Getting older means undergoing the loss of friends and family members on a regular basis. I am learning, even though it’s hard, to accept death as a normal part of living and I wake up every morning pleased that I’m still on the right side of the grass.
This past winter has been an unusually difficult time with a half dozen old friends and a classmate passing. Then, last week, I got the news that a close friend had passed away. The subsequent events became the subject for my weekly column which follows:
21st century communication problems.
As I get older, there are days when I would like to just stay in my cave and dismiss the whole idea of dealing with today’s society but of course that’s not possible. One of the things that frustrates me is having to struggle with one of the more important facets of today’s society; learning to communicate with the aid of electronic devices . E-mail is one of these. I would just as soon not bother with it but occasionally I find important information amongst the endless drivel that this 21st century technological marvel produces. One morning last week, sifting through political rants, cute kitten pictures, advertisements ad nauseum and offers for performance enhancing drugs, I found such a message.
There was an e-mail from Dave, an old friend of mine. We worked together for several years back in the 1960’s and even though our lives went in different directions after that time, we still stayed in touch mostly through phone calls, e-mails and lunch a couple of times a year. As a matter of fact, Dave called me a couple of weeks ago about scheduling lunch. My wife, Susie and I were still in the sunny south so we put off doing anything until we got home.
I assumed the E-mail was about lunch but instead, the subject line read: “From Heather and Sean about our Dad.” The hair on the back of my neck stood up immediately. I received an e-mail last year addressed in a similar manner and that message had contained very bad news. This e-mail ‘about our dad’ also contained very bad news. Dave had died suddenly at home at the age of 71.
I would like to tell you more about my friend, Dave. His life deserves recognition as much as anyone’s but I’m not going to do that today. His children and his friends already know he was a great guy. Instead, I want to tell you about the events that followed shortly after I turned on my computer and read that E-mail.
The message asked everyone on the lengthy address list to let any other folks that knew Dave about his passing. I felt like that was the least I could do and after scanning the list of E-mail recipients, discovered there were a half dozen former co-workers who were not on the list, but would still appreciate knowing the news. There was a chance that they might see the obituary in the newspaper but with the upheaval in that particular industry, I knew not to count on that. A lot of us, present company excepted, sadly don’t read newspapers anymore so I decided to make some phone calls.
Contacting a couple of those folks was easy. I still kept in touch with them on a regular basis. But then, things got a little tougher. I could find no trace of 3 people, 2 men and a woman. Another lady on my list was now widowed and had moved to a nearby city. I found her new address but she was no longer listed in the phone book either through her name or her deceased husband. This was not surprising. A lot of folks, including my wife, Susie and I, only have cell phones and those phone numbers are not available to anyone except the unethical, fly by night companies who want to sell me something.
After rechecking with the folks I had contacted earlier and drawing a blank on locating her, I turned to all the technological tricks I knew. Searches on Google and Internet Phone books revealed nothing except that there are a surprising number of companies willing to sell me an even more surprising amount of information on the lady I was trying to find. I gave up on notifying her and hoped she still had access to the obituary pages.
The last person I wanted to contact was a girl named Sarah who had been a secretary for Dave and I. Nowadays; I believe I believe we would have referred to her as our administrative assistant. I wasn’t sure how to find Sarah. I only knew her by her maiden name although a chance meeting in a department store about five years ago revealed that she was now happily married. I suppose she had told me her married name but for the life of me, I couldn’t recall it and neither could Susie.
What I did recall was that she had told us the neighborhood she lived in and where she went to church. My first thought was to call the church but I knew that with today’s privacy laws, that would be a dead end. However, as it happened, a cousin of Susie’s also attends that church so I called her on the outside chance that she might know this lady. She did not but after describing Sarah’s physical traits and other characteristics, she recognized who I was talking about and gave me the information I needed to find her.
With the combination of cell phones and our fast paced environment with its privacy laws, a moribund print media, and our tendency to not talk to one another anymore, I guess I can now say that it is still possible to start a line of communication when one is needed.
You just have to work a little harder to establish it. —- 30 —-
I initially wrote this in about fifteen minutes after failing to locate the widowed lady. The words just poured out of me because I was upset at losing another friend and angry at myself because I could not get technology to conform to my needs. The piece only remotely resembled what I finally ended up with. I later spent about two hours cleaning it up, eliminating some personal things and generally making it readable. Finding the lady named Sarah was much more difficult than I described but space limitations required that I stay with in my alloted word count. Also, I eliminated the part where I described Sarah to Susie’s cousin. Sarah has some unique features, some good and some not so much. I went through hair color, stature, ethnicity and vocal range for the cousin but a bigger than normal backside was the description that nailed down the identification.
I was afraid that Sarah might somehow come across that description so I dropped that part from the column. It’s not likely and I probably shouldn’t worry. My work is not that well known. Oh, I do have my followers but I doubt that any of them knoow Sarah.
But I have to admit that now I’m worried she might read this. If this post disappears from the site, you’ll know why.