Considering I grew up thinking a rotary dial phone and an electric typewriter were the height of technology, it's surprising how often I stop to think about the degree to which technology has been absorbed into every facet of our lives.
When I was my daughter Trisha's age, I thought by this time manned space travel would be mundane. Plus we'd have flying cars and robot maids to clean our house. (What can I say? In my day, The Jetsons was a staple of Saturday morning T.V. And during the decade after the moon landing, to hear people talk, any minute there'd be a McDonalds franchise on Mars. :-P) I'd heard of computers, the blossoming technology that would someday take the world by storm. They were said to fill up entire laboratories and be operated by ingenious mad scientists. But I never, in my wildest dreams, envisioned the internet.
Now, at about the same age when I looked at our new phone and said "COOL! It has BUTTONS!" ... my son gets uptight if it takes 3 minutes to get an internet connection so he can game with his friends in Australia.
What a difference 30 years makes, eh?
"Everything is Amazing & Nobody Is Happy"
The video "Everything is Amazing and Nobody Is Happy" cracks me up, and it TOTALLY applies to me. Despite having come of age with rotary dial phones, I drop F-Bombs if my internet access is a little bit too slow while I'm trying to work. What's up with that?
Once in a while, I have a moment of clarity when I realize how amazing and surreal the world is today. A few weeks ago, I had to explain to Trisha the function of a postage stamp. But the real clincher came last night -- my kid sent me a Facebook message to tell she was ready for bed and needed to be tucked in. And yes she was right in the next room.
It's a strange, strange world. But seriously? I still want my flying car and my robot maid!
On another note, our home is still quarantined due to illness. :-P My husband brought this virus home from work, and it's been making the rounds. My 14-year-old son, the kid who wants to be buried with his precious X-Box 360, was too sick to game. I have laryngitis, and I have to resort to communicating with my family via Post-It notes. Call it my Nag-by-Note system.
Since I'm not sick enough to stay in bed, but I do need to stay home, I've tried to be productive. My current project ... and for me, this is BIG ... has been cleaning and reorganizing my bookcase.
I am the least compulsive person I know. My house always looks like a train wreck, and the organizational system in my desk/work area is one of the great mysteries of the universe. But I like my books organized. Not just organized but alphabetized, in each category, by my own fussy system. Well, it took me a LONG time, this week, to get it back to that condition, and it required sacrificing a lot of books. This is my current pile of stuff earmarked as library donations:
But, hey ... I'm almost finished.
I dearly love my bookcase, and organizing it brings back many memories. My husband built it for me, as a gift, to try to help me begin to heal from my mother's death. Which makes no sense unless you understand the context.
My mom died, when she was only 63, due to mysterious causes -- possibly medical malpractice. Like most parents and kids, our relationship had been through ups and downs. But through the years -- more and more -- she became my best friend.
One thing we always shared, from my earliest memories -- through ups, downs, and everything in between -- was our love of books. I will always vividly remember the books we read together when I was growing up, the novels and writers we discussed as adults, and the authors for whom we shared an unabiding love. Relationships, abiding love, and grief are wonderfully raw and messy and infinitely complex. Often it's the tangible things -- and shared passions -- that help us survive and begin to make sense of it all.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity -- however briefly -- to say goodbye to Mom. Her world had already shrunk to a hospital bed, and she soon lost the ability to speak. On the last day, I brought her favorite book into the ICU. The Little Prince. I read to her for a while, and it's the last thing we shared. We got to the part about the baobab tree.
When we left the house, after the funeral, I had a feeling I'd never be back; it wasn't likely that my mother's husband and I would stay in touch for long. Out of respect for our stepfather, my brother and I took very little from the house, a decision we later deeply regretted. The one thing I took greedily, weighing down the trunk of the car until I wondered whether we'd make it over the state line, was books. As many of her books as I could manage to make off with.That, plus a handful of photos and knickknacks, and we were gone.
My husband, who had no particular words of wisdom on how to deal with a grief too large to carry, built this bookcase to hold all the books. Hers and mine. On a shelf, along with a picture of Mom, are her copies of The Little Prince.
Elisabeth Kubler Ross famously wrote about stages of the grief process, which is as good a model as any for understanding it. Reading On Death and Dying, once might get the notion that it's a linear process. It isn't, of course. Denial, anger, bargaining, and depression come and go in waves, and sometimes they all seem to gang up and kick your ass. And acceptance often comes only in glimmers.
I've never met anyone who followed a straight path to recovery. It's more like a spiral, becoming more bearable, then harder, then better, then worse. With luck, you inch your way a bit higher each time you go around.
Even nine years later, I'm still not doing well with this. But yes, it gradually gets easier. As someone -- I forget who -- wisely observed, some forms of grief never go away, but you do make room for it. And as time goes on, the tangible things -- like Mom's books and ultrasound photos of my stillborn son -- become increasingly important to me.
When I became a mom, of course, I was insanely eager to share my love of reading with the kids. And, to some extent, I've done this. But neither of my teens are big readers, and ultimately they developed their own passions. So I tried to educate myself about what they love and -- to some degree -- to share these passions with them. This led to my becoming a film buff, rejuvenating my love of fiction writing, and working to gain a greater appreciation of video games.
At times, I find myself thinking about the memories with which I'll leave my kids. This usually occurs to me when I'm being Super-Bitch Mom. ;-)
When I'm "too busy" or "not in the mood" to talk about gaming or a crazy-ass indie movie I never learned to appreciate, I try to remember that. Someday, shared memories, interests and passions will be one of the few things I leave behind. :-)
On a related note, I have a question. What novels and movies dealing with grief, in an honest and real way, do you particularly recommend? While I am open to all forms of faith and spirituality, I'd prefer stories without an overly religious message. I'm thinking about making a list, and I'd love to hear your suggestions.