Softly, And Without Joy

I saw her from my back deck.

She was walking through their yard.  Behind our yard.

She was calling for her husband.

Too close to the creek, I thought.

I knew he would be close by but obviously unaware of her searching.

She got out without him knowing.

I descended my deck to my yard, walked towards her, calling her name.  She kept looking around.  Not capable of pinpointing sound and direction.

I caught up to her as she called his name again.  I could hear the irritation in her voice.

I told her I bet he was inside.

She said no, he was outside cutting the grass.

But that’s where we were, and he was not.

I talked her into walking with me to the front of the house.  To see if he was out front, looking for her.  I chatted with her about the warmth of the day, and the current excitement about the eclipse.  She said yes I’ve been watching some about it on tv.  She started looking around, unsure.

I said again, as if for the first time, lets see if he’s in front of the house.

He wasn’t.  She kept saying he was cutting the grass.

We stepped into the open garage, where the car sat.  Where the tools of caring for his home are stored.

Gently, I pointed out in a surprised tone, look, there’s the lawn mower.  He must be done.  And smiled softly.

She said oh maybe he is.

I reached up to the door entering the home from the garage and tried the door knob.  It was locked.  That wasn’t the door she left by.  I saw movement and he came to the door.

His eyes were quite large when he saw me, with his wife just over my shoulder.

He opened the door.  He is thin.  Too thin.  Too tired.  Too alone.

I told him we thought he was cutting the grass and she said roughly “where have you been?”

He said, still surprised “I’ve been making supper”.  I could see the questions rushing through his silent inquisition.  How did she get out?  Why didn’t he hear her?  Oh my God, it’s happened again.

I stepped back and said she thought he was out back cutting the grass.  But he must have finished.  Letting him know that is what I had told her.

He reached down to take her arm to assist her as she took the two steps up from the garage to the house entrance.

As she stepped past him he said soundlessly ‘thank you‘.

I smiled at him.

Softly, and without joy.

There is nothing I can say to his fears and his loss and his constant vigil.

My smile.  His soundless thanks.

The things we really mean.