Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When Inconvenience Defines Love

My phone rang a few minutes after my wife had left for her weekly Cub Scout meeting.

Her: "Hi Honey, I was supposed to ask you this earlier, but I got busy and it slipped my mind. Could you come over and talk to the boys for about 20 minutes about Native American things while we work on a project?"

Me (caught off guard, having just returned from work): "Uh...."

Not too eloquent, but my mouth was in neutral while my brain was racing through a slalom course of thoughts in high gear.

Thought #1: Grrrr. This is terribly inconvenient. I feel like doing my best Grumpy imitation.

Thought #2: On the other hand, while I have much yet to learn, I do have the necessary resources to discuss Native American culture for 20 minutes. I have been learning about it since I joined the Order of the Arrow as a 13-year-old Boy Scout and I am descended from Wampanoag and Narragansett people.

Thought #3: But my wife needs me right now. This means that I don't have time to pull out a bunch of native regalia. I will have to just go and talk.

Thought #4: In my mind's eye I see myself back in time as a Cub Scout. The thought of some man standing there droning on and on for 20 endless minutes nearly puts me in a catatonic state.

Her: "Oh, and could you bring the hole punch."

Me (digging through the junk drawer in the kitchen and still feeling aggravated): "I don't see it. Do we even have one? I can't remember seeing one lately."

Her: "[The other Cub leader] just called her mom. She has one. Drop by there and pick it up on your way over here. We need it to punch holes in the drum heads."

Thought #5: Oh, they are making fake Native American drums. Hmmm.... Maybe I should bring the authentic Native American drum in the basement that belongs to the Order of the Arrow chapter. (I am the chapter adviser.)

I rushed around, got the large drum from the storage room, loaded the drum into the vehicle, and headed down the road, still feeling very put out.

Thought #6: Hey you! Mr. Grumpypants! You should know that how you respond to an inconvenient request from your wife probably says a lot about how well you really love her.

Thought #7 (feeling my stony heart soften a bit): Where did that thought come from? I'm not that noble on my own. Maybe my wife sent it telepathically. Or maybe it came from a higher source that is well acquainted with my wife's excellent soul.

I fetched the hole punch along the way and was soon hauling the heavy blanket covered drum into the building. The boys looked on with interest as I bore this burden into the room. When I unwrapped the blanket to reveal the large rawhide and wood drum, it was like magic. Their faces lit up and every boy wanted to gather around the drum.

Rather than engaging in a broad discussion about culture, I focused on teaching about Native American drumming and singing. Eventually all of the boys were drumming with me and singing the Spongebob Squarepants song by the Black Lodge Singers.

We then had the boys work in teams to build drums from #10 cans, Naugahyde, and boondoggle plastic lace. Not even remotely authentic. But something that might remind them of the time they drummed on a real rawhide drum and sang a real Native American song.

Thought #8 (while hauling the drum back to the car): I actually feel pretty good. I had other things I wanted to do, but this was more valuable.

Thought #9 (while driving home): Despite feeling inconvenienced, I do dearly love my wife. After all, she has graciously put up with a lot of inconvenience caused by me over the years.

Thought #10: In fact, I am grateful that my wife felt comfortable coming to me with this spur of the moment request. What a shame it would have been had I established a pattern that would have made her reticent to do so.

Thought #11: Yeah, how one responds to an untimely request by one's spouse probably does say a lot about how well he/she loves her/him. So I didn't start out very well, but I eventually came around. In my defense, I'm still a work in progress.

I stowed the drum and walked back upstairs feeling calm and content.

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