Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On Staying Connected in the Wireless Age

            “Don’t you miss your family?”
            “I’ve brought them with me; how can I miss them?”
            “We didn’t bring everybody,” my youngest clarifies.
            He’s right. I’ve managed to bring everyone I’ve given birth to with me to the UK.  Everyone else is everywhere else. If I’m being honest, I’m a pretty good (and modest) mother but I’m not the best daughter, sister, or aunt that I feel like I should be.
            At some point early in development, I went wrong. There’s probably no clear defining point—no day I can declare changed me from warm, nurturing and available to more aloof and distant.  And if there was, could I change it? While I can’t change the events I try to change my behaviors.  I schedule emails, texts and phone calls to family and friends so I don’t lose touch.  I try to make communication appear natural almost effortless.
Yet when I say “I’ll call you back,” most people know I won’t.
A few months ago I began writing letters to my oldest nephew. He has always been special to me but after I moved to Maryland I became farther away both mentally and physically.  After I became a mother, I became too absorbed in my immediate family to reach out to him.  On nights when he needed reassurance that he mattered to other people besides his mother, I was too locked in to the role of trying to be two parents to my children to realize I was also needed elsewhere. I’m trying to make up for that now.
So I write him letters that look far better in my imagination than they do on the page. I still have the notion that letters should be hand written and my handwriting for lack of a kinder word is horrid. It doesn’t take me longer to craft letters than it looks like it does. Whether I try to compose it patiently or in a rush, the words slur on the page in a whirl of peaks and crevices.  My letters are mostly illegible.
“Why don’t you type it?” My daughter suggested after glancing over my shoulder at the page of blots and angles.
Finally I gave in and typed it. I printed the letter, slid it in to an envelope and sent it sailing across the world.  It could not have felt more impersonal.  It doesn’t matter what the letter says; I’m detached from the words because a typed letter doesn’t convey the same attention a handwritten one does and I don’t want my nephew to feel he isn’t worth my fingers cramped and arched over slivers of paper painfully and carefully composing a handwritten letter.

It’s possible I read too much into things.

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