Thirty later, her children, one at the edge of the field, one away in a straight line about 30 yards away, connected only by two paper cups and a taut piece of kite string. One speaks, the other listens, and hears "there are 4 of them to our two. But we have the water balloons!" The words are simple but they are personal, shared between brothers in arms, even if one is a sister.
Another thirty years later, miles apart, a simple message "hi, it's me just landed, I'll call after I get to Dad's, stay strong."
Just the other day, I sat in the airport reading a classic novel, on paper, no e-reader, while all around me people are texting. Now there are times that a text is better than silence, a quick stop to let someone know you are safe, or that you care, but too often people are doing it at the expense of the actual written word.
What would the books on my shelves, or the one in the hand of the young lady seated across from me be, if simply summed up in text?
Deliverance - tourists XperENs local hospitality
Frankenstein - Science progress big FAIL w genRL public. Ptchforks say STBU.
War of the Worlds - LEgl aliens wnt evrtng 4 frE
Pride and Prejudice -i longed 4 him i married him crp
Soylent Green - locals hav isUz w regional cuisine
Romeo and Juliet - Dny thy fathR n refUZ thy name, o if thou wilt nt, b bt swrn my luv, I'll n lngr be a cpult,
The Manhattan Project -sum of aL fears comin 2 a rogue n8tN near U
The Audacity of Hope - DBEYR srsly
Bridge on the River Kwai - brits cn whistle despite stiff uppr lips
Now, we instant message, we Skype, there's Facebook and web-mail and blogs, wherein the means of communication are many and the word "friend" has oft been reduced to an anonymous sign of popularity from total strangers. ("Hi, I'm Kim Jong-un, please LIKE me on Facebook!"). Maybe I'm alone in this, but to me, friendship is not something granted to random strangers simply because they wish to claim it, but to those who, through shared experience, through laughter and listening and time, become part of a complex life, on and off a computer.
But in a world where we are constantly chirping and texting, too often, very little is actually being said, reducing human emotions to punctuations as if somehow a smiley could convey the nuance of a heart. I look at Dad's letters, then, and his letters now, the degradation of the handwriting a sign, painfully clear, that he is declining, soon to leave me. But his words are still as sharp as his mind, even as his hand sometimes fails him.
All those years ago, I'd sit in that car and write my trains of thought, words flowing in sturdy motion and time, their spaces containing the heavy load of pride and longing, fear and desire. The train barrels forward in steady progressions as moving clouds fly overhead and shafts of sunlight peer through sliding cars, into their depth. As others transmit through satellites and space, I watch the landscape from the viewpoint of the train. Structures of iron lace, the suddenness of buildings, clouds of morning mist all crossing my line of sight, my muscles straining with the curves through fog-shrouded landscapes, moving with the train, thundering through empty fields of past loss into meadows washed with light.
There are still paper and pen, solitary objects of unspoken promise, of thoughts that flow, but I do not have them here. I have this, and whether short words or long, I'm speaking my heart. As my fingers clatter against keys, the words pick up speed, splaying themselves out along the tracks going forward. I am back on a train, running into the rain as the cars gain speed, waters cleaning the windows on which I look out on life. I hurl words into the darkness of an upcoming tunnel and wait for their echo.