Hurricane Irene recently made landfall about 35 miles to the east of our home on North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks near the beaches of Emerald Isle. We received a lot of phone calls from friends and family prior to Irene’s arrival urging us to head for higher grounds. Irene was our first serious storm in five years here on the coast.
Interestingly, none of the calls came from our three grown children who range in age from the late twenties to the mid thirties. My wife and I are in our early sixties, but our thoughts are much younger than that.
That we didn’t get a call before the hurricane wasn’t really surprising to us, it continued a pattern that seems almost pervasive among today’s young adults. It is interesting how lack of communication has become the norm these days for young adults who are far more connected than our generation ever was.
I went away to military school when I was fourteen. Every Saturday or Sunday, I would head to the one telephone booth on our dorm floor and call home. We had an assignment of writing a letter home every Sunday night. It was graded, and mailed home for us complete with red marks. Of course no useful communication ever took place in the letters. The weekend phone call was the lifeline to home.
While I quit shining my shoes every morning when I went away to college, I didn’t drop the ritual of the weekend call home. Even after graduating from college, moving to Nova Scotia to farm, and getting married, the calls continued. We added a weekly call to the parents of my wife, Glenda.
We farmed in Canada for nearly ten years, before I went to work in the world of technology at one of the area’s first Apple resellers. I doubt we missed more than a handful of weekend calls home as long as our parents were alive or not living with us. Even when I was on the road so many years with my job at Apple, I tried to never miss the weekend call to my mother.
Calling home for thirty-seven years was always something of a surprise, you never knew who was going to answer the phone, but 99% of the time they were happy to hear your voice if not your message.
Perhaps the beginning of the end was when mobile phones invaded our lives when we were living in Washington, DC area in the late eighties. Apple agreed to pay for the phones so that we could call clients to tell them that we would be late for meetings when we ran into the area's legendary bad traffic.
Five years later in the early nineties when our just-learning-to-drive oldest daughter got my well used Subaru, we left the mounted cell phone in it. She could call us in an emergency, or in theory we could attempt to track her down. All three of our children would have their time with the Subaru and its mounted cell phone.
For some reason even after our children went away to college, only our oldest daughter ever developed the habit of calling us once a week. Interestingly, the oldest is also the only one who reads a newspaper. My wife often calls our son, the middle child, just to see if he is alive. I don’t worry since I usually see a green dot by his name in Google chat. Once in a while we get a text message from our youngest, and sometimes even a phone call if the stars are perfectly aligned.
I wonder if cell phones and perhaps even inexpensive long distance calls made calling home such a mundane thing that it is no longer a moment to treasure or even to mark the passage of time.
In my heart I know our children care about us, but I still wonder if the communication will get better or worse as we age. Just to keep them on their toes, I will often send them an email from my smart phone with a GPS location when we are traveling at night. If we disappear, they will at least know where to start looking.
There will come a time when we lean heavily on guidance from our children just as our parents did on us in their sunset years, but how will they know what is going on with us if they rarely talk to us? Maybe I can get them to follow me on Twitter or pay attention to my Google+ stream. I know that have moved beyond Facebook, but I don’t know where.
For now I will remain happy that we didn’t even get a text message from our children before Hurricane Irene threatened our home. I am going to try to look at it with a positive spin. I guess no checking on us before a hurricane means they still think of us as adults instead of someone who needs to be monitored.
Our oldest daughter did call after the storm, and we got a text message from our youngest during the peak of Irene. I am happy we are still on their radar.