Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Buddy

With the stroke of his pen today Obama repealed the controversial “Don’t ask, Don’t tell". My thoughts are with so many friends, mostly deceased now, either forced out of service to their country because of discrimination, or destined to serve in a kind of silent exile, hiding their true identity. Many of my personal friends who led such a double life were nurses in the 2nd World War. Such a tragedy.

Propped on my seldom ever-used Hammond organ is the sheet music to My Buddy, published in 1922, with lyrics by Gus Kahn and music by Walter Donaldson. My dear friend Bill gave me the music. I’ve always loved the song and didn’t know until adulthood it had been attributed to the story of a soldier grieving his friend who was killed in the 1st World War, a war in which three of my family served (my maternal grandfather, in Canada's Princess Pat Regiment), and my father and his sister.

My 95 year old cousin Dollie in Vancouver tells me the whole family sang it---it was a favorite. Even as a child when my mother crooned it I presumed it was a love song. The instructions on my copy say it is to be sung tenderly. Indeed, that is how my mother sang it, as well as others, the likes of Al Jolson and Rosemary Clooney.

Sometimes at night (last night being the longest night of the year) when I am most missing Lee, I croak out the refrain, (thank goodness only Kodi can hear me) and it comforts me.

Of course I have known the words by heart since childhood, and I imagine I can actually hear my mother’s voice: Nights are long since you went away; I think about you all through the day; My Buddy, my Buddy, No Buddy quite so true. Miss your voice, the touch of your hand; Just long to know that you understand; My Buddy, my Buddy. Your Buddy misses you.

So today I pulled off the yellowing plastic sleeve and studied the words of the verse: Life is a book that we study. Some of its leaves bring a sigh; That we must part you and I. The second verse goes on to say: Buddies through all of the gay days; Buddies when something went wrong; I wait along through the gray days; Missing your smile and your song.

Such simple words, and kind of corny, but they pack a lot of emotion. I’m curious if they mean anything to any one else? Did many families sing it, or just mine? And am I the only one who sees the double meaning? Surely not. One of these days I must ask my friend Bonnie (senior) to sing it for me with full feeling, which it deserves.

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