In my first semester of college, when I still believed my music major would lead to a singing career, I took music theory. The professor was a jolly imp who couldn’t have been taller than five feet and had more musical talent in his ivory-tinkling pinky than my entire class combined. His favorite part of the class, and ours, was demonstrating music theory concepts with piano pranks, a la Victor Borge. And his favorite of these pranks was the unresolved melody.
He’d canter over the piano with a wicked little smile and start to play, sometimes a familiar strain of a famous piece, sometimes his own creation. After a dozen bars of so, just as the melody line was about to take it’s final turn from dissonance to harmony, he’d lift his hands from the keys and walk away. The seventh or second never resolved to the one, leaving the music unfinished. The first time, we laughed, expecting that he’d return to the keyboard after a moment and give us the final note we craved.
When he didn’t, the laughter turned to nervous titters, . The power of that one step from dissonant to resolved showed itself in shoulders creeping up around our ears. Every moment he waited, the anxiety in the room went up. If you have trouble imagining what I mean, sing the last line of the Star-Spangled Banner and leave off the “brave”. It’s just not right, and the longer you wait to add the last note, the wronger it feels.
Sometimes it would be just a moment, but occasionally the professor would leave the last note hanging in our minds for the entire 90 minute class. We were practically begging him by the end, and no one could leave the room until it was played. Then, the tension would dissipate and we’d laugh again.
My thirty-ninth year has been like one of the beautiful melodies played by the professor, with just the one note missing at the end. Life in the Broady Bunch right now is an unresolved chord. Which is to say that it’s beautiful in its own right, but contains one piece of dissonance that leaves an undercurrent of tension within our family.
The hardest part of this dissonance is that we can’t talk about it openly, because it is a legal matter which we’ve been advised to keep private until the resolution is close at hand. If it was hard to bear the tension of that unresolved melody in music class for an hour and a half, it is a hundred times harder to live with this unsettled matter, which began almost 18 months ago.
Through my pregnancy and baby girl’s birth, it has hung over our joy like a dark cloud. It has lurked in the back of our minds, and tripped us into fighting over other things that don’t matter. We have prayed over it and released it to God many times, to have it always come back and assert itself among us. I don’t know what is taking so long, or how it will all turn out, but I suppose the lesson of the waiting is same lesson I’ve been learning for this entire decade. The key is gratitude in the present moment. Whatever is coming will come, and I control so little of it. The only thing I truly control is my response to each day and moment and circumstance.
On this last night of my thirties, the dissonant chord rings in the background, but I am tuning it out. Instead, I am prioritizing the foreground, where the baby is making sounds that might be words, where Ollie is mimicking the teenage girls’ sass, where Caden is shrieking with laughter and begging for more tickles. The right now is where the love is the loudest, especially between Marrett and I, and when I stay there I can almost forget that I am waiting for that final note.