Friday, June 19, 2009

Saying Good-bye Again to an Analog Father

Last week, when TV stations officially stopped broadcasting in analog, I sobbed, despite the fact that my old TV had been digitally compatible for over half a year. I couldn’t figure out why I was so emotional. I felt like I had lost something precious.

When my mother passed away a few years ago, I felt like we had been riding in a car together and she had gotten out. I kept on looking at her in the rearview mirror, each day her image getting smaller and smaller. I kept on wanting to somehow turn the car and go back for her. She was no longer there chatting with me in the car. We were no longer making memories. More and more of the world that we had known together had changed. I know some religions refer to the term Summerland as the afterlife. Part of my brain took this literally, as though Summerland were a summer camp where I could send letters to my mother. I thought about writing her with the latest news. “Dear Mom, a new Walgreens and custard stand just went up on the corner.” “Dear Mom, we just elected our first non-white president, and I know you’d just adore his wife’s clothes.” “Dear Mom, Gary just passed away. Ellen is taking it hard.” The point is that I can still think of telling her things that would have seemed relevant to her.

My father died when I was a wee thing. He loved technology, but unfortunately didn’t live to see CD’s, PC’s, and definitely not the Internet. He would have embraced all those technologies and more. If he had lived long enough, I am sure he would have Twittered and had his own video blog. Dad loved science fiction so maybe he somehow experienced those things in his imagination. I can only hope so.

On the day of the digital conversation I felt like I crossed a huge chasm that now separates my father and me. My dad has now become a fossil, someone from a totally different era. It was as though my father had driven a horse and buggy, never even seen a car, and now I was in Detroit during the glory years. Or, I was going to the theater ever week and watching movies in color when my father had never even heard a talking picture. I only knew one of my grandparents and only briefly before he passed away. To me my grandparents are just old black and white pictures, ghosts in stories my mom used to tell me. My father now seems like a ghost in the frame. All these feelings just from someone flipping a few switches at some television stations.

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