Some women love shoes. I love shiplap. For me, it’s Home Depot over Harrod’s every time. And Pinterest has been fuel to this fire.
I have built pergolas, flagstone patios, tiled floors and backsplashes, repainted everything at least three times, refinished an entire dining room set, and even tackled minor electrical repairs. I love it all. If there is a YouTube video on how to do something construction-related without causing me a copay, I’m all in.
This summer I refreshed the deck. I set about a major overhaul on cushions, paint, flowers, etc. But I went two steps further and built an electric fireplace. I shopped for days for the perfect stacked stone. Just as I neared the grand completion, I needed three more decent squirts of construction adhesive. I raced to the store before they closed.
I was hopeful I wouldn’t bump into anyone looking the way that I did. (I still have greige paint in my hair!) However, as I passed the faucet aisle, I saw an older gray-haired man with an adorable dog in his cart. This dog was just precious, and because I’m a complete sucker for dogs, I said hello to the furbaby before I greeted the human. Thus began a most poignant conversation with a delightful older man.
The dog was named after his beloved late wife. He said that he chose to name the dog after her so that her name would still fall from his lips on a daily basis. The dog had become his best friend in the ache and sorrow of her passing. He pulled a picture from his shirt pocket to show and his fingers slowly and lovingly traced her profile on the well-worn photograph. Indeed, she was a beautiful woman in life, and this man undeniably loves her beyond her death. We talked about his dog and his children, but the conversation always came back to his wife, their 54-year marriage, and how much she meant to him. Several times his eyes filled with tears, but he always choked them back as he’d find something positive to say to eclipse his grief. He looked at my ring and he said “Your husband is a lucky man.” I smiled. If you only knew, sir, how blessed I am this time around.
He said, “You are so sweet to take time to talk to me, even if for a few minutes.” He went on to say that there are days that he goes without having any conversation with anyone. My heart was stunned at the thought. To pass the hours, he writes letters about marriage. He said they were his way of encouraging others to be in love, to stay in love, and to honor the forever love that he has. He asked if I would like to read them. I considered it a most humble and honorable invitation. His letters were in his car and he said he would meet me up front after he picked out the faucet he needed for a friend.
I ran to get my adhesive so that I could meet him up front. I checked out and waited by the door. I waited and waited for what seemed like an hour. It was time for them to close. Where did he go? I wanted so much to hear more. I wanted this man to know that I cared about his heart, his letters, and that I truly wanted to read them. But he was gone. I turned and headed toward my car feeling like I never got a chance to say thank you; thank you for slowing me down, thank you for being in love, thank you for reminding me what’s important.
My life is beyond noisy. I have two kids, three dogs, a husband, a phone full of social media, a heart full of music, and a head full of words. Every moment is filled with sound, either out loud with actual people, or written communication. Even in my dreams, I hear music.
Then suddenly, my boisterous life intersects with this gentle man who lives in stillness.
I’m sure he was once like me, with a job, a family, and the clatter and chatter. But now it’s the silence that greets his tender and broken heart each morning. It may seem peaceful, but he said true peace will come on that glorious day when he is reunited with her.
The purpose of my writing is to encourage us to be less caught up in our own volume, to hear the silence of others. Our elders are valuable and meaningful people who are an endless wellspring of friendship, wisdom, strength, and insight. They shouldn’t be some fallback when we need money, a meal, or to watch the kids. Their presence should honored and their existence should never be some unspoken inconvenience. Retired from work does not mean retired from life, or love, or any of the things any heart truly desires. Some may walk or drive more slowly, but they have learned to savor their hours. Perhaps we, the younger ones, could learn a thing or two about that, among so many other amazing things.
As we celebrate the grandest of parents, the wisest generation, let’s be more attentive to the vacant stillness and fill any voids with love, compassion, and connection. Listen for the silence, for it speaks loud and clear.