We argued all the way through the rest of Indiana and Kentucky and into Tennessee before finally getting to our campground…late and tired and in the dark…deciding that we should just agree to disagree and try to get some sleep. Neither of us slept very much…there are different night noises in Tennessee and unsettled hearts do not quiet well. Apparently, the correct answer was that I would save them both but that wasn’t the question that was asked. If I could only save one “who would it be?” was the question and I thought it was quite obvious that my priority would have to be the child. I even told Jaime outright that if the situation were reversed that she had better save the child and let me drown! That didn’t help the conversation. The morning was gloomy and foggy. We had our breakfast and headed out of the campground and into the Great Smoky Mountains. We were headed to Roan Mountain State Park for two nights. We didn’t talk much except about the beauty of the mountains as the morning fog was lifting off the ground and creeping in and out of the valley floors. It was truly beautiful!
By the afternoon we had reached the park and had set up our camp and had gone out for a walk along the trails. Our tempers had cooled and we were both ready to have a real conversation. I kept trying to explain that as a parent it is my responsibility to do all I can to preserve and protect the life of my child and it the drowning scenario I would most obviously go for the child first. I did make sure to add to my argument that if there were time I would come back and try to save her as well. That was not the right thing to say either; she was getting frustrated and I was at a loss. I just didn’t know how to explain it any differently. There was something I was definitely missing. After the walk we put some brats on the grill and sat and enjoyed another very quiet dinner and evening by the campfire, no longer angry but at an impasse neither of knowing what more to say or do.
In the morning after a bite to eat we went for a walk on another trail in the park up to a ridge overlooking the Great Smokies and watched as the morning fog rolled through the mountains. It crept into every nook and cranny and then lifted with the slightest breeze before settling back down into the valley. For us too there was a fog of misunderstanding that would seem to lift and clear for a moment but then a misspoken or unspoken word would bring the shroud down and cloud our understanding once again. Later that morning we took a drive down to Gatlinburg just to see what was there. The drive was amazing! The town itself is pretty cool as well nestled into the hillsides. We strolled through the streets and tried to move past the argument that had been confounding us both. We browsed trinket shops and tourist traps and even got dressed up in old west fashion and had our picture taken. Neither of us spoke about who should be saved from drowning or why but there was an undercurrent tugging at both our hearts as we drove back up to Roan Mountain for the night.
In the right setting and in the Good Lord’s timing, a campfire can soften a heart and put people in a state of mind that is less defended and more relaxed and most honest. Some of the best conversations I have had have been around a campfire. That night we were finally able to speak in terms that each of us could understand and accept. We began talking about the last couple of days more in terms of how the argument had separated us and how we did not want this to be what our life was like if we disagreed on something. I realized that my answer to ‘who would you save’ seemed a bit too ‘mater-of-fact’ and seemed to just cast my wife aside as unimportant to me – which couldn’t have been farther from the truth. That had been the whole crux of the argument – I had made her feel unimportant and dispensable. In my distraction I had blurted out an answer that should have had more thought…or at least a little more consideration for her feelings. After I was able to explain this in a more loving way she also agreed that the one to save would be the child – she just didn’t like being made to feel unappreciated. I never made that mistake again…I just love a good campfire.
We slept that night finally at peace with each other. There were still some bruised feelings but the hurt was behind us. It was that night that we promised never to use words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ in our arguments because things are never always one way or another. In the morning we got up early and packed the truck and headed out of Tennessee and on to South Carolina. We were only half way through our vacation…
First Vacation (long drive home)….click here for the final part of the story!
First Vacation (the set-up)…click here for the beginning of the story!