An Interesting Question

In her signature spare style, author Abigail Thomas considers a friend's question regarding the fleeting nature of certainty over time.

A friend asks me an interesting question. What were you once certain of, she wants to know, that you can no longer count on. I love the question, but for the life of me, I don’t have an answer. I was never certain of anything. I was never certain things would work out for the best, or that everything happens for a reason, or that there was some guiding force in my life. Basically I was driving blind for years, dealing with whatever the moment offered or snatched away.

What were you once certain of…that you can no longer count on?

But what could I count on? There must have been something. I think harder. I could count on my body. I could count on strength and endurance and appetites. I could carry and I could lift and I could get a good night’s sleep. I could get pregnant and have four children. I could walk the ninety blocks home and climb thirteen flights of stairs. I could stay up all night with a man and be across town at my desk in the morning. My body breathed and digested, everything worked without a hitch. If it wanted doing, my body could do it.

Now I walk with a cane, I avoid stairs, uneven ground deters me. And that dune at Head of the Meadow? Forget it. I am an old woman, 80 this year. My life is quiet. The last bit of excitement was that unstoppable deluge of morning pee before I could get to the bathroom. I admit it was thrilling, losing control so extravagantly. It had been a while since my body let loose. I bought Depends that afternoon.

There are people I love. Love and grief go together. My body holds what it can, what it has to. I can still make coffee, light a cigarette, write.


Abigail Thomas has four children, twelve grandchildren, one great granddaughter, two dogs and a high school education. Her books include Safekeeping; A Three Dog Life; and What Comes Next and How to Like It. She is 80 years old this year.

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Abigail Thomas ha four children, twelve grandchildren, one great granddaughter, two dogs, and a high school education. She is eighty years old this year. Her books include Safekeeping; A Three Dog Life; What Comes Next and How to Like It.