Saturday, February 19, 2011

Singin' in the Rain

Today I reclaimed a part of myself that had been MIA for a very long time. I always loved to sing, and as a child, often sang a cappella in my room for hours for the sheer pleasure of it. When I attended drama school, one of the required courses was singing, but the voice coach said that I had a professional quality voice, that I could become a singer if I wanted to. I didn't have the kind of voice I liked best, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan or Julie London, but I sounded exactly like Julie Andrews. And I had perfect pitch.

When Flip and I were first together, I was especially thrilled that he was a musician because I was sure that music had kept me sane through a difficult adolescence and later. The first time he heard me sing, he said, "What did you do with the money?" "What money?" I asked. "The money your momma gave you for singing lessons." I was so hurt that I never sang in front of him again.

This afternoon we had to make an emergency visit to the mall to get his eyeglasses fixed. This is a frequent occurrence, right up there with taking his computer to the Apple store so the Genius (the very best job title, ever) can unscrew it again. We are a fixture in both businesses, and what is more, he seems to choose the worst possible times to animal his glasses apart, like Christmas Eve, when no one with any self-protective instincts would be caught dead at a mall. Today it is pouring. It is raining so hard that all those people with self-protective instincts are undoubtedly building arks, not driving to the mall. I was riding my last nerve.

Our car radio is tuned to the classical music station I love, but today I flipped it to a rock station, which was playing "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones, and I forgot myself and began to sing with Mick and the guys. Perhaps Alzheimer's is responsible, but Flip said, "You could do this." He seemed impressed, as if he had never heard my voice before, and perhaps he hadn't. After all, he was the professional musician in the family. I sang along with Van Morrison, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Cetera, Sting and Robert Plant while driving through pounding rain, and by the time we got there, I felt that I could handle anything. Even a spouse with Alzheimer's who no longer knows what he's doing and destroys everything he owns, leaving me to pick up the pieces. You can't always get what you want, indeed, but I do believe that we get what we need, even if the reasons are unclear.

What is clear is that I needed to lighten up. I had cut myself off from a source of joy because caregiving is serious business, but singing still makes me happy. Flip's disease has changed both of us, but today he gave me back a piece of myself and I took it and ran. I will always love chamber music, but I think I'll leave my car radio tuned to the rock station for now.


secret agent woman said...

Yay for you! I feel lightened just reading this.

la cartonaria said...

Oh, this is good to read. Caregiving is exhausting, it can suck the life out of one not to mention the small delights necessary to get us through the days. I hope these gifts keep coming to you.

Barb said...

Singing in the rain is the best medicine. Glad music can be your therapy. I love this line: "I was riding my last nerve."

English Rider said...

Rock On! You surely deserve it.

mischief said...

Julie Andrews has one of the clearest and loveliest voices I know of. Glad you found your voice again, and a missing piece of yourself at the same time. Keep singing, keep taking care of you. xx

Molly said...

That was a long hiatus Flip caused with his remark about the money, but it's not late! You can have another career! Not to mention finding again something that brings you joy and helps to keep your sanity!

nick said...

Good that you've rediscovered something that brightens your day. As you say, caregiving is hard and some sort of compensatory enjoyment is essential.

Didn't know you went to drama school. Were you seriously thinking of an acting career?

martine said...

Singing in the car is the best medicine for feeling a bit down, Dolly Parton "9 to 5' is the best song for that:-)
thanks for sharing

TechnoBabe said...

Oh yes, sing away, my dear, sing and sing and leave early for appointments and take the long way so you have more time to sing. Let it lift you up and help forget some of the difficult stuff in your life right now. Isn't it a darn shame that one cutting remark kept this joy out of your life for so long. Let it out, just sing.

Anonymous said...

Good for you! It's great that you're singing again. Have you got a theme song that you can always sing that reaffirms yourself?

Anonymous said...

I think you should follow that dream. Not being presumptuous, but I think you need to, my friend. BTW, your rock station has a great playlist. I envy you.

Jo said...

Aw.... I wish you hadn't stopped singing just because of Flip's -- flippant -- remark. I have a feeling he probably didn't mean it to sound insulting. You obviously had a beautiful voice, but perhaps Julie Andrews was not his style. You obviously still have a beautiful voice, and you should sing as much as you want.

You're so gorgeous, and with a lovely singing voice, I think you could have been a star...! You are a star. :-)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


So happy I could help!

La Cartonaria,

Thank you so much for your kind wishes, and your visit.


Yes, that nerve gets played a lot these days. Today the sun is finally out, so I'll see how singing in the sunshine feels.


Yeah! we all do.


I don't sound like Ms. Andrews anymore as my voice is lower now. But she may not sound like her either these days. :)


It was a very long time of no singing. Flip is a kind person, and I'm sure he was trying to be funny as It sounded like a Vaudeville joke, but I was very sensitive. Life knocks that out of us, though, doesn't it, if we are to survive?


