61: [email protected]

61: [email protected]

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

[email protected]

When love is lost, do not bow your head in sadness; instead keep your head up high and gaze into heaven for that is where your broken heart has been sent to heal.

~Author Unknown

Hand my father the telephone and he’d clam up. In all the years since I moved away from home, I can count the number of times he called me on the fingers of one hand. Each time he did, it was because my mother forced him to pick up the phone and dial. I know because he’d tell me, usually when she was standing right next to him.

It became a family joke.

When he bought a personal computer after he retired, I figured he’d just use it for spreadsheets to keep track of his finances. I hadn’t counted on e-mail.

From the moment he got his first e-mail account, he became an e-mail junkie. His friends weren’t into computers, so he started bombarding his stockbroker with questions and attached articles until his broker threatened to quit if my father sent him one more e-mail.

Whenever I came to visit, he badgered me to get an e-mail account so he’d have someone else to write to. After a year, I overcame my technophobia and gave in, much to his stockbroker’s relief.

The minute I gave him my brand new e-mail address, he deluged me with jokes, financial information, news articles and whatever else he found interesting. I signed on daily just to see what he came up with. I was never disappointed.

In return, I sent him short notes, copies of articles I was writing, and URLs for websites he might find useful.

For the next couple of years, apart from visits, e-mail was our main form of contact.

Although my father and I had always had a good relationship, sharing common interests allowed us to grow closer. I was sorry I had waited so long to get online.

My father became such a fixture at the computer that my mother swore she’d wrap the cables around his neck if he didn’t come up for air every couple of hours.

Even Puss Puss, the cat, learned that if she wanted my father’s attention, she’d better head down to the computer. My father often went downstairs, ready to work, only to find the cat already curled up in his chair. Rather than disturb her, he brought in a second chair and they’d sit in companionable silence while he surfed the Web and e-mailed me his finds.

As my father’s health began to deteriorate, surfing the Web became too tiring for him. Gradually, I took over the role of e-mail guru. I subscribed to health newsletters so I could send him articles with the latest information on his health problems. I checked the stock market news several times a day so I could track his investments and pass on tidbits of interest.

I also joined several joke groups so I’d have a steady source of material to e-mail him every week. He’d print them out and bring them to his dialysis sessions, where my mother read the jokes out loud to all the patients after they were hooked up to their machines—talk about a captive audience.

Eventually, the effort of signing on and printing e-mails became too much for him. The computer sat alone and unattended as my father struggled with the mundane tasks of living. Activities we take for granted—getting up, getting dressed and eating—took all of his strength. He kept his e-mail account, and I checked it on my increasingly frequent visits home, but now junk mail filled the inbox.

After my father’s death, my mother gave his computer to my cousin. Without my father to share my “finds,” surfing the Web lost its appeal. I unsubscribed from the joke groups, checked the market news less often and no longer scouted for new websites.

The other day I checked my e-mail address book for its semiannual updating. Nestled in the C’s, I found my father’s old e-mail address. Although five years had passed since his death, I could never bring myself to remove his listing. Maybe now was the time.

As my hand hovered over the delete key, memories of all the information and love we exchanged in our e-mails resurfaced. I moved my hand and clicked on “edit” instead. Rather than delete him, I changed his e-mail address to [email protected].

I know the World Wide Web is still earthbound and e-mail hasn’t reached those exalted heights yet. But who knows? Maybe one day it will. I’d like to be ready when it does.

I know my father will be waiting.

~Harriet Cooper

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