Sunday, March 24, 2013

The letter

My wife and I attended a memorial service yesterday for our friend Dave’s mother, who passed away at age 95.  

Dave spoke at the service. He said that, as he was going through his mom’s papers, he found a letter she had saved that he had written on her 65th birthday. In it, he told her how much he loved and respected her, and how grateful he was that she, of all the mothers on earth, was his. He said it summed up what he wanted to say, and read it to the audience. It was a beautiful tribute.

Dave’s children won’t be able read letters like that at his memorial service. Nor will yours or mine. Nobody writes letters any more. They email. They tweet. They text. They post to Facebook. But they don’t put their sentiments on paper, a medium that, unlike digital media, endures. All those electronic communications between you and your loved ones are going to be – have almost certainly already been – lost forever because they were deleted or simply disappeared. Can you imagine your son or daughter standing up at your memorial service and saying, “I was going through my dad’s thumb drives and found an email I sent on his 65th birthday he had downloaded and saved?”  

The same holds true for photographs. We recently consolidated hundreds of family photos that were stashed around the house in drawers, boxes, and cabinets. There were hardly any from the year 2000 on, the year we bought our first digital camera.

I made a slide show for my son’s wedding rehearsal dinner, a photographic retrospective from the day he was born. I had, perhaps, 10 photos from his high school graduation until now to choose from, even though we’ve taken, probably, hundreds, on the increasingly sophisticated digital devices we have acquired since then. I have no clue where those photos are, or if they even exist.

My favorite book, “The Children of Pride,” is the chronological compilation of a trunkful of letters someone found in a New Orleans attic – letters between members of a family before, during and after the Civil War. It is a fascinating insight into the psyche of an aristocratic, pious Georgia family who, as the war began, was confident that God was on their side. By the end, when they had lost everything, they had changed their tune. It’s the best history of the Civil War I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot of them). And it is real, thanks to those letters.

Just think of all the history in the form of digital correspondence and family photographs that will be unavailable to future chroniclers of our times. What a loss.

My son spent the summer of his twentieth year backpacking around Europe. Every few days he would send an email from an internet cafĂ© excitedly explaining what he had seen and done, and where he was going next. I saved them all, intending to print them out and give them to him some day. The company that took over mine changed email providers without warning and – poof – they were gone. Along with emails from my mother I had always meant to print out but never got around to it.

You may find it strange I’m using an electronic medium to bemoan the loss of words and photos printed on paper. It’s not. This blog is meant to provide a brief respite in your day or week and to give me a forum to say whatever I feel like saying. It’s not worth saving.

A letter is. Write one today to someone you love. It will make his or her day and, odds are, it will be saved.

After that, print out meaningful emails and photos you have been intending to save and put them somewhere safe. Someday they will be found by someone who will cherish them because they were important to you.

And who knows?

You just might be providing materials for your own memorial service.

Want to learn more about "The Children of Pride: Selected Letters from the Family of the Rev. Dr. Charles Colcock Jones from 1861 to 1868?" Read about it here:  It's a long read – over 700 pages  but you'll savor each and every word.

Monday, March 11, 2013

"Can you forward my mail for the next 165 years?"

James Napoleon Woods

James Napoleon Woods will have to ask the post office in Laddonia, Mo., his hometown, to forward his mail. For the next 165 years.

Woods, who broke into my 98-year-old mother's home in November, 2011, where he proceeded to beat, kick, rob and terrorize her and my sister (see my blog post of Feb. 1 entitled "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" for the grisly details)  was sentenced today to 165 years in the Missouri State pen. This won't be Woods' first check-in to the pen but, hopefully, it will be his last.

Read all about it by clicking on the link below.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Overheard in the TSA line

I flew from Ft. Myers to White Plains, NY today. When I arrived at the airport this morning, the security line was the longest I've encountered since the months right after 9/11.

I was at first annoyed, then intrigued, by the phone conversations of the forty-ish, dark-haired man behind me in the line, who talked on his cell phone the entire time. I finally took out a note pad and jotted down some of the highlights, which are presented below for your reading pleasure. (Imagine a Brooklyn accent heah for the full effect.)

….standing on the longest security loin I’ve ever seen, right by a sign that says it’s an hour from here to the front of the loin. My plane’s at 1:30. I was gonna stop and buy a … gottacallcomingin, talk later.

Hi Sheila, was just … you’re shittin’ me. On a scale of one to ten how pissed is he? Whoa, that’s pissed. I’ll be honest heah. I fuh-got about it. Do me a fav-uh. Go get the file off my desk and call me back, OK? OK then, gottacallcomingin, talk to youse later.

Hey, whassup? No way, I said forty-six cash on the table, take it or leave it. White on the outside, black leath-uh on the inside. Look, I don’t give a shit if you have to steal one off another dealer’s lot, I want to pick it up Saturday at noon, capiche? OK, check with him, see what he says then gottacallcomingin, talk later.

Hey Sheila, when was it due? Monday? This past Monday? So why am I just hearing this? How come nobody called? All it would have taken was one simple call and it would have been OK but now…now… oh shit, it’s him on the uth-uh loin, gotta go.

Hey Edguh, how are you this fine day? Really? You’ve been waiting since Monday? You have got to be kidding me. The whole office knows how important your account is. I can’t believe … there has to be a mistake. Maybe it’s in your spam mail. Did you check? Let me look into this. I’ll call the office and get back to you. Who'd you talk to, Sheila? How long ago? At the airport. Yes, I’ll be here another hour.

(He ends call and immediately makes one.)

Sheila, he is beyond pissed. Here’s what I need you to do. Look in the (company name) file. I did a quote for them just like this one in -- I think it was -- August, except they wanted a hundred thousand pieces. Edguh wants – what is it, seventy-seven thousand? Just clone that quote, change the company name and quantity and amount and email it to him ASAP. Can you do that for me? OK, I owe you one babe gottacallcomingin, talk later.

Whassup? I can’t believe you’re asking. Of course I want navigation! Whaa? How much? Are you out of your mind? No way I’m paying $3,000 for that. I’ve bought – let’s see now – five of these cars from you in as many years and you’re bustin' my balls about a navigation system?  I wanna make sure you understand what you’re throwing away heah. OK then, check with him and call me back.

(He ends call and immediately makes one.)

Hi Edguh, it was all a mistake.  Everyone signed off on the quote last week, and Sheila was supposed to send it to you Monday but, obviously, she didn’t and she's covering her ass. She’s at lunch right now but she’ll send it the moment she gets back. Between you and me, she’s gonna be off your account come Monday morning, she’s making one mistake after another. I’m sick of it, we all are. (Pause.) Oh, it was nice. A little golf. A little fishing. A little tennis. Laura and the kids are staying ‘til Sunday but I’ve got some business I need to tend to Saturday. OK then, thanks for your understanding. Yeah, I know… talk later.