Local Current Blog

Video premiere: Dessa sings to her grandmother in “I Hope I’m Wrong”

A still from Dessa's "I Hope I'm Wrong"

Most of Dessa‘s 2018 album Chime concerns romantic relationships (“Boy Crazy,” “Half Of You”) or gumption (“5 Out Of 6,” “Shrimp”). But its final track, “I Hope I’m Wrong,” mourns a woman named Jeanette. This woman, Dessa’s grandmother, forfeited some dreams and suffered her losses — but according to Dessa, she “stayed worldly and curious” until passing away in 2016. She kept a rosary; Dessa keeps her ring.

The words to “I Hope I’m Wrong” are clearer than ever in this latest lyric video, created by Adam J. Dunn. Dessa sings to a “you” in many of her songs, but in this one, it shows how desperately she’d like to believe in her grandmother’s afterlife. As long as she’s reaching out, there’s hope.

Below, enjoy “I Hope I’m Wrong” and Dessa’s own memories of her grandmother:

In my adulthood, I was attached to my grandmother as a person more than as a member of my family. Whatever dynamic we’d had when I was young was replaced by a shared spirit of inquiry. She wanted to know what it was like to be me and I wanted to know what it was like to be her. She was interested in the seemingly limitless choices available to a young woman in my era — I could pick where to live, who to love, where to work, whether I’d go to church or marry or have a family. Social climates aside, World War II made those choices impossible for her. Her friends were dying. She moved to California to help with the war effort. A kamikaze pilot sunk the ship on which her boyfriend served, but he survived and called her to ask, “Do you have a white dress?” I have their wedding picture somewhere and she is tall and elegant, her modest dress accessorized by a gold crucifix, her glasses, and a genuine lovestruck look at her husband, my grandfather.

We grew closer during the final years of her life, many years after my grandfather had died. We always met at the same Champps for lunch where she’d usually have a low-sodium sandwich and a Manhattan and I’d have a salad. One summer day, walking to Champps, she told me she’d joined a book club at her assisted living facility. I thought, Ah, that’s nice. The papers are always full of summer book lists. I asked what they were reading. “The Qu’ran,” she said.

My grandmother stayed worldly and curious. And as we both grew older I think I became a candidate for her confidences. She told me about the rhythm of her days, raising five boys; about surviving the suicides that run in my family; about what it was like to stay married so long. (The joke she sometimes repeated was, “We’re Catholic — we don’t believe in divorce. Murder? Yes. Divorce? No.”)

When she died in 2016, I missed her very badly. And I hated to see my father hurting. His thinking self knew she’d lived a long, full, and fortunate life. But, you know, it’s Mom.

My grandmother and I were diametrically opposed on religion and spiritual matters — she was a lifelong, devout Catholic and I’m a vocal, committed atheist. Still…there’s the world as you understand it to be, and the world as you wish it was. I wrote the song “I Hope I’m Wrong” after listening to one of her sons — all of whom are very verbal, very thoughtful, and mostly non-religious — toast a drink above her urn, hoping against all odds that she might be up there somewhere, drinking a Manhattan with her man again.