There are no dumb questions. Really? Its tempting, really tempting sometimes to prove that one wrong. However, I have a point here. We all get them, so it must have been a kinder person than me who said, there are only dumb answers. As the holidays approach and there are an increased number of gatherings and with them comes talking. There is no lost art of conversation in my life. The art of conversation has to be there in the first place, before it can get lost.
I went to my sister’s house with my Dad for Thanksgiving. I have not been to my sister’s house in San Francisco since my mother’s funeral. There was no big party planned, no extravagant dinner either. It was family time. I had to face it, I was anxious. What were we going to talk about? If someone talks to me about Spaceport America, or why we are not going orbital from New Mexico, I got that one. Forget the physics, single or dual stage re-usable orbital vehicles do not exist. So, unless we drop a stage over Houston and they don’t mind a piece of debris dropping on them every time we fly, orbital flights have to go over water so we can drop boosters in the water. Easy. Next question.
My family plays golf. I don’t. The conversations about golf starts the second my Dad walks in the door, and ends at the airport when we all kiss goodbye and move the golf clubs to get the luggage out. In between, there is the usual jam session in the kitchen while dinner is being prepared for the vegan, vegetarians and the rest of us. Guitars, piano, playlist competition, your basic 2012 Thanksgiving family contact sports of cooking, cleaning, sitting and talking. But this time we had a new player, my niece, the Grand Inquisitor. She was home and staying with all 7 of us and golf was not on her agenda.
The Grand Inquisitor is about five feet tall. She has the long lashes and beautiful green eyes of a true Irish colleen. She is the last of three children. Her brother is in India, and her sister is in Portland. Now that I reflect, I believe she felt the great burden of representing the 3rd generation at Alice’s Restaurant. Inside joke if you were her age in the 60’s.
I work with people her age in my office at NMSU. Engineering students, government majors, even art and photography students work in my office. I am used to twenty something’s helping me with my IPOD, telling me about the tv shows like Breaking Bad. I keep up – kind of. But, you are right, I never go home with them. They are on my turf.
My niece peppered everyone with questions. I think being the youngest in the family has something to do with it. I believe she sees her role as the questioner. On the first evening, she and I were up at midnight, still talking. My sister had joined us. Everyone else was sleeping. “Why didn’t my mom and dad tell me they were going to start eating chicken? They were never hard on me and I think that is why I am not getting anywhere in my career, is that possible Aunt Pat? I am thinking about going into the Army, but I don’t think I can make it through boot camp? Is it really that hard?”
I found myself trying to answer her questions; all the while realizing how wise she is. There was no age barrier, there was no separation. We were one with her, this fine small being wondering how to figure out where she has been and where to go. I believe she will be fine. She is asking the right questions. You know one of the secrets to solving any problem is to frame the problem in good questions. So just in case you are worried about the office Christmas Party, the next family gathering, see if you can find the Grand Inquisitor or become one yourself.
Congratulations to Austin Trout. A true champion. And, a small tribute to Dorothy Thomas. A woman of worth, humor and integrity who spent most of her adult life in service to New Mexico. I was proud to call you friend.
Who is going to end up wiser earlier. There are opportunities I realize to relax and enjoy parties without having to drink, eat or talk too much.