Perhaps the most painful experience that any of us can have is the loss of our spouse. Over one-third of the residents in our retirement condo development live by themselves. For several years, our children have been trying to convince my wife and I that we should upgrade our cell phones and get rid of our land line. After all, we had to break our necks to try and get to the land line phone every time it rang. After my wife died, my children literally forced me to buy a new cell phone. At least, they went out and spent my money and bought it for me which was no small matter since it turned out to be extremely complicated to have my late wife's name removed from the original cell phone contract. At first I thought, how nice. At least I won't have to get up and try to get to the other phone if I am carrying my cell phone if I can just get everyone to use my new cell phone number. Then I realized I could read my email on my cell phone. Then, oh happy day, I could troll the internet and ask Professor Google anything. I tried to ask Siri a question but all she could say was, "Dwight, that's an interesting question." So much for Siri knowing stuff. Furthermore, I could order from Amazon and anyone else I wanted to leave packages on my doorstep. And, wonder of wonders, I could text and annoy people. I had shunned texting up until now because it seemed like a childish waste of time when everybody sits around twiddling their thumbs at lightning speed to transmit what I thought were probably inane and trivial comments. Then I discovered the importance of connections when the overpowering sense of total and complete loss and terrible loneliness permeated my daily life following the loss of my wife. So maybe texting had a purpose after all. I could pin pins by the score on Pinterest, where I have 171 women following me, including some of my sisters, which is amazing. All with just holding a little tiny electronic marvel in my hands.
But I didn't really become a cell phone convert until I discovered the great blessing that Facebook has become in my lonely life. I had made fun of Facebook for years, which I joined seven years ago and paid little attention because it seemed clogged with trivia and time-wasting nonsense. Then I discovered something significant that has become one of the great blessings in my life: I could use Facebook to be in touch with my children, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren, and some of my friends. I could write a post and stick a photo or two in it first thing in the morning and lo and behold, here were a dozen more "likes" and comments and names of my family members who were faithfully following me. These connections became my lifeline very quickly, even extending some times to the middle of the night when I would check to see who was awake and often times passed messages back and forth until we all went back to sleep. I have found that I am getting better acquainted with my numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren on Facebook since otherwise I would have little contact with them except at family gatherings and they would all grow up and I would hardly know them. If more people came to realize the importance of connections in our families, we would have stronger families, stronger attachments, and we would all be in stronger positions to boost each other, to cheer each other on, and to share our love and encouragement to every one. It is not a waste of time to keep in touch, to share one another's joys and heartaches, to lift one another in times of trial and difficult challenges. We should never be too busy to give a few seconds to someone who is lonely or who could use a 10 second friendly hello.
So now in three months I have gone from being a chief ridiculer and critic of Facebook to welcoming it as my best friend. True, a lot of garbage gets dumped on Facebook, and it helps to avoid controversial topics and stay with positive and helpful dialogue and even some nonsense to cheer one another on. But I feel that I have barely touched the surface of what we can do as a family to strengthen our connections with one another, to keep track of one another, and to provide the support and encouragement that we each need to make the best of each day. I work hard on my blog and my photos and my posts on Facebook and the Curmudgeonly Professor. My reward comes when people take a few seconds to like or notice what takes me hours to produce each day. And, how could I have forgotten: The iPhone camera is an unexpected marvel. The ability to shoot and post instantaneously is amazing, and I have discovered that the iPhone camera is no slouch as a camera and can take wonderful and beautiful photos and I can post them to the world in seconds.
If you are a senior citizen, or a person of any age for that matter, I urge you to consider the exceptional advantages of constructive cell phone use in strengthening our families and in helping one another. Instead of waiting for the next six months when you might actually see someone you would like to have seen before, a second or two on the cell phone will be a wonderful substitute. And don't be a skeptic or a doubter or a defeatist and feel that you can't learn any electronic gadgetry. I can find you some four year olds who will teach you how to use your thumbs to do amazingly creative and constructive things. And I am still learning about the benefits of the cell phone. The number of Apps is enormous, and many of them are helpful once you skip the ten million time-wasting free games. My latest discovery is the health app which has a wonderful pedometer that counts my steps. I've been encouraged to get my daily steps up over 4,000 after my leg pain disappeared, and I'm working steadily to increase that number.
I hope you will get over your doubts and help me discover other more imaginative and creative ways to provide ourselves with helpful information and creative activities but also to provide the ties that strengthen our families and friendships with others. And I invite all of my family and friends to take a second a click a "like" on some of the stuff I post so that I know that you are there. Time goes by so quickly, and the connections we have are sometimes so fragile, that anything we can do to strengthen them will be the most valuable thing we can do.