I Just Wish That I Could

I grew up in what people in my area call a “Church Door” family; if the church doors were open, we were there. With four kids (two boys, a tomboy, and a princess) I think my parents knew they needed all the help they could get. My mother in particular was, and is, a woman of remarkable faith, and she is also a woman of music. Our house was always filled with music of all kinds, pouring from an old record player, the radio, her hands on the keys of a piano, or her singing quietly in the kitchen. I think I learned the words to “Amazing Grace” and “I Surrender All” before I learned the alphabet.

Though my one-day-to-be-sainted mother loved music, especially old hymns, the unspoken truth in our home was that she couldn’t sing a lick. The words and rhythm were there, but the melody was left in a heap of twisted wreckage behind her. If she was aware of it, she never let on, and I can guarantee that no one living in our house would ever have the guts to mention it. My father also loved music, but he was apparently very aware of his vocal shortcomings. When it was time to stand and sing hymns in church, I always marveled at his ability to do so without ever actually moving his lips. He’d just close his eyes and hold the hymnal for my mother.

I suppose that, given what science now knows about the power of genetics, that it should come as no surprise to anyone that I, like my mother, love music, but have absolutely no ability to sing. As the old saying goes, I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, even if you sealed it in with a lid. Unfortunately, at least for everyone but me, I spent the first 12 years or so of my life blissfully unaware of the severity of my tune-carrying shortcomings until it was brought to my attention in church one Sunday. My oldest friend John still loves to tell the story of my day of enlightenment, as he was standing there with me.

The morning service had ended, and we had wrapped up with a rousing rendition of “Just as I Am”, one of the most powerful, yet mournful hymns ever written, and still a favorite of mine to this day. As we stood there in the pews waiting to file out, one of the resident “Blue-Haired Saints” (as my friends and I secretly referred to the older spinster set in our congregation) turned around in the pew in front of us and gave me a kind look as she placed one tiny, white-gloved hand on my arm.

Looking at me with those tired but still lively eyes, sympathy painted over the gentle wrinkles of her face, she leaned close, patted my arm softly, and said, “Young man. I know your people, so I have no doubt you will turn out to be a fine man one day. The Lord blesses us all, and to each He gives many gifts. In time you’ll learn what He has given you, but until then, you may want to practice your humming.” And with that, she smiled a radiant smile, turned back to her blue-haired sisters, and rejoined a lively debate over where they were going for lunch.

I still sing old hymns, but I am merciful and restrict my performances to the shower or the confines of my car. I do, however, hum a mean version of “Amazing Grace.”
OverWritten OverWritten
46-50, M
3 Responses Dec 5, 2012

Some of those old hymns still get to me.
It reminds me of my Grandma.
She would always carry embroidered handkerchiefs....
I can hear her sing still...
Thank you for this.
I love it.

I don't think you ever shake the music of your childhood, not that I'd want to anyway. My "Nana" always had a tissue stuffed in the cuff of her sleeve. I always dreaded when she'd pull it out to wipe something off my face... I never knew how long it had been tucked up in there.

As one who has sang in church choirs since I was 12 I would much rather have a 100 people raising a joyful noise than one who sings like an angel.
You will note I said "A joyful noise" I personally don't care if you can't carry a tune in a bucket. Your song is for God not man.
Go for it!

You certainly have it right with the "noise" part. Thanks for the great comment.

Great story! So now we know how you got the nickname OW? ;-)

Just kidding. Well, unlike you, I know absolutely nothing about music, other than listening to it, and yet somehow I have always been able to get up and karaoke, and in fact have been told at least once at church that I should join the choir. Unfortunately I am like your father - bogged down with four kids and a codependent wife, so I have no time for choir. lol

I try to always keep the little green monster at bay, but I do admit that I'm quietly envious of those who can sing. Enjoy!

I will never forget one of the most memorable time of karaokeing.... we had just suffered through some young lady butchering Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" and the DJ really wanted someone to nail a song. So my wife and I picked Tim McGraw's My Best Friend, which is very sentimental to us, and I nailed it. ;-)