Before & After

Before

Are people laughing at my antique laptop? Months ago, as my laptop sat thinking, cursor spinning, trying to open Google Chrome, I finally admitted I needed to buy a new one. I timed it. It took a full minute to wake up the screen and open a browser window. I started pricing laptops. We have a lot of expenses in my house right now. We’re trying to freshen up a room—new furniture, new carpet; Eli needed a bike, his knees bumped the handlebars; Sophie’s about to start college. For a laptop, I needed to find a deal.

The IT guy at work thought refurbished was a viable idea. I got everything I wanted. Lots of RAM, a fast processor, a large solid-state drive, big screen, number keypad off to the right. My checklist was checked. The only thing I didn’t consider was the age of the computer. And in truth, I don’t even know that. But I haven’t had a laptop this thick and heavy since the nineties.

I’m in a Starbucks outside Richmond, Virginia; the clock ticking down to my friend Mike’s funeral. I got here pretty early. With the unavoidable DC traffic gauntlet, I left two hours early. Just in case. I’ve got an hour to kill.

Over four hours in the car, I had a lot of time to think. Before I thought, I listened to NPR. But after ninety minutes the program restarted from the beginning. I realized I’d already heard all the stories, so I switched to music. Which music? As young adults, Mike and I shared an obsession with the Cure. I started my rolling rock concert with their 1982 album Pornography. Music and thought–they go together well.

The last time I hung out with Mike was around 1990. In college, we were fast friends. We met on the first day, and we were inseparable for years. I don’t want to dwell too heavily on our slow breakup, I’ve already written about it, but around the time Mike and I stopped hanging out, I fell out of touch with my entire college crowd.

OK, Boomers, you already know this: when Facebook became popular, old(er) adults like me reconnected with all our other old(er) friends. Except for me. I resisted the draw of Facebook for a decade. “Fake relationships,” I said, “I’d rather work on the ones in real life.” Regular readers of this blog know that my real-life relationships have tanked, so my strategy was misguided, but when I finally got onto Facebook a few years ago, I reconnected with a handful of college friends, slowly. I missed the catch-up period. Everyone already re-knew each other. It was like walking into a party two hours late.

My list of Facebook friends is pretty scarce. For instance, I never connected with Mike, as well as a couple of other “best” college friends who are likely to be at the funeral. Today, I’m going to meet people I haven’t seen in thirty years. But through the rumor-mill I know that some still party like we did in the eighties. Some found God. Some, undoubtedly, have become wealthy suburban Trump supporters. What will we have in common? Who have I become?

Well, a lot has happened in thirty years. I bear no resemblance to that guy these people know (knew). I traveled across country by bike and camped every day for four months. I made and then married a new best friend. I almost died and then convalesced physically and mentally for years. I quit being a drunk. My Tourette Syndrome symptoms returned and swayed influence on my life for twenty years. I became a yuppie and then ditched that identity for a (mostly) unmaterialistic life.

How can we possibly still be friends?

After

Wow, that’s a long drive.

I feel stripped down, hollowed out. Raw emotions, good and bad all day. Today is going to take some time to process. I came into the day anxious of reconnecting with so many people. Fearful of their expectations from me, mine from them. Feeling the pressure to pick up where we left off so many years ago. That concern was unfounded. I enjoyed their company, most of them, and I’d like to stay in touch. During my friend Alex’s eulogy for Mike, I realized just how much I let go by falling out of touch. It’s something I can’t fix, and I think it will haunt me for a while. Forever?

Susan and Eli met me at the my front door with a Snickers Blizzard. Sophie is wailing plaintively on her saxophone. I’m embraced by the warmth of my house. There’s no place I’d rather be.

23 thoughts on “Before & After

  1. A whiplash of emotions. I can only imagine how difficult. A Snickers Blizzard, though, is a great start to self-care. (I’m salivating just thinking how yummy those are; haven’t had one in years, haven’t lived near a Dairy Queen in forever.) You’ve got an awesome family support system, Jeff. You’re a lucky man.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I missed the Facebook party too and stepped in two hours too late. I don’t know if there is anyone’s funeral I would go to anymore, but in my coming to peace with that I do realize all that I lost. But like you, anchored in family love. So all is not lost.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This has served as a profound wake up call for me. With my kids queuing up to leave the nest I’m really taking stock of my relationships. While they can’t be perfect because of the distance I’m realizing that a couple of them are really important. To be continued…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you. I have no contact with anyone from high school and the few people I was once connected to, I pulled away from due to ultra-conservative facebook profiles. My college relationships were the most intense in my life (except of course my wife) and they include a lot of baggage, good and bad.

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  3. Wow! You packed a lot into this post, Jeff! One thing about computers: when I retired, I bought an old refurbished laptop from my school. It was cheap, big heavy, bulky, old. I lasted a month with it. At best. It was too slow, too out of date, even with the refurbishment. I eventually bought a new MacBook and could not be happier with my decision.
    I have a weird relationship with my FB friends. Many of them are people I went to high school with who are very politically and socially conservative. I had to block some of them when they posted offensive (to me) political memes. I just don’t need to allow that hate into my life. As a result, I rarely go on FB anymore other than to comment/read threads in some running groups I belong to.
    Your homecoming sounds wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope my laptop lasts more than a few months. It’s unbelievably fast, which was what I was looking for. I think it’s going to be better than last time, because I’ve laid down the law with my kids. They aren’t aloud to download *anything* on it. My preference would be to do no social media, but it’s the only way I communicate with a handful of friends. And then I get drawn into browsing about. About a week ago, I went through and deleted every “friend” who I actually don’t know. I’m not really sure how they got added in the first place,

      Liked by 1 person

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