The wee hours of the morning don't really work for me. As a world-class insomniac, I have spent most of my life wishing that I hadn't been awake for quite so much of it. It helps to have someone to talk to, though my wife might not fully agree, given the number of times it has been my unsettled sleep pattern that created the opportunity to chat. Most of the conversations tend to center on doubts and concerns. There was certainly a time when our thoughts turned more to fanciful anticipation: What will it be like when we are married? What will it be like when the baby is born? What will the future hold for our young son?
These days, our possible futures don't stretch out as far. We tend to dread the next commitment or obligation, wondering if we have everything in place to deal with the twists and turns that each new day brings. Do we have enough? Should we get more? Did you hear that clacking noise? Did I remember to tell you that I heard a clacking noise? At three in the morning, there isn't a lot you can do about that clacking noise because A) it is dark and B) you are tired. Instead, you find yourself imagining all the possible ways that the clacking noise will bring about the family's eventual ruin. But it feels good to talk about it.
Most of the time.
A few nights ago, while we were both pretending to be asleep while hoping to catch the other in a moment of wakefulness, the discussion started. What potholes of dread lay before us on our trip through the next few days? How could we possibly hope to hold things together amid the swirling eddies of dark despair that washed around us? And suddenly, my wife hit on the all-time great questions for laying awake: "How much life insurance should I get?"
I have never been a fan of insurance, since it seems to be a way to bet against yourself in the race to stay whole. If you don't crash the car or burn down the house, you lose. All those monthly premiums have been like so many lottery tickets shoved off into someone else's bulging coffers. My coffers aren't exactly bulging, so I want to be clever about where I end up stuffing my lottery tickets and extra dollars. But life insurance? How much is my wife's life worth to me? What price could I possibly put on her existence, our coexistence? How does that break down on a monthly basis? Is there an installment plan where I could eventually get back the love I lost? Or should I take heart in my cynical notion that I would be simply paying into a pot that would end up with me dying first and hope that whatever deal we had made for me would compensate her in what I can only hope would be long lonely years of missing me.
Or maybe this was all part of the opening of some neo-noir story that would have one or both of us involved in some kind of nefarious goings-on. And then I can stay up the rest of the night imagining what those might be.