Oh yes. I attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC, which I loved, and did some Off-Broadway work. I was derailed by a personal tragedy and never returned to acting as a career, although I've done summer stock here and there over the years.


I am not a Country music fan, generally, but adore Dolly Parton. Anything of hers is a great joy-maker.

Thank you for your visit, and good luck with your new blog. I'll be watching with interest!


I can't wait to drive around in my sound studio. As noted above, Flip never meant to be cruel. What he said was probably a joke he'd heard somewhere, but I took it as serious criticism, so I am even more to blame, really. It's good to flex long-dormant muscles.


A theme song is a wonderful idea. I'll think about it. (Maybe it should be "You Can't Always Get What you Want.")


Yes, indeed it does. And it's time for a change as my classical station, which played mostly baroque chamber music, was bought by another entity and now they're playing a lot of marches and dark music by Mahler, Wagner, etc. No, no, NO!


I'm going to copy your comment into a word-processing program and print it to hang on my wall, right next to your lovely drawing. Thank you!!!

David said...

I am sitting in a hospital waiting room with tears in my eyes. Happy and silly tears. This is wonderful.

Yes, dammit, yes. Sing, sing, sing. Maybe Lewis has allowed Flip the music critic to really hear your voice now for the first time.

You know what? You and Sarah Vaughn can do whatever you want with the money that your momma gave you for singing lessons, for you both have been blessed with great music in your hearts, your souls, in your magic throats.

Sing, Ms Susan, sing, sing and sing some more. And then keep singing.

On a limb with Claudia said...

Hurray for the return of singing and song to your voice and your life! Good for you for retrieving something you love and allowing it to strengthen you! :)


You know, I lost your weblog address during a traumatic blog template change & in the last host change. You don't post it in your comments. I finally retrieved it from your Facebook account. :)

I'm glad I arrived when you were signing!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


You've made my day, perhaps even my year, by mentioning me in the same sentence as Sarah Vaughan. They didn't call her "divine" for nothing.


It's wonderful to see you here again, but I'm confused about not leaving a web address on comments. Ones name is usually a link to his/her site. But as Humphrey said to Ingrid, "We'll always have Facebook."

TaraDharma said...

My wife doesn't like me to sing -- says my pitch is too high. I used to sing quite bit with a folk trio, and loved it. Last year, after many fallow years, I took a jazz singing class at the local junior college. I got back on that bike and rode like the wind! I was one of the older folks in the class but boy did I blow them away. If you've got a gift, go for it, girl!!!! No matter how - just do it!!!! It obviously gives you great joy! It's so sad that our 'significant' others careless statements can affect us so...

tattytiara said...

Definitely, definitely, definitely keep singing. I remember my mother's beautiful voice carrying down the hallway of the hospital where she was admitted for emphysema. Sing with every breath you're blessed with!

e said...

Music and song lift the soul, at least for me. Sing on, Susan and the best to you both.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Sing your heart out. Sing like a bird freed from her cage. Sing until your voice is completely gone.

Do it loudly, do it often, and don't ever stop doing something you love.

One of my dearest friends *loves* to go sing karaoke. This girl could not carry a tune in a bucket if the song itself were superglued to the bottom of said bucket.
She is *terrible* at singing.
She does not care.
She gets up on that stage several times during the course of an evening out with everyone and just belts out her favorite songs. She flounces her skirts and dances around and has the time of her life - and *ALWAYS* the crowd is enraptured with her passion and bravery and every person there supports her.

We all wish we were that brave.

I know that you are, already. Do not hold anything you love back from your life, it is too precious to lose.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Big lessons here in self-belief and standing up for ourselves as we would automatically do for others. I'm so glad you're singing again - and jazz! That is the ultimate high for me. Thanks for sharing your very happy ending/beginning.


Your mother was truly determined to be able to sing with emphysema. Now THAT takes courage and devotion.

Thanks for coming by here. I'm enjoying your delightful blog so much.


Yes, they do for sure. I appreciate your kind wishes.


Your friend is amazingly brave! I so admire her for doing what she wants, regardless. And you're right about needing every bit of joy we can muster. I will try harder to take care of that area of my life which is screaming for help.

the walking man said...

Sing A Simple Song!

Maria said...

I'm so glad you found your voice. And isn't it odd how those we love can be our best champions and our worst critics?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


"Time is passing, I grow older, things are happening fast.
All I have to hold on to is a simple song at last."


Boy howdy, you ain't lying.

Donna B said...

Oh by all means SING your heart out...we each need our favorite soul joy...

heartinsanfrancisco said...


We certainly do. I hope I can keep that energy going for myself because it does help so much.

Odat said...

Sing away girl, sing away!

Amrendra Narayan said...

Hey ,
it was a wonderful read !

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Sounds like a plan!


Hey, thank you! I'm so happy you came by.