It’s like I never made a sound

I was scribbling times and notes to myself on my meet program when I heard two boys talking behind me. Despite the loudness of the pool area — the splash of water, coaches yelling, parents cheering — their conversation caught my attention.

“You know, the water isn’t wet until you touch it,” said one.

“What are you talking about?” asked the other.

“The water isn’t wet until you touch it,” the first boy repeated.

“It’s always wet,” said the second boy.

“Nope, not until you touch it,” said the young metaphysicist.

I quickly wrote the quote into my program so I would remember it.

That conversation reminded me of a Dear Evan Hansen song which then ran through my head for the rest of the day. The song, Waving Through a Window, had nothing to do with water or wetness, but had everything to do with metaphysics of perception, but on a deeper level.

Evan Hansen had taken the classic question — if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? — and morphed into a question of something more.  The original question really is: can something exist without being perceived? That’s exactly what my young swimmers were discussing. Is water wet if no one touches it?

The question Evan Hansen asked was: when you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around, do you ever really crash or even make a sound?

The whole song is sad, about being on the outside looking in and never really feeling like you belong.

It’s about the pain and insecurity of being vulnerable, and so choosing not to participate in society.

It’s about isolation.

Sometimes I think about the hidden-ness of what I do. Nobody sees the dishes, the laundry, the putting away of books and papers that will be gotten out again tomorrow by a man who doesn’t remember. Nobody sees the toilet cleaning or the sheet washing or the cleaning of unmentionables in unmentionable places.

People see me at the store. They ask how my father is doing, and I hesitate in my answer. He mixes up the Jumbles and puts wrong answers in the crossword. He makes comments that make me blush, or make me upset, but ultimately remind me that he grew up in a different era. He needs help finding things — his wallet, his hearing aids, his pens — and I help him.

But when someone asks how he’s doing, all those things run through my mind and I say none of them.

Yesterday a woman placed her hand on my arm while I hesitated. “I know,” she said. “I know.”

And I knew that she knew.

If you are a caregiver and never tell people all the things you do, it doesn’t mean you don’t do them.

Like the tree crashing in the forest, people who have heard that sound know that it exists. Other caregivers know what goes on in the home.

I believe that water is wet even before I touch it, and that trees make a sound when they fall, and that when people struggle, even if nobody sees them, the struggle is still real.

That thought is a comfort to me.

And reminds me to be kind.

Taking a page from Osyth‘s playbook — I used  a line from the song for my post title.



Dear Evan Hansen

Getting in line to see Dear Evan Hansen

On the way home from New York City Mary asked me what my favorite song from Dear Evan Hansen had been.

Mind you, I had heard all of the songs a grand total of one time.

Unlike Mary, who knew every word of every song.

Unlike the woman sitting next to Mary, who also knew every word to every song.

During intermission I asked the woman if she had seen the play before.

“No,” she said, “I’ve just listened to the soundtrack a thousand times.”

Now, two weeks out, I’ve joined their ranks.

I want to see the show again in the worst way, but the tickets were a huge splurge the first time and would fall into the realm of ridiculous expenditures if I were to see it again.

“What’s it about?” Karl asked, a little mystified about my latest obsession.

In a nutshell, the story is about a socially awkward teen (Evan Hansen) whose counselor suggests that he write a pep talk to himself every day — Dear Evan Hansen. One of these letters falls into the hands of another social outcast who commits suicide. When the letter is found in the pocket of the deceased boy, his parents conclude that he and Evan Hansen were friends, and a fabricated friendship begins. This barebones synopsis leaves out a thousand important details, I know, but it’s a start.

What’s it about?  I could have answered mental health or high school or parenting or social media or life.

I’m still trying to figure that out — life, and what it’s about.


As Mary and I stood in line to enter the theater, we saw a sign saying that the part of Evan Hansen was being played that day by Michael Lee Brown. People in front of us and behind began to grumble. Before taking my seat, I listened to a woman argue with an usher about it.

“I paid to see Ben Platt,” she said. Purse looped over her forearm, gloves in one hand, ticket in the other, silver-haired — she looked like the innocuous grandmotherly sort, but she went after the usher like a Rottweiler.

The opening set for Dear Evan Hansen

To future Dear Evan Hansen viewers: May you be so lucky to see Michael Lee Brown perform the title role. He was amazing. He was the perfect amount of awkward as he stuttered. His hands fluttered — a stage-visible sign of a racing heart, something I know too well. I watched his hands, fascinated.


What was my favorite song?

I know them all now and sing along as I make dinner or walk the dog.

The lyrics are quotable, meme-able, but so layered and rich.

I think I know which song I would choose now — but that’s probably a post for another day.