A few years ago, my husband came to me and said, “I would love to learn to play the banjo.”
This might not be so surprising if my husband was some sort of musician, or played another string instrument.
He’s not. And he doesn’t. He is actually a terrible, terrible, terrible musician (And I can say that because he is very good at pretty much everything else. I mean, something’s gotta give, right? You can’t be good at EVERYTHING, right?).
So I passed it off as just a fanciful phase he was going through.
And then he came home with a banjo.
He stroked it, sort of loved on it, polished it, whatever you do when you get a new instrument.
Then he tried to play it.
I told him, “If you want to learn to play the banjo, you need to get a teacher.”
He shrugged, and ordered some books online, and watched some Youtube videos about the banjo. This is not an unrealistic strategy for learning an instrument for somebody who, say, is a musician who already knows what a quarter note is.
Again, my husband isn’t and wouldn’t know a quarter note if it walked up to him and spit in his Diet Coke.
So I repeated myself, “If you want to learn the play the banjo, you need to get a teacher.”
His response was, “But I have to learn something before I go to a teacher, because I don’t want to be embarrassed that I don’t know how to play before I go.”
I told him, “A teacher won’t think you’re stupid. It’s the teacher’s JOB to teach you.”
He continued to refuse, and he put the banjo away and it gathered dust in our garage.
Then one day I was walking through a little mini-mall thingie we have in town, and saw a guitar store. A small sign in the window read: “Banjo and Guitar lessons taught here. Inquire inside.”
So I walked inside and inquired. Then I got the teacher’s card. And then I handed the card to my husband and said, “Here. Either learn to play the stupid banjo or get it out of our garage.”
He took me up on it.
He now plays the banjo.
When he is bored, he plays the banjo.
When he is a little stressed, he plays the banjo.
When he is happy, he plays the banjo.
When it is snowing, he plays the banjo.
When it is raining, he plays the banjo.
When it is sunny and beautiful, he takes the dog out to the porch, sits on our moldy rocking chair, and plays the banjo.
I would like to remind you that my husband has no previous musical background. There is a reason for this. His teacher called him “a-rhythmic.” He is, to put it mildly, musically challenged.
But he loves, loves, loves playing the banjo.
I hate the banjo.
It makes me want to gouge out somebody’s eyes with a spork.
It sets my teeth on edge and makes me itchy.
Listening to hours of beginning banjo was not, I repeat, NOT in our original marriage contract.
He knows I hate the banjo.
But he also knows that I love him more than I hate the banjo. He also says that he wouldn’t have pursued it if I didn’t give him encouragement/permission to walk into a banjo store and ask to learn the banjo, with no previous musical knowledge and a pretty big rhythm disability. His happiness and simple joy of plucking on that thing outweighs my need for earplugs every time he picks it up.
I have had a very, very long week with very little sleep. Yesterday after picking up my kids from school I did what all tired mothers do—I let them turn on their electronics while I crashed in my bed. When my husband came home, I put him in charge of dinner and slept for hours.
When I got up and started padding around the house, my husband greeted me with a hug and a kiss and said, “I told the kids not to bug you, that you needed some sleep.”
With my cheek against his chest I said, “Thank you.”
And then he whispered, “And I didn’t play the banjo AT ALL while you were asleep.”
So what I’m saying, people, is this post is about unconditional love. Unconditional love and Foggy Mountain Breakdown.
What do you put up with for the people you love unconditionally? How do you show your unconditional love?