My greatest wonder in life has nothing to do with the mechanics of anything. That is Hub’s department.
What I find wondrous is nature, and life, hopes and dreams. But having lived in the same house with the same man for more than thirty years, beyond a new bend in Hub’s sense of humor, what new could I possibly find to wonder at in my home environment? The mechanics of material things change, which doesn’t impress me, but little else. Still, even at that, unexpected situations arise that tap into my emotions and leave me quite awe-stuck.
Take this morning, for instance.
Hub is in a funk and I am beginning to worry about it. He’s bored. He eats too much and sleeps too much. Seems restless and unable to focus on anything.
Added to that, the weather remains nasty, which doesn’t help. And so I am beginning to fear if the weather doesn’t turn, Hub may not turn either. Back to his normal happy and carefree self.
Still I do my best to try and cheer him, but all to no avail. So there remains little left for me to do except to remain quietly supportive and at the same time more attentive to Hub’s conversations in hopes of finding an opportunity to assist him, in some unexpected way, back to his normal good humor.
And so, for these reasons, I am immediately alert, when Hub says to me at the breakfast table this morning, “Do you know the words to this song?”
I perk up my ears and wait for him to hum a bit of the melody, but all I hear coming from his side of the table is a deep muffled rumble like a slipper tumbling in a clothes dryer. His lips are ever so slightly parted in a duplication of Mona-Lisa’s famous smile, and I can tell he is deeply concentrating while exhaling a soft sound, so I go to his side of the table and bend over and listen. An uncommon thing for me to do, because normally Hub talks and sings, so very loud.
As I bend near his face, I hear a rumbling hum that seems to be coming from inside one of the table legs rather than from him. I bend closer and peer into his eyes and see a look of such intense concentration. A look that leads me to think Hub may have quietly slipped out-of-body. It is a glazed look that tells me he has moved somewhere else—leaving me feeling quite alone. He is not immediately behind his eyes, as he should be. Normally I feel an intimate adjacency to the person behind the eyes, but when I look at him, it is like looking through 140X Binoculars across a great expanse. He seems so very far away.
But, despite that, if I am to render normality here, I must pay attention. I must listen and try to identify the song. And so I listen very carefully to muffled modulations of oblique sound that have spacing and rhythm that is vaguely familiar.
But the tune? There isn’t any. And that sets me wondering what is going on, because Hub, like most people, always attempts to jar my memory with bits of the melody when he wants to remember an old song.
This morning there is no tune. The sound is more like a liturgical chant. There is no melody. But that is not the full extent of the weirdness of the situation. What is even weirder is the sound I hear is, in no way, representative of Hub’s voice. Not his sad voice, his happy voice, his normal voice, or even his silly voice.
It is not Hub’s familiar voice I am hearing. It is another tone, another pitch, another pronunciation, another shade, another frequency. It is simply not Hub’s voice. But yet, there is something strangely familiar in this never-before-seen-or-heard rendition. The pulses of the sound are scattered but not random.
And now I begin to verge on a kind of panic with the dragging and quickening of bass-toned exhales and inhales, and again, I say, without melody. And furthermore, the sound is incredibly soft, because it is as if Hub is forcing from somewhere deep inside a sound outside of his own voice range.
I don’t know what is happening here but my inner gut tells me it must be way more serious than a high fever, a blood clot, or an aneurysm. And the eyes though still and unblinking, remain fixed on me in an imploring stare. Across the huge expanse I referred to earlier.
And then, by God, it suddenly hits me. I know the song! I know the song!
Not from the nature of it, but the mechanics of it. Hub was amazed I did it. But I was far more amazed at how ‘The Lord of the Mechanics of Everything’ (that would be Hub) packaged the clues to a musical piece into nothing more than the mechanics of the piece.
Now that I understand the virtual impossibility of what he was doing, of course his eyes veiled over with such intense concentration. It’s pretty close to miraculous when someone can deliver a memory of a song with little more than vibrations of E.S.P. accompanied by a rhythmic percussion of nothing more than the sound of a slipper tumbling about in a clothes dryer.
Now Hub can carry a tune. He knows if it is right or wrong. But as he told me later, he had completely forgotten the tune. He had forgotten the words as well. He had forgotten the name of the song, and he had forgotten the artist. But what he hadn’t forgotten was that the song was a happy song. That is the memory that led to the twisted Mona-Lisa-smile. And he hadn’t forgotten the timber of the singer’s voice or the rhythm of the song.
Now Hub is not an impersonator in any way, shape, or form. But the voice I heard, that was not Hub’s, but yet was vaguely familiar, was the deep voice, magical and dream-shaped, of Louis Armstrong.
And the song Hub needed to remember was “What a Wonderful World.”
Isn’t that totally delightful? When Hub wants that desperately, and needs that desperately to recall a song to sing this early in the morning, and that particularly happy song is the song he wants to sing, my heart is lifted and I know all is well. The weather has cleared despite the dreary skies outside the window, and I know Hub’s funk has flown.
Hub is out in his shop right now singing at the top of his lungs, in tune, and in his own voice with impeccable phrasing…
“I see fields of green, red roses too…”