Before computers and cell phones, the land-line was a link to my friends. Any subject could be talked through inexpensively at length. These days I don’t even know my friend’s land-line numbers. Expensive cell phone calls are short and to the point. As we get more busy face to face time is minimal. I live in a bubble with my husband and children, sometimes this is lonely.
Now we have what’s app, e-mail and Facebook. These forms of ‘social’ media are useful and near indispensable. I can communicate so much, yet so little. I can present my brightest, shiniest side. You don’t see the dark side of my picturesque moon. You don’t really see me, you see what I choose to show you. On ‘social’ media you have to take my “I’m fine” without question. You can’t look into my eyes to find the truth. You can’t hear the hesitation in my voice which belies my words.
Two weeks ago my father was diagnosed with leukemia. A few days after hearing the news, when hope replaced the raw painful shock. I decided to post this on Facebook “To those who don’t know, my Dad was diagnosed with leukemia on Tuesday. He was booked into hospital last night and has started on chemo. Today they are doing bone marrow tests. Being the amazing man that he is, he is absolutely relaxed and not worried as his life is in God’s hands. He does not want us to panic or despair, so please don’t. All we ask is that you keep him in your prayers. As I know that he is loved by so many, I will post updates so that those who know and care for him know what is going on. The doctors have emphasised that at this point speculation is pointless.” I knew that friends and relatives scattered far and wide would want to know of the situation. (The fact that 12 people clicked the ‘like’ button is another subject for another day). There were many comments, kind, sincere and caring without doubt. These were much appreciated. It was only when my cousin (heavily tattooed with the mouth of a sailor), phoned that I realised how much it meant to hear the genuine caring in his voice. Messages in text, no matter how good and well intended feel so insubstantial compared to the warmth conveyed in a voice. In all 4 people telephoned me about Dad. 2 Of my cousins, my ex-husband and my ex-mother-in-law. At this point don’t think that I’m being judgy about those who did not call. I would normally be among them. I would not want to intrude too much. I would feel a bit awkward and not really know what to say. I would take the easier way out.
I have a feeling that many lessons will be learned during the course of Dad’s illness. This was the first of these lessons. Dad has also noticed that despite having many friends and family who love and care deeply for him, many have kept within the safe boundaries of ‘social’ media. Dad thinks that they are scared, we’re not precisely sure of what. We now know that Dad’s leukemia is treatable. Already chemotherapy is yielding good results.
I know that next time someone who I know is going through a trial, I won’t just comment on their Facebook status, or send a what’s app, I will pick up the phone and speak to them. If they live in Gauteng I will get in my car and go to see them in person, even if I don’t know what to say.