Don’t you hate to be caught changing you mind? In the case of an about-face, most of us are afraid of a loss-of-face. I change my mind a lot, so… not to lose face… I like to spin my U-turns as assets: I am flexible and open-minded.
In the recent past, I have shown myself to be a traditionalist. Normally, I am slow to embrace change: like the Luddites who fought the mechanization of the textile mills in the early 1800’s, I have resisted social media. I don’t have a smart-phone. Someone could read War and Peace in the time it takes me to text a short message on a friend’s phone.
Watching women, each texting alone yet lunching together, drives me crazy. To my mind, texting is the lowest form of communication: it is devoid of touch, tone and facial expression. Texting lacks warmth and physical contact.
I do periodically check Facebook – primarily to keep up with the kids, but Twitter is something else again. Initially, I was quite taken with the notion of 140 characters. I like to write to a specified word-count, and it seemed to me that the brevity imposed by the number of characters would result in seriously refined prose poems. My interest in Twitter was short. Once my toe was in the water, I realized that I didn’t want to wade in the shallows. I had no interest in reading what someone ate for lunch.
Early this week, on Tuesday, to be exact, I changed my mind.
Listening to National Public Radio, I heard Audie Cornish, host of All Things Considered, interview Scott Simon, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition. The topic of the interview was Simon’s Twitter account of his mother’s death in ICU.
To be more accurate, Simon used Twitter to share the give-and-take with his mother, Pat Simon Lyon Newman, during their last 48 wakeful hours together. See http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/07/30/206987575/Scott-Simon-On-Sharing-His-Mothers-final-Moments-On-Twitter.
Scott’s and Pat’s last words were humorous, playful, poignant, and ultimately uplifting. Twitter, the medium that I had dismissed as banal, allowed Simon’s 1.3 million followers to share a portion of Scott’s long good-bye with Pat. Readers’ responses were positive. Some shared deathbed stories. Many thanked Simon for bringing death and dying out of the closet.
Towards the end of the interview, Cornish asked Simon if his mother had a favorite song. Simon’s voice which was increasingly strained, managed to say Nat King Cole‘s Unforgettable. And as the tune played beneath the last few words of the interview, Simon’s voice finally gave-way and cracked.
Take a listen. The interview is unforgettable. It is a perfect prompt for sharing the deathbed scenes we’ve never voiced – for bridging the unknown and the unforgettable.
Along these same lines, a friend just recommended reading “Watching the Lights Go Out,” a blog written by David Hilfiker, a retired physician recently diagnosed with progressive mild cognitive impairment. Hilfiker hopes to blog his loss of memory. When he can no longer type, he plans to dictate his thoughts to a friend who will blog on his behalf.
Given my age and having lost two parents to dementia, Alzheimer’s is of interest to me. I highly recommend David’s blog: www.davidhilfiker.blogspot.com. I look forward to following his posts and reading the comments from people moved by his experiences. Like Scott Simon, David Hilfiker has opened a door. If they can talk about sensitive subjects, we can too.
During my mother’s final years, I kept a cassette tape recorder in the car. Driving between work in Canon City and visiting my mother, housed in assisted living in Pueblo, I would talk out my frustrations. Sometimes my mother knew me; other times she did not. It felt good to vent to a non-judgmental machine. In the back of my writer’s mind, I thought that perhaps my recordings would be good source material.
Mom has been gone for years. According to my sister (whom I had to call for the date of Mom’s death) Mom died in January of 2004 . In all that time, I have not been moved to listen to those tapes. The “material” is at-hand, but in retrospect, I am afraid that the recordings will expose me as being egocentric and insensitive to my mother’s experience, which during moments of awareness, must have been excruciating.
Constant readers will know that come October I’m off on a pilgrimage that will have me trekking west across Spain to Santiago de Compostela. To those who ask why I am taking the pilgrim path, my standard response is “I need to think about who I am; where I have come from, and where I am going.”
Where I have come from must involve listening to those decade-old tapes. I will do that before October. The material will be useful in knowing who I am and where I am going.
We count the days to graduation, vacation, and retirement, but not the happy cognizant days we’ve been here among friends and family.