Sunday, January 1, 2012

Some are Gone and Some Remain

One of the many cool things I got this year for Christmas is a new Blackberry Torch. It's a sleek little number, very much in the vein of a Star Trek 'communicator.' As I looked at the online tutorial I began to see the seemingly endless functions it can perform. Now, it's not in the same league as, say, the new iphone, but it more than meets my communicative needs. Frankly, I never thought I really needed the whole fancy-schmancy phone thing. Text and talk...that's pretty much been my basic need when it comes to cell phones. Hell, I'm old enough to remember when they were roughly the size of a shoebox.

One of the things, however, it doesn't do instantaneously is download all of the numbers in my old phone to the new one. I think this might be because my old phone was, well, old. The sim card is ancient. So I guess they're just not compatible enough to automatically upload one to another. Consequently I found myself in the stupifyingly boring position of having to move my phone contacts from one device to another one by one.

And as I did so I suddenly and quite unexpectedly found myself deeply moved. A couple of the numbers are obsolete because the people they were assigned to are dead. One from an apparent drug overdose in an anonymous hotel room in Missouri and another from a quick and senseless one-car accident in the middle of the night on a lonely road in Arizona driving home after taking his daughter to her freshman year in college. Another is very sick these days due to complications stemming from HIV related illnesses. And another is fresh out of drug and alcohol rehab, shaky and scared but doubtless hopeful and fresh, too. And one is struggling day to day, forever optimistic, raising two special needs kids in a suburb in Colorado. Another once as close to me as a brother but now a stranger because we both fell victim to distance, apathy and the breathtaking speed of life.

So I found myself taking this unplanned trip down memory lane as I transferred these lifeline numbers from one phone to the next, numbers I used to call as regularly as breath. On this first day of January, 2012, I find myself attached, professionally and personally, to a whole new set of human beings. And I sit and punch in the new names, the new numbers, the new set of circumstances, the new relationships that capriciously develop, and I try and remember why I'm no longer close to old chums and lovers and family that once crowded my every concerned moment. What turn in the road separated us? When did I, or they, stop obsessing over our mutual well being? How did what was once so important become a plot line in a television show that can be turned off or on at whim? Sometimes it's easy to spot the break. I came here and she went there, or I turned left and he turned right, or I moved on and they stayed stuck. But other times, other quick, lightning flash memories, aren't as easily sorted out.

I despise and am ashamed of the out of sight, out of mind reality of my life. This blog notwithstanding, those few people close to me will tell you without hesitation how fiercely private I am. I have found myself in the fortunate and equally unfortunate position throughout my adult life of carefully choosing those close to me. Consequently once I've made that very conscience choice I think it safe to say I am loyal to a fault. So I was not only mystified but dumbfounded at the parade of faces that came to mind as I slowly and painstakenly gathered the names and numbers from my old life and plugged them into my new life. The process made me feel both emotionally removed and purposely callous all at once. And yet I didn't set out to be either.

But I don't think my particular situation is so terribly different from others. The only constant is, indeed, change. I've never been a big fan of change, though. People grow up, people grow apart, people move away, people die, people fall out of love, people lose hope and people get old. And that's just the way it is and frankly I've never cared for it.

One number after another, each drawing to mind a picture of a relationship. And some numbers, belonging to the dead, gone in an instant with the gentle touch, the swift brush of the finger over the delete button. One moment there, a tangible chunk in my phone, in my life, the next gone, deleted, a memory. A quick picture of sharing a halcyon and laughter-filled era of our lives together and then moving on, the next number, the Los Angeles number, the number with no stakes attached to it, no history or empathy, keep that number, they're still alive, they may be useful, they may be called upon.

I found all of this to be a microcosm of my feelings about moving from 2011 to 2012, a dry and hushed exercise in 'out with the old, in with the new.' At midnight last night my wife and I shared a kiss, spoke quietly about our hopes for the new year, some slender and silly, some magnificent and life-changing and she slipped into our bed to sleep and I continued my epic task of deciding who took the journey from one phone to the next, from the old life to the new, from 2011 to 2012. As I did so, each number held a face, an episode, a moment of genuine care and some made it over and some were left behind. But each one was, for a heartbeat or a lifetime, a great and wondrous symphony or a delightful measure of unusual grace notes in a minor key. Each one conjured up a face and a memory. And even the ones gone, the ones I can't call from either phone ever again, received a warm remembrance.

And so goodbye 2011, you gone and lovely year and hello 2012, you new and clever year, I look forward to the reinvention. My Torch is loaded and ready to go. A little lighter than the one before but full of new tricks and new numbers.

See you tomorrow.

1 comment:

Douglas Odom said...

Clif, I found this posting to be one of the most moving of yours I've read. Thanks for posting it because it brought me to a realization. As you may have seen from my Facebooks postings, my best friend for over 30 years passed away in September. I have never removed his phone numbers from my home and cell phone directories in hopes that I would hear one of the phones ring and see his name come up. False hopes for sure. Your posting has given me both the courage to delete those numbers and the reality punch to know that I should do just that and begin to move on and not dwell on those false hopes of seeing his name appear again on my phones.

Thanks again for the posting.