Control 8/11/13

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Today (as I wrote this) was a good day. My Chickering piano, born in 1898, was delivered along with a bench that is even older than the piano. I’m very excited about this, although frankly my electric piano will probably be the one that I play and practice on the most. This beauty I purchased for the history, and in a couple of weeks I’ll have her tuned. I also intend to ask the piano tuner if he can tell if she is one of the proverbial “upright grand” pianos. Most people (including myself until not very long ago) assumed that a grand piano was the one that was laid out horizontally, and upright is simply a more compact vertical design. As it turns out, grand pianos have a specific keyboard action (please don’t ask me the specifics). If an upright has this same action, it is called an “upright grand”. I know enough about pianos to be aware of this, but not enough to be able to tell the difference.

I bought this from a young family that struck me, personally, as having a very strange vibe. They seemed nice enough, living in a newer neighborhood in a very nice home, and it’s not for me to judge, but it felt strange when I went to look at and pay for the piano. A young couple with children, I never met her or had any idea just how many children there are. When the mom interacted (briefly as we discussed if the bench came with the piano or not), she was talking to me from the top of the stairs. Never did she come down to introduce herself, nor did he introduce her, and the only reason I know they have children is because I saw them quietly huddled together in the downstairs playroom as I left.

Okay, let’s be fair. Maybe they were not interacting with me because of Covid. Or maybe there was some sort of trauma that one of them, or all of them, had suffered making them wary of strangers. I really don’t know, but I do know that the father seemed to be in control of the household. When organizing the move, I had to coordinate between the moving company and the father so he could be there, apparently not willing to let the wife deal with letting them in and supervising so this is a distinct possibility. Or, perhaps there’s another.

On one wall hung a large cross. The fact that nobody was interacting with me but the father, on seeing this cross my mind immediately leapt to former vice president Mike Pence. This might seem like an odd leap, but for those who do not recall, Pence had a publicly stated policy of never being willing to be alone with a woman because, he said, he is a married Christian. By today’s standards, that sort of policy is extreme and seemingly outdated (although it is refreshing to have a politician who isn’t out cheating on his wife or harassing women), and he did catch a lot of flack for it because it precludes the possibility of private meeting with, for example, female heads of state. For me, people are people, and to refuse to meet with half of them because of gender is not a good thing.

I cannot say that this is the reason that the vibe from this young family seemed so odd, but it does remind me of how men even to this day insist on controlling the women in their lives, and unfortunately it is far more common than people realize. Today, though, much of this control is psychological or hidden from the public. West of here is a friend who I believe is being manipulated by her common-law husband. Again, it is not my place to judge, but when she describes his angry outbursts, it sounds to me like fear-based manipulation. She has been saying that she wants to leave him, which leads to angry exchanges complete with thrown and broken objects (just as my wife used to do). He has also (at least in the past) controlled all of their finances, their only vehicle, both of which basically makes it impossible for her to leave.

Meanwhile, up north is an amazing friend of mine who had become a widow some years ago. To speak with her, it doesn’t sound as if she is still in mourning (although I’m sure there are times), but she speaks of him with such high regard and affection that it’s simply charming. She’s heading on a road trip to go to some major league baseball games, something she never enjoyed when she married him. And yet, when they were together, he taught her the rules and nuances of the games, and she enjoyed the comradery when they went. This sounds as if it were a fabulous marriage. They compromised, they taught each other, and they grew together. Not long ago she said to me that this is the reason she has no interest in finding somebody new, because he was such a great partner and is still a part of her.

Isn’t this how relationships should work? With mutual trust, admiration and respect?

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