Pfc Shane M. Reifert

Pfc Shane M. Reifert
Shane during a sweep of the Shuryak Valley, approximately 3 weeks before he was killed. Photo Credit: PFC Sean Stromback

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Whale Songs

We were driving on the expressway somewhere. Maybe to a relative's house or out to dinner. We were in Michigan in the summertime, so obviously there was roadwork being done. This was the kind of roadwork that involved lane shifts and the possibility of driving over the groove patches on the shoulder that are designed to keep drivers from drifting. We happened to be in one of the temporary lanes that involved driving over those grooves. I became increasingly agitated. 

"AHHHK! That noise is really awful and driving me insane," I whined. 

"Calm down, Bethie," Shane said to me, in the voice he saved for instances in which he was being particularly compassionate. "It's just a noise."

"It hurts my ears and Ijustwantittostop."

I had let the noise seep into my brain. I felt my anxiety raise with each groove patch the car went over. 

"I know," Shane said, "But if you just think of it as being something else, then it won't bother you so much."

"NOTHING else sounds like that. It's terrible and miserable."

"I always think of it as whale songs. And if you think about it being whales talking to one another, it's really not so bad."

I was irate, but suddenly calmer. He was right and had completely beaten any argument that I might have had. So, in a rare instance, I shut my mouth. And I listened to the whale songs.

I don't remember exactly when that conversation took place. I think it was before Shane was even openly talking about joining the Army. But it's something that I've always kept with me. The groove patches still grate on my nerves, but whenever I hear them for an extended period of time, I think of Shane and his perspective. It was an odd thing for him to think, in my opinion, because I never really viewed Shane as being an optimist until that time. He, much like myself, was his own worst enemy, and was harder on himself than anyone else in the world. Up until that conversation in the car, I would have coined him a pessimist. But that day, my perspective of my brother completely changed. I had always considered Shane to be a very unique person, but his world view was one that I have truly never encountered before and one that I believe I would have finding now. I suppose that is part of what makes him being gone so difficult -- knowing that I won't ever find anyone who compares groove patches to whale songs.

It's still very much winter. Even though it rained this morning, this evening it's snowing again. On my drive home, I thought about the groove patches and about spring and summer and the almost certainty of roadwork. And I look forward to being stuck in a makeshift lane, driving over groove patches. Listening to whale songs. Feeling like I'm in the car with my brother again.


  1. After reading this post I suddenly released that most of us really don't have any real reason to complain about our lives.

    I hear complaint's everyday and most of these complaint's aren't necessary.

    Thank you and all the best!

  2. You're very right; most complaints are not necessary. And they can usually be turned into something other than a complaint if we have the right attitude.