Last Tuesday my husband came home from work whistling. Whistling.
I was in the middle of draining spaghetti with a dish towel over my shoulder and my hair spilling out of its two day old knot—but I noticed. Lately he’s been getting home from work later and later, often shrugging off his coat at the back door when the kids are already working on their second helping of dinner. I knew something was going on.
“I think Kris is old enough for piano lessons,” he said, wrapping his arms around me and resting his chin on my head.
“He doesn’t want to play the piano—he wants to play the drums.” I twisted out of the hug, smoothing my hair down where it had stuck to his beard.
“Why do you always do that?” he asked.
“Do what? I have to finish making dinner. The kids are hungry.”
“Whatever you say,” he answered as he walked away.
There was a time, not that long ago, when we were in tune.
Back then, love was easy. We were constantly touching, arms around each other, holding hands. I remember one camping trip where friends bet us we couldn’t complete a mountain hike holding hands—and we won! We went on dates, we went on trips—we spent all of our time together, and missed each other when we were apart. We were connected in every way.
Then we had kids.
The piano arrived yesterday. It was a gift from his parents—a piano they had owned for years which wasn’t getting much use. I watched from the kitchen as the men struggled to maneuver it through the front door, then turned —ever so carefully—to set it in its place beneath the window.
“It’ll be great!” my husband said, with a huge grin on his face. “Trust me!”
Love is harder now. After being pulled this way and that by kids all day, with a clingy toddler in my arms, my husband is fortunate if he gets any greeting when he gets home from work, never mind a hug or a kiss.
He works days and I work evenings. Weekends are busy with the chores we need to do to keep our household running throughout the week. We rarely have time alone together, and when we do we’re so tired that we flop in front of the television, him on one end of the couch and me on the other, with a couple of bags of chips in the space between us.
With each passing day I can feel us drifting further and further apart, but I have no idea how to fix it.
I’m too tired to fix it.
The marriage courses and retreats at church are so expensive when we’re trying to pay off debt.
The timing never works.
The list of excuses grows longer with each passing year.
My husband tuned the piano last night. His grandfather taught him how to do it when he was a teenager. It’s an odd skill to have, and one he doesn’t practice as often as he should—but he showed me the basics. There are three strings: Tune the middle one first, then tune the other two to the middle string.
“I don’t know how you have the attention span for that,” I told him after only a few minutes of watching the tedious work.
“It can be hard,” he said, glancing up as I turned to leave the room. “But it’ll be worth it. Just wait and see how amazing it sounds when I’m all done!”
And it did. My husband played song after song, until our son yelled down the stairs that he was trying to sleep. “So that’s it?” I asked, scraping the remnants of dinner off a plate before placing it in the dishwasher. “You’re all done?”
“For now,” he replied, sliding back the bench so he could help me in the kitchen. “When you move a piano you have to tune it a couple of times right away. And then you have to keep tuning it. Strings move. It goes out of tune.” He shrugged. “Everything does, eventually.” He pulled the dish towel off its hook and reached for a pot in the sink. “You just have to keep working on it.”
This morning I sat on the piano bench, staring at the keys. I used to play, a lifetime ago. I spent hours on a hard bench, just like that one, my fingers moving over the keys as I taught myself how to play my favorite songs from the radio.
There was a time when I fancied myself Vanessa Carlton. Would I remember how to play?
The chords came easily.
C … G … F … G …
Makin’ my way downtown … walkin’ fast … faces pass and I’m homebound ….
C … G … F … G …
Staring blankly ahead, just making my way, making a way through the crowd.
And I need you.
And I miss you.
And I wonder …
I was surprised at how good it felt. How familiar it was. It had been years since I had played, but as soon as I started, it all came back.
The first time we met, I was sitting at a piano. He was interning at my church; I was skipping class. I was in my last year of university and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life; he was a pastor struggling to justify his calling to his parents. We spent hours getting to know each other in front of the old piano in the sanctuary of the church. We became friends, then more than friends.
Two and a half years later he slid off that same piano bench with a ring in his hand and asked me to be his wife.
Back then, love was easy. We were tuned to each other. But the strings changed.
He changed, or maybe I did—or more likely, life changed us both.
All along, we should have been tuning to the middle. To the constant. To the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
It’s hard. It can be tedious. But it’s worth it. I believe that.
I have to believe that.
Hours later, I sat in the school pickup line, waiting for my son to kick his soccer ball across the field to the car, when my husband’s words came back to me. “You have to keep tuning it. Strings move. It goes out of tune. You just have to keep working on it.”
And I need you.
And I miss you.
And I wonder …
My husband got home late again tonight. The kids had finished their dinner and were working on dessert when he shrugged off his coat at the back door. “Daddy!” they exclaimed around mouthfuls of pie. He made his way to the table, kissing them both on the head before raising his eyes to look at me.
I could tell that he was exhausted. I crossed the kitchen, wrapping my arms around him.
We aren’t in tune anymore. We haven’t been for a long time. Things change. People change. But you have to keep working on it. And when the work is done—it’s worth it.
Guest post written by Holly Nore. Holly is a wife, mama, writer, and horse nut who wrangles children by day and words by night. A country bumpkin at heart, she lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with her husband, two children, and a hyperactive cockapoo. She writes to encourage and inspire others to see beauty in the every day, minister in the mundane, and share their stories along the way. You can find more of her writing at scattered-words.net.