As we drove through the national park, my husband Rob glanced away from the road toward the shores of Yellowstone Lake. A retired couple sat in two camping chairs a few feet from the water’s edge. No books rested in their laps, no fishing rods in their hands. They simply sat, enjoying the silence, surrounded by stunning beauty. “Someday that will be us,” Rob told me as we continued on our way. “Someday, I want to sit beside you by the shores of Yellowstone Lake with absolutely nothing to do.”
I chuckle as I remember that dream Rob had for our sunset years. No doubt his vision for that afternoon beside the lake would have looked very different from mine. He would have enjoyed companionable silence. I would have wanted to talk.
I remember distinctly the first argument Rob and I had in our married life. Just a few weeks after our honeymoon, we sat together in our tiny garage apartment on the outskirts of a sleepy southwest Ohio town. Dinner was finished, and the evening stretched open before us. As I put away the last of the dishes, Rob settled into our yellow armchair with a smile. He reached for a novel, opened to the bookmarked page, and happily vanished into a world of fiction.
I busied myself with tidying up, but before long I plopped down beside him. I picked up a book, put it down, got up and got a drink. When I returned, I sat on the arm of his chair and leaned in. I wiggled around to get comfortable on the edge of the chair and sighed trying to make my presence known. Much to my growing annoyance, Rob kept right on reading.
Finally, in an act of frustrated forthrightness, I asked him, “Why won’t you talk to me?” He replied with exasperation, “I used to read a book a week before we were married! Sometimes I don’t have anything to say!”
After years of marriage and lots of work at communication, Rob and I settled into a comfortable pattern of talk and silence. On car rides, we’d talk for hours. On weeknights after the kids went to bed, companionable silence blanketed the house. We talked about anything and everything. When we tired of conversation, we enjoyed that kind of quiet that communicates love and security and acceptance and peace.
Someday, I hope to get back to the shores of Yellowstone Lake. I’ll park in a little pull out, grab my camping chair and plunk myself down at the water’s edge. When I lean back and close my eyes, I’ll imagine Rob sitting there beside me. In the quiet of my aloneness, I’ll imagine that the silence is our favorite kind — deep, understanding, companionable. Sometimes Rob didn’t have anything to say. When I sit beside that lake, envisioning him beside me won’t be hard to do.