On Record: Time to reconnect

Moving one’s worldly goods from one house to another is a series of petty aggravations. Dealing with utility deposits, moving companies, inspections, repairs … the list seems endless.

The big decision, though, the one that slows the entire process to a crawl, is what to keep and what to take to the curb. As I sorted through items that hadn’t seen the light of day in the 12 years since my last move, I found the letters.

You remember those – the actual pen-on-paper messages that friends used to send to each other? Going through them, I realized they’re all keepers, from simple Happy Birthday messages to six-page, double-sided missives.

My friend Teresa was queen of the six-page letters. I met her at a church singles group and instantly appreciated her keen sense of humor. She was a great pal during my three-year stint in Kansas City.

Then I moved and started getting her humor in paper form – delivered in a large slanting hand that filled up the pages, creating a satisfyingly thick packet when you held it.

As I reread some of her letters pre-move, I made a note to get back in touch. We had had dinner six years ago when I was in town, but somehow had let things slip away after that. Time to reconnect.

And so I looked her up on the Internet. I smiled as I saw a 2001 inquiry she’d posted on a blog, but darn it, it didn’t include the new e-mail I was hunting. When I delved deeper, however, I came upon a horror: her obituary dated more than a year ago.

We’ve let communication become so cheap. We think it’s been accomplished when we fire off a quick “How are you?” e-mail, and get a paragraph reply in return. Even a phone call can be seen as a major hassle. No one’s at home, their cell’s turned off, and when you start to leave a “just wanted to know how you’re doing message,” it seems lame. Shouldn’t your call have a purpose beyond idle chit-chat?

And we get frustrated when others don’t keep up with all the ways we can connect these days. Because my mother in Iowa has no desire to use anything other than Qwest’s home service, I either have to call her home phone or write. This has been a constant thorn as we plan a trip. I’ve often thought how much easier it would be if she had e-mail – just zip off a quick update on what’s happening and mission accomplished. Now I see that easier isn’t always better.

But here I am, casting technology as the Big Evil, when the reason behind not communicating lies with me. I had Teresa’s address, I had her phone number, I knew mutual friends and I failed to use any of the above. While receiving thick letters in the mail is probably a pleasure of the past, knowing what’s going on in your friends’ lives doesn’t have to be.