This is a profound thank you to my friends.
A few years ago, my husband fell from a ladder and severely injured his foot. He was not only homebound for months, he was confined for a time to a rented hospital bed in one room of our home. He began to use his laptop to shop online for everything we might later need--a shower chair, a knee walker, books to read. He emailed, signed onto Facebook. He downloaded and played Solitaire. And then the laptop picked this moment to suffer the Black Screen of Death. I rushed the now-useless thing to the computer repair service, to be told that it could take a week. A week! I begged, recounting the tale of my husband's woe. This laptop has become his whole world, I said, not for one moment believing I was overstating the case.
I was unexpectedly hospitalized last week. My own world shrunk to one-half of a hospital room. Pain, fatigue, and a tangled tether to an IV pole were all maddeningly confining. I reached for my iPad, and pinged from email to Facebook to Words With Friends to the New York Times. Under normal circumstances, I often have trouble keeping up. After a few hours, however, I realized that absolutely nothing was changing--nary a new email, post, tweet, or challenge. Even the New York Times seemed to exist in suspended animation.
I put out a plea on Facebook, asking for friends to send me anything--a joke, a limerick, a goofy video--to distract or entertain me. Responses were quick and plentiful and as varied as the friends themselves. The first response arrived within 60 seconds from an old high school friend who sent me a link to Photographs of Nude People Over 60. (Yes, and lest you think otherwise, stunning.) Three people sent me the exact same video of sexy young men dancing to Michael Jackson tunes.
Friends zeroed in on my love of animals, sending photos of their pets, one a bulldog named M. Claude, wishing me a speedy recovery in French. I got videos of a friend's dog making snow angels and of another's granddog posing for a Target commercial. Cats doing hilarious and heroic cat-type things. A picture of Penn State's Nittany Lion. No limericks, alas. Great-nieces clowning around on vacation. A photo of an older woman in formal dress wearing a yoga mat as a hat (featured photo, above), with the caption "When you carry your yoga mat with you, 'just in case.'". Beautiful one-a-day photos by NASA. And this:
Some friends went private and emailed or messaged me with good wishes and in the case of a physician friend, some hopeful medical information. Another friend messaged to say she was on her way. I was delivered from hospital-quality boredom for the next couple of days. I loved my iPad beyond just about everything except my husband and the thrice-daily delivery of food to my bedside table.
In the past I have bemoaned the fact that we seem to be inseparable from our screened devices. I still prefer face to face interactions most of the time. But there are occasions when illness or age or interminable snowstorms isolate us. A laptop or an iPad become our weapons at a time when we are battling our worst and fiercest enemies: loneliness, and a sense of feeling overwhelmingly fragile.
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Susan B. Apel, writer, ArtfulEdge