Tonight’s song is kind of the male-perspective counterpart to #10. If anything, the shameless sap component here is even more pronounced. Sage wisdom passed down from one generation to another? Check. (Though here that wisdom is less overt). Dying relative forcing people to confront the inherent impermanence of life? Check. Cleverly vague chorus that is moderately sad after the first verse, but exponentially more so when put into later contexts? Check. Diminutive Andrew sobbing into his pillow late at night? Double-check.
If I were making this list at age 7, this song would have been #1, no question. Thinking about this song made me want to cry. Hearing other Collin Raye songs that I wished were this song made me want to cry. The mere mention of the name, “Collin Raye” made me want to cry. I told my parents that there was a country song that made me cry, but I refused to tell them which, because saying the title out loud made me want to cry. (My mother decided it must have been the #8 song, because everybody is convinced that your parents’ divorce is the center of your universe right after it’s happened.)
It wasn’t entirely for the obvious reasons, either. The dying Grandma certainly made me very sad, but what really overwhelmed my lacrimal controls was this vibe I picked up in the chorus. I had trouble verbalizing it back then, and looking back now, it’s clear that it wasn’t intentional on the songwriters’ part. But for some reason, when he reached the part of the letter that read: “But I’m not going to let you down,” I was convinced that she was, in fact, going to let him down. That note seemed like the beginning of the end. I was convinced that she was going to be won over by her father’s disapproval, and the grandfather would be left lonely and disappointed — even worse-off than he was before he’d met her. He’d let himself invest all of this emotion and trust and hope into this relationship, and it was all going to be for naught. This was silly, of course: it’s damn clear from the rest of the song that they do, in fact, get married, and have a very nice life together. But still, every time I heard the refrain for the first time, I was overcome by this pessimism.
It didn’t help that she had to go and die on him. See? Eventually, she let him down anyway. And when the grandfather, grief-stricken, made that promise that he wasn’t going to let her down, either (which was already the saddest part of the song, even before I had to go and be neurotic about it), this horrible feeling that there was no heaven crept into my psyche, and I just had these awful feelings that he’d never see the woman he’d shared his life with again. It was hopeless. Worse yet: I felt like he, on some deep level, knew this, and that made hearing him recite the letter so much sadder. He’s like Travis Tritt’s Mac: trying to repeat the lie fervently enough that he’ll start to believe it. (Lest I should set off your newfound PTSD: let me reassure you that, while the songs share this one commonality, their respective videos have absolutely no similarities. Not a one. This video is quiet, tasteful, and pregnant woman-free. Hopefully, this will help keep your flashbacks in check.)
I don’t know that this song would have made it this high on the countdown without the memories of my off-base interpretations, but I can’t imagine it wouldn’t have at least made #12. This is a finely-crafted tear jerker. You can roll your eyes at the saccharine, Apple-Pie-ness of it all, but you’re going to be trying to roll them under tears when he gets to, “between now and then, till I see you again, I’ll be loving you. Love, me.”