The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence

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There was something about my new neighbors Genevieve and Elmer that I didn’t comprehend. They were nice enough in all other respects. But they had this odd little quirk or two. It would be about thirty years later, long after they’d both passed, before I understood.

When my oldest son was three months old, we moved into a new (to us) house. It was at the end of a cul-de-sac, and at a lower level than the street up above us. One day, shortly after we moved in, I heard sirens on the street above, so I grabbed Christopher and dashed up the flight of steps between the two houses at the end of the block that led up to the higher street. An older house was directly across the street and the empty, grassy lot west of them had a grass fire at the far corner.

As we watched the firemen quickly dowse the flames, an elderly man walked over from the house and began chatting. “Would you mind bringing the baby over to meet my wife? She had a bee sting and she’s allergic, so she can’t walk over this far.”

I followed him back to his driveway, where his wife sat in a chair with an ice pack on her leg, watching the action from afar. That was the day I met Genevieve and Elmer and it was the start of a friendship that lasted until their deaths almost twenty years later.

Some people thought it strange, a 26-year-old whippersnapper being friends with this couple in their late 60’s. But it wasn’t odd to me. I’ve always had a soft spot for the elderly. It was like gaining a new set of grandparents late in life.

But there’s two things that I never understood at the time. First, was when Genevieve mentioned making an appointment at the nail salon to go get their toe nails trimmed. That seemed really weird to me. Especially if you’re on a tight budget and being very frugal in every other aspect of living. Why on earth would someone pay someone else to simply trim their nails? All you do is plop your foot up on the sink and cut them. It’s only been in the last year or two, as I’m discovering that it’s not quite as easy to just plop that foot up there anymore, that I comprehended exactly why Genevieve and Elmer treated themselves to the nail salon for this cumbersome procedure.

The other thing that was a mystery to me was the early dinners and the no driving after dark. They always ate supper around four in the afternoon. And on the rare occasions that they would treat themselves to a hamburger out, or a meal at Denny’s (usually with a coupon), they always went that early, or earlier, so that they’d be home well before dark.

I admit it. I secretly thought they were just being scardey-cats. After all, driving in the dark is no different than driving any other time of the day. Fortunately, I never confided how I thought they were being needlessly overly cautious. Because about five years ago, before I even hit the 60-years milestone, I had to make a trip to the airport after dark and had a startling realization. I hit a stretch that was under construction. There were barrels out, restricting the number of lanes, and they all had flashing red lights going and my eyes couldn’t make any of it out. It all blended together and I literally couldn’t tell where I needed to go, nor where I needed to stay away from. I almost just pulled over, stopped the car, and waited for daylight. But that wasn’t an option, so I kept inching along at barely a crawl and finally got through.

I thought of Genevieve and Elmer that night, and offered up profuse, silent apologies for the thoughts I’d had so many years earlier.

And time marched on – and night vision didn’t improve any. It kept getting worse. I found by the time I hit my 60th birthday that I was trying to avoid night driving as much as possible. It wasn’t as bad if I were on a familiar road, so if I had to come home after work in the dark, it was possible. I knew the twists and turns in the road and what to expect. It was the strange areas, where I couldn’t read the street signs at night and didn’t know where I was that was next to impossible.

One of my local libraries scheduled three presentations this year. One in September, October, and November. All from 7 pm to 8 pm. Although this wasn’t a route I frequently took, I was familiar enough with the area that coming home after dark didn’t concern me. It was the trip going that was full of craziness. At six o’clock in the evening the stream of cars headed west was bumper to bumper. All three lanes were full and it was a congested nightmare. But that was alright. It was daylight, and while it was an aggravating journey, I was comfortable making the trek.

Until November. A few days earlier, I realized that day light savings time had switched the time up an hour and at six o’clock it was now dark. Knowing how dealing with three solid lanes of red brake lights would affect my diminishing night vision, I knew that this wouldn’t be a drive I could make safely, not for the ten or so miles I needed to go.

What to do, what to do? I didn’t want to cancel at the last minute for such a seemingly insignificant reason. I also didn’t want to be an unsafe driver on the road – for my own good, and for the other drivers. So…I left an hour early and drove in the intense traffic during daylight – safely.

What surprised me is what happened when I got to the library – an hour early. I had a book in the car. I could have read. I was parked in front of a library filled with magnificent bound treasures. I could have gone inside and perused the volumes filling the shelves. I could have visited with the librarians inside. I had my phone. I could have checked email, browsed the internet, played games, or watched YouTube videos.

I did none of these things.

I sat.

In the dark.

For an hour.

Doing nothing.

It was amazing. I enjoyed the peace and solitude, spending time in reflection and thought instead of being in a rush of constant activity. I realized that even if I’m meditating or journaling, I’m still involved in an activity. I recognized how seldom I allow myself the luxury of just sitting.

I doubt when I was younger I could have simply sat in the dark for an hour and relished the stillness.

