While traveling in Wales many years ago, David and I encountered a most bizarre dining experience. We were at a lovely B&B overlooking the North Sea. (I love the bed and breakfast experience because usually the accommodations are unique and the breakfasts are not to be imagined.) Although this B&B was remarkable and I remember our experience there to be exceptional, I don’t remember the particulars. What I do remember though, was an odd occurrence during breakfast. The couple next to us, I think they were from Denmark or Norway, said not a word to each other during their entire meal. I thought that was strange. Meals are usually social events where diners talk and share stories. But this couple ate in determined silence. I came up with two possible scenarios. Perhaps it was custom to eat in silence or maybe they were in the middle of a tiff. Years later, I can still only imagine.
But, now I have a new take on why they may have taken their meal is silence because that is what is happening to David and me. And, no, it is not custom, nor are we having an argument. Our silence during meals is health-related, David’s health.
One of the many after-effects of David’s traumatic brain injury is a swallow disorder and paralysis on the right side of his face. This makes chewing and swallowing food extremely difficult. He must take small bites and concentrate on every chew. Sounds strange, but if he is not completely focused, he will bite his tongue, lip, or side of his mouth, which causes him much pain. It only took us fifteen years to realize that if we eat in silence, he is better able to focus and reduce his erratic chomping. That is our new normal. Yes, even I have learned not talk during meals, and for anyone who knows me, you know that is a hard task. So, at mealtimes in our house, you can hear the sounds of silence and maybe the hum or whirr of the refrigerator.
I wonder if that could be the reason our breakfast companions ate in silence. We’ll never know.
See you soon.
donna – author of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver's Tale
I am the author of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver's Tale. It's the true story of how my husband almost left me--three times.