Tony Woodlief | Author

Silence of the Olden

I remember back when Wife and I were younger, how terrible we thought it was when we saw older couples sitting wordlessly in a restaurant. “I can’t believe he’s reading a newspaper,” I would say. “We’ll never be like that when we’re older,” Wife would affirm.

We said these things because we were stupid. I came home from Atlanta last night, and to celebrate we all went to Red Robin. Wife and I are eternal optimists, it seems, because no matter how hectic the last dining experience proved to be, we manage to tell ourselves that this time it will be pleasant.

Do you want to know why older couples go to restaurants and sit without talking? Because they’ve had twenty-odd years of this:

“Dad, I want to invent a hamburger!”

“Good. Isaac, get off the table.”

“Dad, can I sit in your lap?”

“No. Eat your food.”

“Isaac, get out from under the table.”

“Why is this baby squawking? Did you bring something he’ll eat?”

[Insert deadly glare from Wife here.]

“Dad, I’m going to tell them to put the burger on a Kroger bun. It will be a Kroger burger.”

“That won’t work.”

“Yes it will.”

“Kroger is just a grocery store. We buy Kroger buns from the grocery store. There’s nothing special about Kroger buns.”

“Isaac, stop kicking the table.”

“No Dad, Kroger is a special food company.”

“Fine. Do what you want.”

“Isaac, get off your brother.”

“Dad, can I put my head in your lap?”

“No. Honey, the baby is still squawking.”

“Do you really think I can’t hear it?”


“Isaac, sit up.”

“Maybe I’ll invent a macaroni and cheese burger.”

“Dad, will you rub my back?”

Sigh. “Yes. I can just eat with the one hand.”

Only to really get the feel, you should make all those sentences collide, and layer that cacophony with the noise of a baby who wants to be held by his father because he senses an opportunity to get food all over his father’s shirt, lay hold of his father’s silverware and toss it to the floor, and otherwise give his father indigestion.

Eventually Baby Isaiah discovered a table of pretty girls nearby, and commenced to flirting. He grinned and made baby noises, and when they looked over he dropped his chin to his chest and practically batted his eyelashes at them. Soon they were all waving and cooing at him. So he tried to crawl away from us to sit with the pretty ladies. His mother had to drag him back to our table. He is going to be trouble, this boy.

Then Isaac and Caleb got in on the act. They are going to be trouble as well. Eli stayed close to me, but with those eyelashes and freckles that boy isn’t going to have to work at it. He is going to be the most trouble of all, mark my words.

(Note to self: keep them on the farm once they hit puberty, at least until each of them knows a profitable trade. They’re going to need to be able to support my grandchildren.)

The point is, Wife and I understand now why older couples are quiet in restaurants. It’s because they are all talked out. Just watch them. They don’t even speak to the waitress; they just point to what they want on the menu. I imagine once the last boy is out of the house we may go for a good solid year without saying a word. And it will be blissful. Then we’ll spend the rest of our days wondering why they don’t come visit more often.

But that’s okay, because we’ll visit them. Mostly because we love them. But also to watch them eat with their own children. Heh heh heh.

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