The Comet

Every Sunday I cook up a rack of wings and we have 'wing night.' I am not much of a cook, but one weekend two years ago I thought I would give it a try ... and now it has become a family tradition. I am an excellent cooker of wings as it turns out! I make it into a feast with hot dogs and usually lots of fresh berries. Please don't ask for my recipe as it is now a family secret with I and the boys sworn to secrecy.

This Sunday past the boys were waiting at the table with a question. Alex, then seven years, asked me when the next comet was going to hit the Earth.

Now, where this came from, I hadn't a clue. Maybe from school courses about dinosaurs or someone talking about the 'end of days' prophesy so prevalent these days in religious and zealot doctrines, I don't know, but as soon as the question was asked the expectant silence of all three boys let me know this was a very important question in their young lives needing a thoughtful answer. Later, I deduced the source was my eldest son.

Now, it so happens this is a subject upon which I have done some casual research (who wouldn't want to keep an eye on the heavens!) and the possibility of such an event I feel are quite real, although very doubtfully in any of our lifetimes. Sometime in the approaching future we'll be able to see the trajectories and have the technology to deflect paths.

And so, in the brief moment I was given to ponder my answer, I considered what they needed to hear. Should I tell them about the Oort cloud and the thousands of space objects there and the fact that some of these objects are drawn into the inner solar system by gravitational forces each year making a collision with the Earth not only possible, but inevitable? I remember the 1982 meteor that flew over the blue Alberta sky before bouncing off of the atmosphere and returning to space.

Should I tell them about the bible and the prophecies contained in the Book of Daniel and they must not sin or they will be cast down into the depths of hell when the forecast comet hits.

No. "The next one should hit in about six million years," I said. The relief around the table I could measure in their smiles as they realized, measured in lifetimes, how large a number this was, and I knew ... I had given them the proper answer.