Aunt Alice will be 91 in February. To this day, she is sharp as a tack. With 1,500 miles between us, I give her a call every other week or so. We talk…and talk…and talk until she say’s, “Oh dear, we’ve gone on again. This is long-distance!”. Even now, I’m grinning as I recount her Depression-era concern about my phone bill.
Having worked for years as a proof reader at a big Midwestern newspaper, I love hearing her tell the story of how, way back in the day, she got the job. She lights up as she recounts how the old scowling editor who was doing the interviewing asked her, “Why do want the job?” Her reply, “I love words”. But why should I hire you? “You obviously need someone [like me] who can make you look good” as she slid the past Sundays Want Ads across his desk. He looked at the classified page for a second and hired her on the spot. What happened? She had circled all the typos in his want ad – in red ink!
You gotta love that kind of moxie.
The other night, she asked me when I thought she should begin to act her age? “I just don’t feel 90. I tell you what, maybe I will just decide not to (laughing). I can be whatever age I want.” While ever the lady, she has a real knack for putting things plain. Though my uncle died almost a year ago, he loved that about her. So too, do I.
But back to the other nights conversation: “My house phone is garbage.” Excuse me? “The hearing aid people tell me that I’ve got to wait for a new phone for deaf people through the phone company. I don’t have time to waste time (laughing)…making an old lady wait…that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t care. Tomorrow, I’m going to throw it out and get a new one that works!”
She is my rock star. Alice knows.
While I marvel at the parade of technology my aunt has seen march through her 90+ years, I get what she’s talking about. She hates call-waiting and wonders why anyone would need to forward their calls if they aren’t home. She doesn’t care. She uses her phone to keep connected with those she loves. But fear not, my baby Bell’s, Aunt Alice is not a one-trick proof-reader. Besides the telephone, she’s an avid card writer.
Whether friend or great-grand kid, she’s forever penning notes to us, her Chosen. And I’ve got to say there’s something tangibly worthy about finding her envelope in the actual mailbox outside our door. Spotting her return address, I will actually wait to sit down for the express purpose of opening a card I know she selected for me. And her penmanship! Talk about a lost art…I feel like a million bucks when I read her line or two of text. It explains why I keep them in a drawer of my desk reserved for such totems.
Think about it. Do you get the same feeling when you read an E-Mail on a screen? OK, I do save the EM’s from friends in a Hotmail folder, but I was trying to remember the last time I actually printed an EM and put it in my drawer…it doesn’t happen very often. Makes me wonder if in our thirst to be electronically ever connected, we’ve been tricked into losing touch. Aunt Alice knows better.
And my phone? Like Alice, I make calls on it. I don’t care that it doesn’t show me blockbuster movies on a 1.5” screen or guide me to the closest White Castle from my current location. Besides, I can find a White Castle in my sleep. Thank you very much.
Earlier this week, I listened to some of the young-bloods at work talking about being in line at midnight on a cold November night in order to be among the first to get Call
of Duty: MW3 for Xbox. Midnight? In November? In Chicago? Really?
The extent of my video gaming is a rare game of BubbleTown. While my partner is charging hard towards cracking all 31 levels, I’m impressed to have reached Level 5. And as with my co-worker, I’m happy my spousal unit has found something that lights him up and keeps his eye-hand coordination sharp, but truth be told, it’s not for me. I don’t care.
I don’t have a Facebook page. But many of my younger relatives do. One of my youngest relatives is all fired up; “I have 342 friends”. Really? Wow. How did you meet that many people? “I dunno”. And have all of them become your friends? “I dunno”. You do know them, right? “Some of them…” I’m sorry, but I don’t care.
I don’t do Google Circles; I’m not a disciple of Linked-In or Career Builder networking events and I refuse to get trapped into spending my time changing my Facebook status on an hourly basis. I think I can speak for Alice and those like us when I say, I simply don’t care.
At one time or another, I thought friends were ‘forever’. Eighth Grade kids; neighborhood friends I’d grown up with…team mates; college friends or the guys in my wedding party… each one was going to be a friend forever. But it hasn’t worked out that way. I have plenty of acquaintances and people I come in contact with every day, but I don’t have 342 friends…not the kind that meet my definition of “friend”.
Though no longer a very religious guy, one of my favorite bible passages from childhood speaks to the heart of my point. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13 (NIV).
Do you think my nephews Facebook friends feel that way? Mine do about me.
In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. . . It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that gives value to survival.”
I am so very grateful that I can count on a small cadre of trouble-makers and malcontents to provide me with deep value in my survival on this spinning piece of rock we call Home.
This week, go to a card store of your choice and pick out three cards for three people that mean (or have meant) something significant to you. And be forewarned, you may have to scramble to get their mailing addresses, but that’s part of it. The effort involved is important.
In each card, write the person you call ‘friend’ a short little handwritten note that isn’t fluff. Don’t spend a lot of time on it… “real” is much preferred to pretending you’re Shakespeare or Milton. And if you don’t want to spoil the card, practice on a piece of notebook paper till you’re satisfied. You’ll know.
Buy a stamp (they still sell them) and use your tongue to add some of your DNA to the outside of your envelope.
Or instead of making the Hallmark kids richer – another option might be to use some of that really nice paper you have and write your note on the good stationery. In this option, the stamp part is pretty much the same, but you already knew that (ha!).
I guarantee you’ll feel good dropping your envelopes into the mailbox. But it gets better.
Over the next several days, you’ll be the one person responsible for three people, having spied your return address, sitting down to expressly read what came out of your heart, through your fingers and out onto the page they now hold. And unless I miss my guess, they are likely to even re-read your few lines of text several times (very cool). Who knows? Maybe your note will even get carefully tucked away in their desk drawer. You may never know. But they will.
Tomorrow is promised to no one. Who among us has the time to waste time? Throw out the ‘friends’ that aren’t and find the ones that work. Aunt Alice knows. And now? So do you. Claim what’s important. Isn’t it time?
Go lick a stamp.
Now for a song…
James Taylor Live at the Beacon Theatre (1998) Sony/Columbia
If you want to know more about C.S. Lewis and The Four Loves, try: http://booksbycslewis.blogspot.com/2008/03/mere-friendship-cs-lewis-on-great-joy.html
PhotoCredits: Opening Photo: http://victoriawithroses.blogspot.com/2009/04/old-love.html Fountain
Pen http://www.flickr.com/photos/snapabooty/5639195315/ ; Electronic Cemetery: http://weregadgets.co.uk/weblog/
Writing letter: Album Cover Credit: Sony/Columbia ; Book Cover Credit: The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis Publisher: Harcourt, 1960 Album Cover Credit: Sony/Columbia ; Book Cover Credit: The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis Publisher: Harcourt, 1960
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