How will it all come out?

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(Host) During politically turbulent times, commentator Edith Hunter finds it helpful to remember that sometimes it’s the uncertainties in life – political and otherwise – that keep you going.

(Hunter) “Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice…”

Robert Frost is not the only who has wondered “how it will all come out.”

My mother lived to be 90. She lived with our family for the last 15 years of her life. After the age of 85 her health was not very good, and sometimes she would say that she wished there were a button she could press and just exit from the world.

But then, she would smile, and add that she knew she would never press the button. There were just too many things going on that she wanted to be around to learn “how they came out.” Although toward the end of her life her body was not very agile, her mind was excellent. She was interested in politics, in race relations, in world affairs, in the lives of her three children, her nine grandchildren, and her ten great-grandchildren.

Who would win the next election? How bad would acid rain get? What careers would the grandchildren pursue? Whose marriage would last and whose marriage would collapse?

During the Watergate hearings Armstrong and I were too busy to watch, but Mother wasn’t. We made sure she was comfortable and turned on the television so she could watch it all and then report to us at supper. She lived long enough to see how that “all came out.”

Now I find myself in much the same situation as my mother. When I hear that the new deficit will be with us, and probably larger, until 2010, I wonder whether I will I be around then. What will happen in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Israel? Will I still be around to see how these apparently insoluable problems are resolved?

And then it occurred to me that none of us, not even the babe in arms, is going to be here to know, “how it all comes out”, in the end.

One of our favorite family stories is about my mother and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. I was very much moved by the book when I read it in college, and brought it home for mother to read. The next time I visited her I asked her how she liked the book.

“I’ll have to tell you, Edith,” she said, “when the Joads got to the government camp where things were going so well for them. I stopped reading. I knew things were only going to get worse, so I decided to leave them right there.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could manipulate reality in this way and stop things when they were going nicely? We can’t do that, but neither will any of us be here to get to the last page and “see how it all comes out.” Will it be fire or ice?

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center. She spoke from our studio in Norwich. The poem, “Fire and Ice” is by Robert Frost, from The Poetry of Robert Frost, Henry Holt and Company, publishers.

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