Monday, October 23, 2017

The impermanence of texts, and everything really

I am reminded of the impermanence of life as I go through the agonizing process of cleaning out my old iPhone. Its text messages--sometimes the only written communication I've had with people in the last five years--did not transfer to my new phone. And so, before handing the old phone off to the child whose even older phone is dying, I am reading through old texts to see if there is anything worth keeping.

Based on these communications with my husband, our marriage seems composed of an endless quest for grocery items. Lists are sent every few days (eggs, bananas, milk, coconut oil, rice) without  any voicing of affection. From these you would never know that ours is a happy marriage. Occasionally there is the exceptional day where not-good things are noted, like this text: "At pediatricians. E-girl has a fever and pink eye. I-guy is in the bathroom throwing up." Is it worth remembering that moment at the pediatrician's, on that particular date, or would it be better to forget the specifics and move forward? To ponder this is to ponder what composes a life--is it a series of days/events or is it the intelligence and feeling that evolve from all these experiences?

I couldn't ponder this question or this particular day too deeply since there were so many other messages to get through. Overall, most of the messages between my husband and me were mundane and not worth remembering. I took a deep breath, put my finger on our last message there and, with a flick, all of them were gone, as if they had never been. Then it was on to the next cache of texts.

Erasing our messages was a fairly easy decision. He is here with me and texting composes only a small fraction of our communication. Not so with my son, who moved 3,000 miles away more than a year ago. Sometimes a text once a week is the only time we communicate directly. It's not surprising, then, that I have saved his texts for last. Less mundane than the texts with my husband (at least, there are no grocery lists), there's still probably not much worth keeping here either, at least in what we've expressed or how we've expressed it. But still. If I wipe them out, those moments will be gone--just like all the moments of his childhood, which get further away every year.

My memory for specifics fades a little each year as my brain refuses to take on too much more information. Without these texts, how else will I remember what day he wrote about the fire a mile from his house, which almost triggered an evacuation?  Or the July day this year that he successfully cooked his first full meal?

Yet, if I keep the texts from this phone, they will probably take on just another impermanent form, compiled into Word files or inserted into long email messages. And then--where will they really be? Of course, there is always paper. The messages could be copied and printed out, stapled together, and shoved into a file. But having cleaned out my mother's home after her death a couple of years ago and throwing out most of the greeting cards she had saved over the course of a lifetime (along with her correspondences with people I didn't know), I know that eventually, even that will be lost.

Those last few messages need to be gone through. My daughter's phone is dying. Let me just jot down a few of these first. Let me not have to let it all go, at least not yet.

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