A friend at work brought Tim to see me and introduced us. I looked up at the tall, handsome man standing before me.
“I remember you,” he said, reaching down to give me a hug. I was mystified.
As we talked, I found that I had known his parents while my husband and I were stationed on a missionary center overseas in the late 1970s. Tim, now 41, was in his teens at the time, and since my husband and I were newlyweds in our early thirties, we didn’t really have any contact with the high school crowd. But for some reason, Tim still remembered us.
As we talked, I found that Tim and I had many mutual friends from that time—people he had known because they were friends of his parents, or parents of high school classmates.
He told me he was traveling through Canada and had stopped in Calgary on the way to see people who had worked in the mission at that time. He was reconnecting with his past.
“What kind of work are you doing now?” I asked, curious by this time.
“Nothing at the moment,” he said. Then he explained that he had a university degree, but by the time he completed it, his field of training was obsolete because of rapidly advancing computer technology. To support himself, he had been working at a job that was below his level of education.
As he continued, I sensed he had a need to talk. An urgent need. I was more than willing to provide a listening ear, since it wasn’t a busy morning for me.
A U.S. citizen and army officer, he told me he had just returned from a one-year tour of duty in Iraq six weeks earlier. That explained his present lack of a job.
“Wasn’t it dangerous where you were?” I shuttered to think of what he had gone through.
“Not really,” he responded. After reflecting a moment, he added, “One time I was hanging out my wash on a line, and the enemy blew holes through the ‘Porta-Potty’ near where I was standing.”
And he didn’t call that dangerous? Yikes!
Two weeks after he returned to the U.S., his wife died from complications of cancer and several strokes. From what he said, the marriage didn’t sound like a happy one, but the change was traumatic nevertheless.
“It sounds like it’s time to start over,” I said sympathetically.
He said he would like to, but first he had some of his wife’s debts to clear up. He also wanted to get a Master’s degree through financing from his time in the service. Now he was traveling around the country and had stops planned for Canada, California, Texas, Florida, and finally back to his home area in Illinois. When he mentioned whom he would be visiting, they were people I knew as well.
“They’re some quality people,” I said, noting that they were former teachers from the school he had attended overseas.
“People are known by the company they keep,” was his response.
When it was time for him to go, he gave me another hug. It had been a meaningful conversation for both of us. I was glad he had stopped because I, too, had a need to connect with the past. And I hoped my listening ear had been an encouragement to him.
The next thing he said greatly intrigued me. “I’m not searching for answers,” he told me. “I’m searching for questions.”
I’m searching for questions. I pondered that statement many times in the following days. What kind of questions would a 41-year-old man be looking for?
I could guess at some of them: What am I going to do with the rest of my life since it’s probably half over? Is my life making a difference? If I died today, what would people remember about me? Have I touched anyone elses’ life? Is the world a better place because I have lived?
At least those are questions I’ve asked myself over the years.
So Tim, wherever you are, I hope you do find the questions you are searching for. And as you continue your path of life, may you find the answers as well. Life is too short and precious to waste any of it. God bless you on your journey.
© 2004 Janet Seever
The mother of two adult children, Janet Seever lives with her husband in Calgary, Alberta, where she writes for Word Alive magazine. She has had a variety of articles and short stories published in magazines and on Internet. You can find more of Janet’s writing at www.inscribe.org/janetseever and reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org