“Listen,” I said to my husband in a loud “stage whisper.”
And, he obeyed.
We stood in the doorway of our bedroom, hearing the sound of water pouring down the pipes in the wall as our son shaved upstairs. He shook his head and shrugged.
“It’s just the water in the exit plumbing,” he said.
“No! Our house doesn’t make that sound. I’ve never heard it do that. Listen!” I told him.
There was a gurgling in the pipes.
He was skeptical, but said, “Well maybe it is a little different sound than we normally hear.”
“We should have a plumber come and look at it,” I mumbled. He agreed. My husband knows our house, you see. Something big has to break every couple of months. It’s our karma.
My husband also knows me, and he knows that I know how to listen. Now my hearing isn’t keen (because of an acute ear infection when I was a child), but I can hear much better than many people my age. Unlike others of my generation, I didn’t blast out my eardrums with rock music when I was a teenager. My mother would argue that point if she were here, but she isn’t and I’m the one telling this story.
I’m not talking about “hearing,” really. I’m talking about “listening.” Those are two different things.
I spend much of my day listening to the sounds of my world. Unlike my husband and my stepsons, I do not need the “white noise” of a fan to put me to sleep. I prefer to hear the sounds of the night. Unlike them, I do not need to have the television and/or music blaring in the background while I putter around the house. I spend the day in relative silence, with only the sounds of the world around me, the “talking” of five cats, and the noises that my house makes. I know the sounds my house makes. This was not one of them!
The plumber came just before noon, and listened to the sounds our plumbing made. “It’s just the water in the exit plumbing,” he said. “It sounds as if it’s flowing well.”
“No, it’s not,” I replied. “We’ve never heard that sound before.”
He said, “Lady, I hate to start tearing into the walls for no reason. There is no water anywhere. I couldn’t tell you what you are hearing.”
“What I hear you say,” I said, “is that I have to wait until ‘exit’ water is gushing down my walls before you can repair it?”
He sighed with exasperation. To humor me (though I’m only a woman), he listened again. We turned on the sink faucets upstairs, came back down and he listened. First there was the gurgling, then the sound stopped.
“You see,” he smirked. “Nothing’s wrong.”
We went back upstairs to turn off the faucets. “Whoa!” he said, as he looked at the sink, which was almost overflowing with water. “Looks like you do have a problem. There is some kind of blockage in the line.”
“I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen,” I replied.
Someone once asked me what I thought was a ridiculous question,
Well, I don’t want to make that choice, but if it came down to it, I’d have to keep the hearing. I’ve always been an audile person, you would expect that of a storyteller, wouldn’t you? At this moment, I can without hesitation conjure the sound in my mind of my Daddy’s voice, my Momma singing, my best friend’s braying laugh, though they are all long gone from this earth. If I try to see their faces in my mind, it’s just a faded blur unless I have a photograph to remind me of their features.
Think about this question, though:
How good are your own listening skills? How often do you find yourself in “conversation” with your child, your spouse, or your friends “listening” to them talk, but not hearing a word they say? While you put on a facial expression of attentiveness, your mind is racing as you think about a problem at work, what you are going to cook for supper, or what you are going to say.
Maybe for today, just stop and listen. Sit quietly and count the sounds you hear. See if you can hear your own heart beating. When your loved ones talk, become consciously engaged in listening to their words. As you go about the day, don’t have the background noise of Oprah, or Days of Our Lives or The Weather Channel in the background. Just listen to the world around you. Hear the sounds your house makes. Don’t just “hear.” “Listen.”
If I hadn’t listened to the sounds of my house, we would have ignored that gurgling in the walls. It turned out to be much more serious than a “blockage.” A few months down the road my wall would have exploded with “exit water,” and I don’t have to tell you how crappy that would have been. Y’all go listen to your heartbeat.
I’m going to listen to the jackhammers drilling through my foundation.