Folks, even though I’m up there in years, I’m not too old to try for some change. In advance of the holiday season, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I thought I’d best stay in better touch with the younger folks in my family.
So, for the first several weeks in November, after re-activating my e-mail account, I started writing. Nothing important, just, “Thinking of you,” and “Heard from your mother that baby Paula was sick—hope she’s all better.” Two e-mails a day.
Such chit-chat received nothing in return. I know the kids are busy these days, their lives wrung out with child care and carpooling, with working more than one job, with some of them in school. I was philosophical about the silence, and, I thought, persistent. I joined Facebook, friended all of my extended family, and posted little squibs about the seed catalogues arriving in the mail, about the temperature highs and lows, about Mabel Beemer’s cat and Claude Anderson’s dog. A couple of my family members “liked” my posts. I Facebook messaged them, with nothing important.
And that meant nothing back. Every morning I’d turn on that computer, check my e-mails, scroll through Facebook, and find nothing personal. Facebook was mostly gags: those pictures like the one titled “Arizona Winter Storm,” showing an overturned lawn chair, with the words, “We will rebuild.” Or short videos meant to inspire me, or make me laugh, or shake my head about the human condition, or increase my admiration for babies, cats, or dogs. In short, the posts exaggerated the cute, the sentimental, the ridiculous, the inspirational, the cynical. Everything from the phrase: “Happiness is . . . carrying so many books home from the library that your arms hurt,” which is not my idea of happiness, to the riddle, “Which U.S. State has the smallest soft drinks? Mini-soda.”
E-mail was worse. More of nothing, from all those who have my e-mail address. Humorous forwards, inspirational forwards to make me renew my faith in Humanity or God or Science or Common Sense. Some made me lose faith in all those things. One forward was full of bad jokes about Muslims (Yes, racism thrives—only the targets change). Others chronicled the criminal behavior of immigrants. Some were warnings about computer viruses that don’t exist except as e-mail forwards, which are a kind of virus in themselves.
Folks, in my resolution to connect, I learned two things: first, that younger folks are not using Facebook or e-mail. In my only Facebook reply, my great-granddaughter clued me in: “Gramps,” she wrote, “we do Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat.” I didn’t ask her what those were, or how they worked. I can’t even say InstaTwitterSnapGram. Second, I learned to hate forwards. As I told Iola Humboldt, anything that comes as a forward is likely backward.
So much for connection. Instead, I renewed my desire to disconnect. I went back to my seed catalogues, and my rotary telephone. That baby’s better, by the way, and Claude’s dog has only benign tumors. Mabel’s cat is on a Science Diet. And the weather is … changeable.