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Easy question, hard answer

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By Meaghan Downs

I probably ask more questions than I get answers.
Because I’m sympathetic to those who want answers, I’m fairly good at answering questions.
Except for one.
“Do you like being a newspaper reporter?”
Pause.
Sometimes I really need to think about that one.
Not that I dislike my job. I definitely don’t.
But it feels wrong to talk about my job in a manner of liking.
Liking is something you do on Facebook photos.
I like eggplant lasagna.
I like reading “Game of Thrones” until I fall asleep, eyeglasses perched on the edge of my nose, using the open paperback pages as a pillow.
The verb “like” isn’t the word I’m looking for.
Maybe the perfect word to describe why I do what I do is floating somewhere in a Monday morning conversation I had with an Anderson County parent.
I met him for the first time at the door as he came out of the rain.
He had brought a CD full of photos for me to look over for Wednesday’s paper.  
As the computer whirred and I waited for each picture’s window to pop open in color on screen (and for me to close out of every Internet pop-up ad), we chatted. Made small talk.
And without sitting down to a formal interview and without formal introductions, I heard a 20-minute version of the life of a man.  
He had lost much of his hearing while serving in the Army during the Vietnam War era; he was an artillery man, he said.
He didn’t lose the sense of sound immediately while in Vietnam.
Actually, he never went over to Vietnam at all during the war, due to injuries.
But he kept training with the Army, he said, and slowly, surely, his hearing grew worse until hearing aids became a necessity.
Because this wasn’t a formal interview, and my crumpled, rain-stained notebook unavailable to keep record of linear events, the timeline zigzagged.
From the Army to marriage to a childhood raised by a single mother to faith to his children to how he ended up in the same town as his brother, also a transplant from Texas.
No one needs to be a reporter to have this conversation.
We’ve all had this conversation.
Over coffee. Over pitchers of beer. Over intertwined hands clasped in a prayer.
I like coffee. I like beer.
But I love sitting behind my desk, shoving what seems like a thousand yellow sticky notes aside, and recording this story for a column before it’s forgotten.
So that this particular conversation — which does not belong in a feature story or the community calendar or a line score for the sports section — would not be contained to just a scribbled idea for a future column, instead of this one.
That’s why I like being a reporter.
Now you see why I needed to pause.