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Hypothetically Speaking

Hypothetically Speaking

What would you say if I told you….

It had been an exhausting day.

I changed out of my work clothes and into my shorts and t-shirt so I could get dinner on the table and take care of some (euphemism alert!) deferred housework. I was an itchy mess so I removed my glasses and stopped to splash cool water on my puffy eyes. Ahhhhh. Our area had had its rainiest June in recorded history, and I am allergic to mold.

Henry rolled in, exhausted as well. He had a meeting in an hour and wanted to eat something before he headed back out.

“Go ahead and take a quick nap,” I reassured him. “I’m just heating up last night’s leftovers, and I’ll call you in a little while so we can eat together.”

He made himself comfortable in his favorite chair, and it was lights out.

I reheated the salmon, couscous, and asparagus and set the table for two. We were empty nesters this week, and things were quieter than usual. I’d let Henry rest a bit longer since his meeting was close by. What else could I do to make his night a little easier?

His Father’s Day coffee! Of course! Our daughter Bec had given him a bag of delicious beans: Banana Nut Cream. Their only drawback was his having to work for every cup. Our electric mill had broken down years ago. We had never replaced it, and Henry disliked grinding by hand. I knew he would want a mug of coffee after dinner to get him through his meeting.

I like hand grinding! I love the aroma and the contemplative, tactile experience. Since I had a few minutes, I got our old wooden grinder down from the shelf where we display it. I miscalculated a bit in trying to funnel the upturned bag of beans into the mill, and the next thing I knew, beans were spilling in every direction.

The dog! I had heard that coffee is toxic to dogs.

I invoked the five second rule, dropped to my hands and knees, and frantically swept the beans into a pile. These beans were too special to waste. A little dust wouldn’t hurt anyone.

I sat down and started grinding.

The old coffee mill is a thing of beauty as well as a reminder of all the good times I shared with my German friend, Hanna. Her grandfather had owned two of them. After his death many years ago, she had given the best one to me and kept the other for herself.

I checked the clock. I still had time before I had to wake Henry. There was something soothing about this process. I decided I’d surprise Henry by grinding the rest of the beans and securing them in an airtight container.

Done!

Henry, grateful for the extra moments of rest, gulped down his dinner, grabbed his mug of coffee, and bounded for the car. I ate in peace, savoring the homey smells and gathering momentum to tackle the housework.

I was already in the kitchen, so I might as well start there. I cleared and wiped the table, washed the dishes, and wiped the counters. Time to sweep the floor. Daylight was fading, and I hadn’t yet replaced the missing bulb above the table. Hmm…where had I left my glasses?

I retrieved them from my dresser and returned to sweep. Now that I could see better, I realized I had let things get a little grungier than usual.

Oh. I had missed a handful of coffee beans. I swept them into the dustpan and was just about to dump them into the trash when I realized that a few of the beans were…mummified June beetles.

What would you say if I told you….

I have decided to cut out coffee for a while. Henry agreed that I seemed a little agitated at breakfast. I am sure the coffee is to blame.

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

Credit for coffee bean image here.

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Rule # 16: Sing When You Feel Like Crying

Photo credit here.

Photo credit here.

My father taught me to sing as a cure for a disturbing condition–a condition disturbing to him.

I’m surprised that I never developed a distaste for singing. On the contrary! I have loved to sing since I was tiny. I sang songs when- and wherever I felt the urge. And I contentedly tried out funny noises just to hear how they sounded. One day, while riding home in the back seat of our station wagon and looking out the window, I caught myself vocalizing and felt sudden shame. I looked around furtively to see if anybody had observed me–whew!–and I made a mad grab for a fig leaf. The seeds of adolescent self consciousness had been sown but singing remained joyous.

After that day in the car, I generally sang in private or with others. As a second grader, I loved to sit on my carport alone and sing from those little booklets used by carolers. I didn’t understand that music gave me direct access to my feelings and helped me to process. I just knew it felt good. Yes, it helped me to process them during periods when I was either too young or too lacking in insight to consciously address my inner state.

I was never a great singer, and at this point in my life, those muscles are shot. My singing voice is growing croaky from disuse. I could make the effort and revive it but these days I am more likely to write. Nevertheless, I can’t shake the sense that the gift of song was delivered in secret to help preserve and protect me. The idea makes me smile. A friend I didn’t know had filled my cup with chocolate milk while my head was turned. A friend I hadn’t yet met had draped a fluffy quit across my sleeping frame.

I sang in choirs as a child and adolescent. As an adult, I did a longish stint as a vocalist in a band. The feeling in my body—both the sound and the vibration—brought deep, visceral comfort. The eerie moments when surrounding voices interlocked with mine to create a perfect Summ* achieved a temporary rapture for which words could not suffice. I had to close my eyes and disappear into it.

My father never liked it when I cried. I’m going to go as far as to say he didn’t tolerate it. He never said outright that it was a bad thing but that is the message I received.

When I was upset and tried to speak to him through my tears, he would say, “Stop whining. I can’t understand you while you are crying.” His attempts to manage me made me cry harder to be heard, and this made matters worse. To have a voice, I had to give up my voice.

My father approached crying as though it were an inconvenient medical condition, such as hiccups, or a pathology in need of treatment. It was disconnected from its origins rather than treated as a symptom of a larger problem. It certainly had nothing to do with him. He decided to help me get over it anyway.

My father shared his tried-and-true cure. He declared with medical certainty that it was physically impossible to sing and cry at the same time. I believed him, and I believe he believed himself. The cure for crying was to sing. It just now occurs to me to ask how he had learned this remedy and what had necessitated it.

So I sang. And now I write.

This post is part of Family Rules. For the prior post in the series, click here. For the next post, click here.

*I had to use this German word, which means humming or droning because the sound of word will make you feel what I am saying. Summen recalls the sound of bees happily at work in the wisteria arbor above your head. Say the s like a z and the u like the u in the English word put. Say it out loud. Emphasize the first syllable and feel the zzzzzzz. Listen to it here

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