good innings.

Somewhat coincidentally, had he lived, today would have been my granddad’s 90th birthday. Dear Granddad. How I loved him. He could be such a bugger, truly the most infuriating man alive, but mainly it was just the sheer cheek of him, so it was impossible to ever stay angry for very long. Mostly all he ever needed to do was whistle or sing the first few bars of Toot Toot Tootsie, Goodbye and all would be forgiven.

A terrible thing happened to me during the service yesterday. I could not remember this, Granddad’s signature tune. I was wracked with anxiety. I broke out in a light sweat. What was it? God, what was it?? I clutched hard at Llew’s arm.

“I can’t remember Granddad’s song,” I hissed into his elbow.

I nearly started crying, and given that this was another man’s funeral, and one whom I did not have the privilege to meet, any tears of mine would have been grossly inappropriate. I lowered my head and started a frenzied internal argument with myself. Why was I remembering other songs instead? Why couldn’t I remember Granddad’s song? Why could I only remember the soppy song that bloody woman chose to play at the end, and a song my father used to sing, instead of this song, this song I loved because it was Granddad’s? Where had it gone, into what sad, unused recess of my mind? How long had it been since I’d last visited the rose garden where my grandparents’ ashes were interred? Oh, too long, I ranted in my mind, and this, this was my punishment, this awful vacancy where Toot Toot Tootsie, Goobye used to be.

Granddad’s casket was borne down the aisle of the crematorium at the beginning of his funeral service to the joyful strains of Toot Toot Tootsie, Goodbye. It was so unexpected for everyone else, but to those who knew him well, it was such a perfect start to what was really an opportunity to celebrate this larger than life character. I wrote and delivered the eulogy at Granndad’s funeral, and because of who he was, my job was easy. Well, writing it was easy. Struggling to control my tears and get the words out in front of a teeming house was beyond hard. Still, I got a lot of laughs. Granddad made sure of that.

I think my acute distress at the missing song guaranteed I wouldn’t be remembering it yesterday. I conducted conversations at the wake. I talked to my husband and parents-in-law. I ate and drank and outwardly looked no different. Inside I was raging at myself, there’s no other word for it. I felt I’d betrayed him by forgetting his song. And when, as we were about to fall asleep, home at last, exhausted, Llew dozily said across the dark “It wasn’t Toot Toot Tootsie, was it?” I fell across him, hugging him and crying “Thank you, thank you, oh thank you” until my voice started to break.

How could something so small be so important? Well, it’s just that it was so Granddad. And the temporary loss of that precious memory made me realise I urgently need to write them all down, all those things I loved about him, all those quirks and idiosyncrasies and perversions (he went out for a loaf of bread, one long ago day when he was still married to his first wife, my Nana, and returned home the following afternoon. Typical.). All our times together. Because there was no one like him. And because even six years is a bloody long time (what will I forget in ten years? Twenty?). And finally because I still miss him every day.

Happy birthday, Granddad, wherever the hell you are.

Toot, Toot, Tootsie goodbye,
Toot, Toot, Tootsie don’t cry.
The choo-choo train that takes me away from you,
no words can tell how sad it makes me.
Kiss me, Tootsie, and then
I’ll do it over again.
Watch for the mail,
I’ll never fail,
if you don’t get a letter
then you’ll know I’m in jail.
Toot, Toot, Tootsie don’t cry,
Toot, Toot, Tootsie goodbye.

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