One of the things I've noticed about being in a house overflowing with people is that each night, at bedtime, there's a pile-up of laptops on the table. I find it kind of entertaining, actually, to see what each person brings with them when they travel, to check, to use, to distract, to check-out. I also love how my folks's generation (or, maybe it's just my folks) doesn't quite have a grip on the technology thing. The other night my nephew asked my mom if there was wifi in the house and Mom replied, "No. I don't think so. What's that?" Hilarious given that Nana checks her email and Facebook page daily and that this past year the whop-doodle-ist, highest-speed service was put in place where she and Dad live. I was there when the lines were being installed and I asked Mom what all the worker bees were doing outside their house each day. "They're putting in the hi-fi," was her response, "all new wires and poles." It still brings the kids and grandkids plenty of laughs.
All new wires and poles. Things have changed so often and so quickly in the world of technology over the years. I can only imagine what it feels like for someone who is 75 to try to make sense of what's going on. Mike Lacher wrote a very funny story along these lines for McSweeney's. Read it. It's good.
There is a lovely elder gentleman in one of the churches I attend named Ray. His glasses are a little crooked and he always has a very sweet twinkle in his eye. He usually gets there early and reserves some space for his kids with his cane. It's a beautiful cane -- curvy and light in color with what looks like a pewter handpiece at the end. I asked him about it yesterday morning and he told me that it was "a hand-me-down." Then he explained to me that he had traced the origins of the cane back two hundred years. "My dad gave it to me when I was younger," he explained, "and for years it hung in the front hall. I never thought I'd need it," he said with a chuckle. "It was originally the root of a tree," he told me, and then went on to name the hill where the tree had grown from which the root had been taken to make the cane.
Later, when church let out, I watched from a quiet place across the road as Ray walked to the car that was waiting for him. Hunched over and supported by that 200-year-old root, he made his way slowly down the street. It was a beautiful sight.
These are the places in our lives where the stories live. I worry, sometimes, that we're going to lose all this. The high-speed generation is replacing the hi-fi folks and in the process we're losing something. And it's not really just a generational thing; it seems to be a mentality: newer and faster is better. We no longer have time to wait for anything. It takes patience to listen to someone like Ray tell his stories. It takes attention. I look at the laptops and the phones and the various "pads" that are scattered all around the house. I know this is the world in which we live, and for the most part I'm OK with it. As long as we don't forget about the folks who aren't sure what wifi is, the folks who are the very roots that hold us in place here.