Ever so often, I’ll hear a news story about how increasingly mobile our society is becoming, how children grow up and leave the cities of their youth, how, under pressures of scarce employment and growing obligations,
otherwise intact families live with one parent or spouse away. This summer, we became one of those families,
however temporarily. My children and I live in North Carolina while my wife remains in Illinois, working out an employment obligation. My wife will join us, God willing, in September, so we already see a light at the end of the tunnel. Nevertheless, this experience (and one other, similar, occurrence several years ago) has given us at least some insight into what it means for loving, intact families to live apart. It is hard. Frankly, it sucks.
I am an admitted “gadget guy.” I love the newest, best technologies, not necessarily for their usefulness, but rather for their cool factor. Of course, I’m also broke, so for now I can only read about the newest gadgets and tools on the market. Despite my gadget obsession, however, I’ve never particularly held them in high regard.
Like many people my age and older, I long for a simpler time when our attentions weren’t divided between the laptop, the iPad, the Blackberry (or Android or iPhone), Twitter and Facebook. I’ve never seen technology as a savior. I still don’t, but I think my critical attitude is beginning to soften.
During the time we’ve been apart, my wife and I have used a variety of technologies to keep in touch.
Our favorite is an unnamed video chatting app developed by a rather fruity company. There is something that
is both exceedingly cool and comforting about seeing the person to whom you are talking on the small screen of your cell phone (“cell” phone? Do those still exist?). Of course, use of such a tool is intentional and planned. We use it for exactly the purpose for which it was intended. Despite having such devices at our disposal, what I really enjoy are those unexpected moments of connectedness with my wife, those times when I feel just a bit closer to her without even trying.
It was a relatively low-tech program running in the background on my desktop computer that gave me just such an experience yesterday. I was sitting at my desk when a small pop-up appeared in the lower right hand corner of my computer’s desktop. The text read something like this, “Amy Resume SRMC PICU.docx added to Dropbox.” For those of you who don’t know, Dropbox is an application that automatically syncs documents among multiple devices. You can create or edit a document on one device, save it to a Dropbox folder on that device and it will automatically save the new or edited document on all other devices on the same account. Pretty cool (note to Dropbox developers: shoot me an email and I’ll tell you where to send the check for the
endorsement). Whenever we know what a loved one who happens to be far away is doing at a specific time, we somehow feel a little closer to him or her, as if distance were no barrier to participation in that person’s life. I
saw that small balloon pop up and for just a moment I felt just a little closer to my wife. I knew that at that moment, she was editing her resume and that something she had just touched (so to speak) had made the 700 mile trip to nest on my computer. I knew what she was doing and I had a little memento of her day.
OK, OK, I know this is teetering on the nauseating and overtly geeky. To that I can only say, oh well. Whenever my family is together again maybe I can write something that isn’t a jumbled mix of sentimentality and nerdy fascination. For now, we are counting the days until my wife is reunited with us. Until then, we will hold on to and appreciate those little moments that close the 700 mile gap between us. Thank you, Dropbox, for making me feel closer to my wife.