I have a friend who refuses to rely on text messaging to stay in touch like the rest of us.

This may not seem like a big deal, but in this age of ease and let’s face it –  instant gratification, she is a purist who prefers to call her friends on the phone.

We’ve all joined the Church of Lazy Day Communicators that some may argue boils relationships down to their lowest common denominator.  I have heard a rumor that even my brother who lives on 14 acres with his wife, dogs, cats, bees and chickens and does not have internet in his house (but does in the barn?) may be getting a smartphone but I’ll believe it when I see the emoji.

I bring this up because I was doing my usual basement tub shuffle yesterday and came across yet another in a long string of discoveries about my late husband.  I can’t even count the number of spiral-bound notebooks I have stumbled across in the past two years – likely more than 50 – that have writing on just the first few pages.  Each time I find one, I cringe inwardly before reading what may be in this latest discovery.  Kind of like stumbling across a diary bit by painful bit.  Not because he was building bombs or plotting some strange paranoid revenge scheme, or even putting pen to page to outline some internal struggle.  Most of the notes are rather pragmatic.  Lists of supplies needed to install shelving in our (former) bomb shelter, or items he felt were needed to make my upstairs office setup more complete.

But what I found yesterday were pages and pages of sample voice mail greetings written in pencil.  Of the “hello, I’m not available to take your call right now” variety.  A rather thick sheaf of pages of various innocuous scripts written in his no-nonsense penmanship.  He dated everything, so I knew these were written some years before we were married when folks actually had answering machines attached to their landlines.

But it broke my heart a little.  I mean, how insecure he must have been to not be able to leave a simple phone greeting without a script.  And there were iterations for various holidays, some more clever than others, but most kind of hokey.

It’s hard for me to imagine being so unsure of myself that I would agonize about something like that.  Perhaps it was not agony for him, but a writing exercise that helped pass the time on a lonely day.  I will never know.

I feel like every time I open a storage container neatly labeled in his blocky handwriting, there is another realization lurking of the man I did not really know.  It makes me so sad.  I want to be able to talk to him about it.  What was going through your mind, James, when you felt compelled to spend hours scripting a seemingly simple recorded greeting to the world?  Did you torture yourself over things that the rest of us don’t give a minute’s thought to?

I may have mentioned when I met James I had a cheap Tracfone and it was due to his urging I got my first smartphone.  No one loved technology more than he did, for sure.  Keeping in touch, tethered by technology was paramount.

I do think that obsessive list making may have simply given him a lot of satisfaction.  Perhaps putting pen to paper made the idea more real, helped to engineer his thoughts in a way that made sense to him and him alone.  I’m going with that.

6 thoughts on “Lifeline

  1. Martha, I love your analysis of the forgotten notebook. I love the image of James, pencil to forehead, thing aloud, scripting his outgoing messages. What a thoughtful, intriguing man he was.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Just when you think you no a person another notebook appears, this is so therapeutic for you! It’s been over a year since Jerry passed and I can not tell you one thing I have done. Started going places with some others, not easy. I wish you well and think of you often


  3. I can commiserate with James on this. I have a phobic reaction to making important phone calls sometimes and always write down what needs to be said so that I come across confident. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even pick up the phone. And, sometimes I still don’t. I’m not even sure why I have this issue…when I do! Other days, I sail through. James was a very deep well of thought and it makes me feel better knowing we shared such idiosyncratic behaviours.

    Liked by 1 person

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