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By Otis Twelve

Why Do We Never Get an Answer?*

January 28th, 2024

Voltaire, the great philosopher of the Enlightenment, once said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” What do you think he meant by that?

I love questions, especially the ones that, though asked years ago, remain unanswered. As Skeeter Davis asked us years ago, “Why do the birds go on singing?” Or as Bob Dylan inquired, “How many seas must a white dove sail?” Is anyone even working on the answers?

Unanswered questions can carry a lot of emotional impact. I remember asking my little brother on one dark, tragic day in my childhood, “What have you done with my parakeet?” The look in his wide, blue eyes was all the answer I could bear…all the answer I would ever get.

Yesterday I was talking to a woman I see frequently…my wife. She seems to turn up in my house on a daily basis, and appears to be a generally pleasant type, so we frequently chat. Now, I think the secret to a good relationship is communication, and always finding ways to learn new things about your Significant Other in order to deepen the emotional bond that ties your two wandering souls together. And learning is all about questioning, right?

Digression: Is there such a thing as an Insignificant Other?

Anyway, one day, when I was meandering around the house, I bumped into the woman near the pet door leading to the deck and before you could say “What time is it?” she beat me to the metaphorical punch with, “When are we going to replace this old sliding door?”

There was no, “Hi, How are you?” There were no pleasantries. She didn’t ask, “What have you been up to since this morning when you hit snooze on your alarm fourteen times?” Nor did she wonder, “Did you finish the soy milk and then put the carton back into the fridge?” or “Do you really not know how to read expiration dates?”

Digression: An issue regarding anchovies had arisen some weeks before.

Standing there, face to face, the silence stretching out between us…

Faced with such a quandary, it was finally, at long last unavoidable. I was forced to face a matter I had been unsure of for most of the forty-six years we’ve been married. I shivered as I realized the question I had feared too much to ask had to be asked. I took her hand in mine, looked her straight in the eye, and let the words I had kept buried so very long in my heart of hearts come rushing out.

“What’s your favorite thing about shovels?”

Let me say right out front, I was willing to accept her answer no matter what it was. I am not a judgmental person.

She didn’t say a word. She just gave me a look…you know…that look…and she walked away. So, I still don’t really know what she thinks about shovels.

And she doesn’t know when I’m going to replace the sliding door.

*Tip of the Derby to the Moody Blues