Ageing isn’t a bed of roses. There’s some prickly thorns in the process too. Diminished night vision and eyesight is one of them. But this unavoidable progression into years with increasingly higher numbers also brings with it the opportunity for growth and new appreciations. For this I am thankful.

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26 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cindy
    Dec 11, 2018 @ 15:31:30

    You said it so well, Trisha. A beautiful post and so true!

    Reply

  2. Natalie
    Dec 12, 2018 @ 01:13:44

    Well said, Trisha. I agreed with your last paragraph. #MLSTL

    Reply

  3. Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond
    Dec 12, 2018 @ 03:26:53

    I love this Trisha especially the last paragraph. Your friendship with Genevieve and Elmer is one to be treasured. Taking that hour to do nothing would not be easy with all the things you could have been doing. What an excellent way to spend your time – doing nothing and being at peace. Thank you for reminding us to take time out and also to appreciate those who are older and wiser in our lives. #MLSTL

    Reply

    • trishafaye
      Dec 15, 2018 @ 22:41:41

      You’re right. The downside of trying to fit so much in, is that it seems we’re (I) am always multitasking, if not physically, then at least mentally. It IS hard to just sit, feeling that I need to be in constant motion and activity.

      Reply

  4. leannelc
    Dec 12, 2018 @ 06:49:05

    I’m not a big fan of night driving anymore either Trisha – the lights seem to blur together for some reason and my distance perception seems to reduce when it’s dark. I wonder if I’ll be getting my toenails done by someone else before I know it? Regardless, if being in your 60’s and befriending other people and their babies is there to offset a few little quirks, getting older still looks pretty good to me.
    MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    Reply

  5. Savoring Sixty and Beyond
    Dec 12, 2018 @ 12:37:04

    I know, getting older does have it lessons doesn’t it? I remember observations of my parents and in-laws that I just did not understand in my 20’s and 30’s and now I totally get it. Night driving is becoming a challenge especially driving in the rain on roads that need the stripes repainted. The sound of silence as you just sit and be present in that moment sounds so inviting!

    Reply

    • trishafaye
      Dec 15, 2018 @ 22:38:25

      Yes! The streets with the lane striping that’s almost nonexistent. You’re right, those are horrid too.
      Just sitting was most enjoyable – quite a lesson!

      Reply

  6. thatsmycupofcocoa
    Dec 12, 2018 @ 18:49:48

    I think if I sat for an hour in the dark in silence I’d fall asleep! It seems I nod off quite easily these days. But I agree with the problem of night driving. I have to go somewhere this evening and I’m already dreading it.

    Reply

    • trishafaye
      Dec 15, 2018 @ 22:36:55

      Ah yes…nodding off. After all those years of fighting naps, on those rare days I can sneak in an afternoon nap (like today LOL) I feel like I’ve won the gold prize. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

  7. Christina Daggett
    Dec 13, 2018 @ 05:45:02

    I love the way you presented this post, Trisha, with a look back at memories of your dear friends. I agree with you we all need to slow down and take time to reflect. Thanks for sharing a great story!

    Reply

  8. Christie Hawkes
    Dec 13, 2018 @ 13:10:24

    Beautifully said Trisha. I loved the perspective of a younger you looking at an older couple and then the realization of an older you. I am 57 and can definitely relate. I still trim my own toenails, but between the lousy close up vision and the reduced flexibility, it isn’t easy. Don’t even get me started on night driving, especially if it’s raining! And, finally, the joy of just sitting in silence on occasion. Have a beautiful day. #MLSTL

    Reply

    • trishafaye
      Dec 15, 2018 @ 22:34:57

      Oh UGH – nighttime driving in the rain. Next to impossible anymore! The upside is that it’s so nice finding others that share our pain in these moments. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

  9. Sheryl
    Dec 16, 2018 @ 02:26:58

    It’s interesting how our insights and perspectives change as the years go by.

    Reply

  10. Mary Lou
    Dec 16, 2018 @ 14:59:43

    Trisha, I’ll be sharing this on social media and with family. I’ve recently told everyone there will be no more night driving for me. Too many close calls. Just this past week I had to drive in the dark … in the rain … coming home from volunteering at 5pm. Experienced everything you just wrote about. So nice to have others who understand this. ❤ #MLSTL

    Reply

  11. SpookyMrsGreen
    Dec 24, 2018 @ 12:11:12

    Eloquent! I am beginning to understand more about what it means to grow older, although I have yet to reach 40 years. In talking with grandparents, parents and older friends, I learn how the senses diminish and the mind begins to dull.

    Indeed, my own eyesight is poor due to a number of health challenges, and so I must prepare to stop driving at an earlier time. I am highly sensitive to light, and I struggle at night now with all the LED lights and distractions that I face on the roads.

    But I soldier on, if only to keep up with my social obligations. Merry Christmas! 🙂

    https://spookymrsgreen.com/2018/12/24/merry-spooky-christmas-christmasmovies/

    Reply

  12. Miriam
    Dec 29, 2018 @ 09:50:23

    A beautifully-written post. Not my experience at all, but we’re all different. Happy New Year!

    Reply

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