I’ve been training my mom on Skype. Even though we’re really no further away from her now, in New York, than we were when we lived in Toronto, she feels as though the virtual distance between us has increased by a significant order of magnitude, and needs to feel more connected. So I got her on Skype, so that we could video chat once a week.
It’s been an interesting process.
The old saying that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ has always struck me as really misleading. Most pictures you can describe in, like, 140 characters, otherwise why would there be TwitPic and Instagram? And anyway, why ‘a thousand’? If that number is meant to signify ‘lots,’ it kind of misses the mark. A thousand words is not a lot of words. I can easily bang out a thousand words just on the topic of cat barf, about which I know much, having stepped in it three mornings in a row now. And trust me, you wouldn’t want to see a picture of that.
Anyway. I was thinking about the stories that pictures tell as I reviewed my Instagram stream from this weekend and realized that anyone scrolling through those pictures would think that I’m raising my children in the wild and letting them drive cars and possibly also putting them to work as psychics. Which is totally not true. I only keep them out of doors in daylight hours – they’re free range – and they only work as psychics when they want to.
I should know by now that when my sister posts on my Facebook wall, it’s a bad sign, because my sister – bless her – believes that Facebook is the best way to reach me when there’s something urgent to communicate. That she could also reach me by phone or email – I’ll grant that I do not always answer my phone, but I do check my email regularly, and in fact only get Facebook messages through email, because I ALMOST NEVER GO ON FACEBOOK – is a detail of modern telecommunications that she has chosen to ignore. She alerted me through Facebook that I needed to call her when my grandfather died, and then again when my dad died, and – here we get to the thing that I really want to talk about – again last night when I needed to be informed that our mom has an aneurysm that is growing at an alarming rate and needs to be surgically removed at the earliest opportunity but, oh god, the doctors aren’t sure her heart can handle it and all of this was signaled to me by a public Facebook posting of CATHY YOU NEED TO CALL ME OR MOM. And then: LIKE, TONIGHT.
So, yeah. This is why I don’t like getting Facebook messages from my sister, who I otherwise adore. When those messages landed in my inbox, my heart dropped, and it dropped hard.
For all my talk of the world-changing power of sharing our stories, there are some stories that I have trouble sharing, because they’re too hard to write about, or because I worry about the impact of sharing them, or because they’re not my stories, and even if I have permission to share someone else’s story – like, say, Tanner’s – sharing someone else’s story is always an enterprise that pitches me into a state of anxiety. What if I tell it wrong? What if I don’t do it justice? What if it provokes the kind of ugly reaction that I’m comfortable receiving on my own behalf but which sends me into emotional turmoil when it involves others, and especially those whom I love?
Her (via Skype): I’ve been thinking about when we were little.
Her: About how we used to sneak into each others’ beds when we were scared, and cuddle up together in the dark.
Me: Mom and Dad kept telling us that we didn’t need our own bedrooms, because we always wanted to share one bed.
Her: When I was really scared, you used to scratch my back. You’d gently scratch out the shape of a letter, and make me guess what it was…