Mrs. Gwynn and Prince

I want to tell you a story about the sweetest thing my Grandma ever did for me.

And she’s bought me cars.

I’ve told you about how I found out about Prince’s time to stop refusing to die. Part two of that story is that the next day, my Dear Old Dad and I were scheduled to drive to Erie County, Pennsylvania, to have a birthday party in her honor.

It’s a three hour drive, so my Dad had to listen to a lot of Prince the whole way over. It’s just where my head was at. I couldn’t have possibly listened to anything else.

We arrived at the house. She had CNN on. And CNN was at Paisley Park.

Please understand. My Grandma had always been an oddly encouraging and simultaneously discouraging influence on me when it came to music. I’ve seen Pete Fountain with her, and Tommy Dorsey’s Thundering Herd. She wanted me to know the music of her era, and due in large part to her influence, I do, and I have an appreciation for it that few people my age might. I don’t consider it music of just her generation, in fact. Music belongs to us all and cuts through generations like a Ginsu.

But pretty much anything created after 1949 was out of bounds for my Grandma. Put on anything contemporary and she’d act like I do when my brother puts on Job for a Cowboy or whatever. I mean I could be playing Chicago and she’d be like what’s with all that screaming and grimacing?

But she wanted to know about Prince.

She asked questions. She put up with me playing his music on the radio as we drove to supper. I asked her what it had felt like when Glen Miller went missing, and she confirmed to me that it was a tremendous loss because they had no idea where the great bandleader had ended up.

I told her this was like that. To me.

She stayed up to watch SNL’s tribute to Prince with me. She wanted to know. She couldn’t bear to hear the music but she wanted to know who this little black man was and why he meant so much to me.

As you might know, a month later, we lost her to heart failure at age 92. I lost Prince, and then I lost her. But she, in one of the most interesting and certainly strange moments in my relationship with her, she offered one of the kindest gestures I’ve ever encountered.

Peace and B wyld, Grandma.

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