When I was four years old, my parents took me to visit their aunt and uncle in rural Arkansas. The, truly lovely pair, were probably in their early 70s. It was around this time, in the white chalk of a economically dead town, that I had the first taste of what it meant to be limited.
I was aware that people had things going on between them that I wasn’t privy to. The adults talked and talked, with some words I understood, others I didn’t. Sometimes they came together in ways I could decipher, but usually this was limited to three, maybe four words in a phrase.
I felt like I had no business there. Aside from, maybe, being a passing topic of their conversation. “He starts kindergarten something fall. Yes, we’re excited. Something something other children. Something.” And then an adult, knowing laugh I couldn’t possibly share in.
My neurons just hadn’t formed enough mature connections and relays. Or I hadn’t had been through situations that would let me understand the significance of these visits. Or both. I was as naive as they come.
I knew that these relatives, who meant something important to my parents, were near death. Which was equivalent to “going away” for me, at the time. But since it was understood they’d die soon, would they even be around next time we had planned to see them? Did I have any logical investment in spending my time here? It was a boring house without television or toys. I took naps.
The experience of sitting before thirty-two representatives of the outer rim of the Milky Way was flatly… Well, there is no single word for it.