78: More than Words

78: More than Words

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: True Love

More than Words

Are we not like two volumes of one book?

~Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

Last week, my husband Bob and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. I think one of the reasons our marriage works is because we speak so well in silence. Recently we were at a brunch where an obnoxious fellow was spouting about politics. Bob and I sat across the table from each other. With just a glance, we communicated, “Yuck, yuck and… did I say yuck?” We continued this conversation, neither of us saying one word out loud.

“Can we go now?” Bob asked with a look I know so well.

I poured him some wine. “Not yet,” that signaled.

“Get us out of here,” he pleaded with his eyes.

I sat next to him. “I’m thinking! I’m thinking!” I said silently.

He coughed. I took his hand, which meant, “Don’t do the flu thing. Everybody always knows you’re faking.”

He squeezed my hand. “Say you have a female problem. No one will ask you about it,” I could tell he was saying.

I squeezed back. “I had that last month. If I say it again, people will begin to think I’m icky.”

He touched his upper lip, which told me, “There’s a white glop of clam dip stuck to your face.” I wiped it off and nodded silently, “Thanks.”

I get nervous at parties. Okay, I get nervous everywhere. But at one holiday gathering of writers, I forced myself to talk to a woman who intimidated me. Fortunately Bob was behind me. And our silent communication really mattered. “I loved your story,” I said to her. From behind, Bob could see that I had my velvet blouse tucked—not into my velvet slacks—but into the panty hose which were much higher on my waist than the slacks. It wasn’t pretty.

He sidled up next to me and made darting motions with his eyes, in the direction of my panty hose. “Not here,” I said without words. “Are you perverted or what?”

He put his arm around me, looked down at my questioning face and quickly untucked my blouse from my hose. I smiled gratefully up at him. “Could you check my hair for toilet paper?” he heard me think. “Last year there was that piece on my head. I still can’t figure out how it got there.”

He looked down at me. “You are so unsophisticated. I love that part of you,” he was thinking.

“I am sophisticated,” I wordlessly replied while spreading a chunk of Brie on a cracker with my fingers.

And so, for our twenty-fifth anniversary, I had a pal from Indiana overnight a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts for Bob. They’re not for sale where we live.

That floored him. But get this. He handmade a sampler for me. On it, he embroidered the words to our favorite song, “I’ll be loving you… always.” It’s the most beautiful cross-stitch sampler you could imagine.

But I’ll tell you. If the sampler had no words on it, I would have known what he meant to say. And when it comes to what makes a relationship work, I think that’s it. A compassionate awareness of how the other feels. Bob’s warm touch when I’m scared, for seemingly no reason, in the night. A leap into his arms when a story I’ve written gets accepted by a publication. A “keep trying” hug when my next ten stories get rejected. An “it doesn’t matter” shrug when I am terribly embarrassed because of something I should or shouldn’t have said at a party.

Silent communication. I bet we all do this a dozen times a day. But with someone we love, I think that moments like these are what matter the most. Because they mean more than words can ever say.

~Saralee Perel


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