Bookends

It is rare for a teenager to ask questions, but this one does. After I get home from drinks with a friend, writers group, or a meeting we chat.

He has lived enough to have preferences and interests and to know his strengths and weaknesses, but not how these will shape his life.

It is all possible, sports and engineering, philosophy and invention, big cities and small towns. He wants to know what it is like not to work. He asks without judgement, thinking that the more he hears the more he will know. I am stuck again by his connected curiosity. It is anathema to me. At his age I was too cool to ask questions. I overestimated what I knew, and pretended what I didn’t know didn’t matter.

Next year he will go to college and some of these questions will start to have answers. Which hopefully will lead to more questions.

While I think about all the beginnings he has still to come it is balanced by the last ending of another man. My aunt’s father died last night.

I first met him when I was seven. I was warned ahead of time that he had an unusual nose, but despite my best efforts I couldn’t help staring. It was large and at its point it was growing a second nose. I realized I was rubbing the tip of my nose to check its single status and jerked my hand down.

After a few year I stopped staring. He was a man of great accomplishment, but to me he was gentle and funny and a bit outside of the fray. This juxtaposition of professional prowess and social relaxation was a revelation.

I figured he must have a rich inner life, and as someone who doesn’t know what I think until I have blurted it out I found this admirable and unfathomable.

Over the years I realized it was true. Our vacations were noisy and messy and he was calm and collected. I don’t know how long he and his wife had been married, but long enough to be a perfectly integrated pair. She at his elbow asking and telling helping and getting help.

Just as one man begins another ends, and this ending brings a beginning for his widow. The life of one instead of two. We enter this life naked and alone, not knowing how to ask a question let alone listen to the answer.

With luck we will learn this skill and many others, find a path and if we want someone to walk it with. As long as we still have questions we will keep moving forward. Alone if we have to.

Even if we don’t want to.

One day we will find something to be curious about again.

Right?

Published by

Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

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