The Question and the Answer

It was a cool and rainy November morning in Connecticut.  I’d sent the kids off to school and should be walking on the treadmill to start getting serious about dropping the extra weight I’d been slowly gaining over the last few years.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about what was going on in Michigan today.  It was Lorraine Jones’s funeral, Zach’s biological great grandmother.   I wished, somehow, that I could be that bystander in the corner, like you saw in TV shows, watching from the shadows.  If I lived in Michigan now, I probably would have done it.  I had actually considered hopping in my car to do it and driving the twelve hours after my awful IM conversation with Zach.

But it wasn’t appropriate.  Even if Joe’s mother were there, or Joe himself and his gaggle of adopted children and wife, it wouldn’t be appropriate.  To take my own personal grudge out on their family grief.  I’d been to a few funerals in my day and they were awful, difficult affairs without complicated family matters taking away from the task at hand of honoring the dead.  Joe’s grandmother, apart from not kicking his ass into being a father when she should have, didn’t do anything to me, and didn’t deserve anything but my quiet prayers and respect for their pain.

Still, I was going crazy in my helplessness.  I fired up my computer and opened up a Google window, pulling up the obit one more time, reading every word about the family.  I chuckled to see that they didn’t name Joe as her grandson; most obits listed the grandchildren by name.  But true to form, even in death, the family had kept Joe’s information a secret, listing him as one of four grandchildren, all unnamed in the obit.  “A daughter, Susan Jones from Seattle, WA” I read again for the fiftieth time.  She had gone to Seattle.  Where had Joe gone?

“I know he doesn’t live in Michigan,” Z had told me in the last few days.

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“Because Pat told me that her sister lives in Michigan, that my grandmother lives in Seattle and that Joe lived ‘out of state’.”

Out of state where?  The Google window in my toolbar mocked me to type in “Joe Jones”.  It would have so many hits that it would be impossible to know which one was right.  “Joe Jones, Seattle, WA.”  Still too many to count.  I clicked a few of them.  Nothing.  This was pointless.  I should get up and shower or walk on the treadmill to bad 80s music.  But I couldn’t stop myself.

And then I remembered.  My high school reunion book had a listing for Joe.  I’d dismissed it at the time, because I thought it had to be wrong; the one for my friend Dawn had also been wrong.  But I pulled it out again and typed it in:  “Joe Jones, Des Moines, IA.”  Again, a plethora of hits.  And then I remembered that with an address, you could access the county tax records.  I found the site, and typed in the address listed.


Joe had recently sold the home listed in our high school yearbook, apparently.  It was him; it had to be.  The middle initial was correct, the birth month and year were correct.  He’d recently bought a different home, not far away from the first.  I clicked on that listing and up popped a picture of a quaint brick home on a tree lined street.  I scrolled down and there the names were: Joe and his wife, owners of this lovely place in Des Moines, IA.  Living the middle class life there, with their two kids.  I stared and stared.  What was life like in that house?  What did they do for a living?  Were they happy?  Did he ever think of Z, or me?

I was on a tear.  My heart was racing, and I couldn’t stop myself.  To not know where he’d ended up all of this time, and to finally know.  To have this question answered after all of this time….now what?  Joe was married, lived in Des Moines.  I had the address.  I could show up on his doorstep if I wanted.  I typed both Joe and his wife’s name into the window:  boom.  Phone number.  I could call them if wanted.  I could.

But what would I say?  Joe could have done this same thing with me, a million times.  Except that my name was much more unusual.  I’d had friends from high school find me from simple Google searches before.  It took about four clicks to go from a question to sitting there with my email address and facebook profile page in front of you.  Joe could have found me ages ago.  And the more I sat there staring at the picture of his house and his phone number, I realized that he probably did.  If Ed from my fifth grade class had found me, Ed, who hadn’t seen me since I was ten and still wondered where I’d ended up, Joe surely had as well.  He had a conscience, I knew he did.  He’d been a  good person back then.  Life and circumstance had surely helped his young brain rationalize a great many things, but there was no doubt in my mind that Joe knew where I was.  Knew where Zach was.  Knew that his aunt had been talking to Z for years and that Z would be open to communicating with him.

And still, nothing.

I went to click the big red X in the corner, mousing over it, and hesitating.  I couldn’t make this decision today.  I couldn’t close the door now that I’d looked through the window.  I couldn’t unknow the fact that I knew now where Joe Jones was.

I bookmarked the page and shut down the machine.




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