A few days ago a blogger I’ve been following for a while posted the news that her long-time life and travel companion, Millie, had succumbed to cancer. It wasn’t unexpected news, Lynne has been sharing their story for a while, the good and the bad; and I felt the urge to reach out and commiserate with her.
Then I remembered that she doesn’t know me from Adam (Apparently not a very well known guy since he’s been held up as the standard for how much one person don’t know another for as long as I can remember!) and though I might like to think I know Lynne and Millie, that only goes as deep as me faithfully following their blog and venturing forth fewer than a half dozen comments over the years.
Though that was enough for me to shed a few tears (OK, Maybe one or two more than a few.) for Lynne's loss while reading her touching tribute to Millie and her late mother, I wasn’t sure it was enough to warrant yet one more complete stranger reaching out to her at that moment.
But that hasn’t stopped me reflecting on it, on this whole ‘connection’ thing, over the past few days. At first I thought how strange a world we live in where we can use technology to electronically lurk around the edges of stranger’s lives and, in our own minds anyway, build a relationship. But looking back over my life I realize I didn’t need any high-tech web to do that. In fact all it took at one point was the ancient technology of the printing press.
Just because for over three decades I’ve read and reread and highlighted and reread again, Rod McKuen’s ‘the Sound of Solitude’, a volume that tracks his search for, finding of and painful loss of love, and then the path to moving on afterwards, (He's clearly a cat person but I'll forgive him that.) I feel I’ve shared an intimate piece of his life, that a little part of him belongs to me, and I mourned his passing like I was one of his inner circle.
Another time back in the late 70’s, completely by accident, I ran into John MacDonald in a convenience store while passing through Siesta Key. (I was doing the passing, he happened to live there.) On the strength of being an avid (Rabid?) reader of the Travis McGee novels he authored, I felt I knew him well enough, had enough of a connection, to approach and say hi and ask about the next novel in the series, though I'm pretty sure the truth is I came across like a giddy teenage girl climbing all over the latest boy-band of the month.
For an even more ephemeral, but obviously memorable connection, back in the early 70’s, when I truly wasn’t much more than a giddy teenager and therefor too stupid to know better, I once spent a long winter’s night driving from Massachusetts to Michigan though thick fog; and I mean the really dense stuff!; on the tails of a late spring ice storm. I spent much of that night following the dim taillights of a flat-bed tractor trailer and hours later, when he pulled off an exit still short of my destination I felt a loss and flashed my lights at him, a thanks for sharing his journey with me, even though I knew nothing more about him than the pattern of his tire tracks in the slush, his steady driving and the dim glow of his taillights. (My plan was to stop short if they started bouncing, which I figured would mean he fell of the road.)
Once I could afford one, over several decades worth of road trips, I would use my CB to join the mostly unseen, always unknown, late-night drivers that were also out there on the midnight road for one reason or another. I would sit there in the glow of the dash, blinking at the occasional passing headlight, mostly listening, almost never speaking, and build real connections (At least they felt real at the moment.) with my fellow travelers based on the scratching hiss and squawks and mutterings that came out of the speaker.
It seems we, even me, a self-professed (Self-imposed?) loner, are drawn to make connections, however tenuous and one-sided, with others and we’ll use whatever technology is at hand to do it, whether it's the printed word, horseless carriage, low-power radio waves, or the latest fruits of the digital age.
So you don't know me Millie, but I wish you a good journey; and if you get a chance, have a romp with Ghost along the way. (Our own departed canine companion.)
Oh damn! Now I’ve made myself cry again. Good thing nobody will ever know! . . .