Let me tell you a story, the Dial went on. The house that your great-great-great-grandmother and I moved into when we first became married looked out onto the small falls (…). It had wood floors, long windows, and enough room for a large family. It was a handsome house. A good house.
But the water, your great-great-great-grandmother said, I can’t hear myself think.
Time, I urged her. Give it time.
And let me tell you, while the house was unreasonably humid, and the front lawn perpetual mud from all the spray, while the walls needed to be repapered every six months, and chips of paint fell from the ceiling like snow for all seasons, what they say about people who live next to waterfalls is true.
What, my grandfather asked, do they say?
They say that people who live next to waterfalls don’t hear the water.
They say that?
They do. Of course, your great-great-great-grandmother was right. It was terrible at first. We couldn’t stand to be in the house for more than a few hours at a time. The first two weeks were filled with nights of intermittent sleep and quarreling for the sake of being heard over the water. We fought so much just to remind ourselves that we were in love, and not in hate.
But the next weeks were a little better. It was possible to sleep a few good hours each night and eat in only mild discomfort. Your great-great-great-grandmother still cursed the water (whose personification had become anatomically refined), but less frequently, and with less fury. Her attacks on me also quieted. It’s your fault, she would say. You wanted to live here.
Life continued, as life continues, and time passed, as time passes, and after a little more than two months: Do you hear that? I asked her on one of the rare mornings we sat at the table together. Hear it? I put down my coffee and rose from my chair. You hear that thing?
What thing? she asked.
Exactly! I said, running outside to pump my fist at the waterfall. Exactly!
We danced, throwing handfuls of water in the air, hearing nothing at all. We alternated hugs of forgiveness and shouts of human triumph at the water. Who wins the day? Who wins the day, waterfall? We do! We do!
And this is what living next to a waterfall is like, Safran. Every widow wakes one morning, perhaps after years of pure and unwavering grieving, to realize she slept a good night’s sleep, and will be able to eat breakfast, and doesn’t hear her husband’s ghost all the time, but only some of the time. Her grief is replaced with a useful sadness. Every parent who loses a child finds a way to laugh again. The timbre begins to fade. The edge dulls. The hurt lessens. Every love is carved from loss. Mine was. Yours is. Your great-great-great-grandchildren’s will be. But we learn to live in that love.
(Jonathan Safran Foer – Everything is Illuminated)