I love silence. Total quiet. No background white noise, chatter, or random sounds. Just total quiet. God thought it would be the ultimate in ironic noise inducement to put me in a setting saturated with loud commotion- a house full of boys.
I hate the clamor, and I wish away the noise on a daily basis.
I just need it to be quiet! I need to hear myself think, process, marinate the day!
What must that be like?
I did a house call this week. A few times a semester I teach technology workshops at my local community college for senior citizens, and on occasion I will visit their homes to help set up their desktop computer or get their tablets connected to wifi. I had a house call last Tuesday.
As I walked up to John’s house, I could see him pacing in the front room. His yard was exquisitely manicured-no stray footballs, empty juice boxes, or snack wrappers. He opened the door eagerly, and I knew his whole day would be planned and centered around this one hour we would spend together. John is in his early 80s, a great grand parent, a former higher up in our state’s department of education, and a recent widow.
While he went to gather his iPad and his list of hand written questions for me, I looked around the house. Everything was eerily still, and perfectly in its place; chairs pushed in, pillows fluffed, books standing tall and flush on shelves, and framed photographs of graduations and anniversaries dusted clean and arranged to precision on end tables. Nothing gets knocked down or broken here I thought. I imagined when he brought groceries home and put them away, they would be in the same exact place he left them on the fridge shelf the next day. And the day after that. When he set down the TV remote it would stay there, and be there when he went back for it. The glass patio doors would remain open if he wanted, and would stay that way all day- nobody sliding them open and shut and open again- and they were fingerprint free. Like forever. Indoor plants were scattered around much of the house and on the porch. They were lush and green, their long leaves spilling out over the sides of pastel ceramic pots. You could tell they were taken care of with an abundance of love and care. I bet his wife was a plant lover I thought.
He sat next to me on clean, crisp couch cushions, and as I worked updating his phone and iPad, I anticipated and listened for the noise. But there wasn’t any. Where was it? Whenever I am on my phone or computer or iPad, a cacophony of insanity is playing in the background; someone singing "Hey Jessie…hey Jessie," microwave beeping, fridge opening, pantry door closing, teens stomping up the stairs, phones trilling, washer spinning, dishwasher whooshing. Here, now, there was just silence, total quiet. If his houseplants could talk, I imagine they would tell me, “It’s always like this. It’s great for hearing yourself think, to process, to marinate your day. But it’s not great for LIVING. Don’t wish away the noise. Noise is life.”
The peacefulness around me was quietly soothing, but it was also deafening. It didn’t hurt my ears. It hurt my heart.
We finished up, then shared small talk about college football. John is a lifelong University of Florida fan, and I enjoyed every single second of him showing me his Gator sports memorabilia room, and talking about rivalries and how wonderfully loud it gets in his stadium. How the loud noise just makes you feel alive.
I’m going to be living in a house like John’s in a matter of a few blinks. In between the blaring TV, the constantly crashing furniture, and the raucous play of boys, years will pass in warp speed. The noise of life in this house will float out my front door, in the form of young men leaving and waving goodbye, who will be ready to produce their own noises in their own homes.
As always happens after I spend time with older folks, I learn something invaluable.
I’m going to miss the noises of life here in my house.
The quiet is not all its cracked up to be.
And don’t, just don’t for one single second, wish the noise away.
It is those loud rowdy sounds, that although may hurt our ears, they fill our hearts.
They are love. They are LIFE.