I have a writin’ buddy living in Louisiana, and when the deep freeze hit, she ended up without power for TWO WEEKS in a part of the world that is a stranger to insulation. When I saw Ida bearing down, I shot off a quick email, “Writin’ buddy, CHECK IN SAFE as soon as you can!” (She did, she’s fine.)
Another writing buddy living in the mountains of Virginia also ended up without power for a couple weeks one recent winter, and big storms would see me pinging her too. (She’s back from the wilderness now, safely biding where storms mean stocking up that e-reader and waiting for the plows to come through.)
My nephew has been living in Lake Tahoe for the past few years, a very special place that’s gone through some very special wild fire hell. Same thing, “Nephoo, CHECK IN SAFE!” Though he beat me to it, and he’s fine… If you can call heartsore and exhausted fine.
I’m fine too, but I’m also noticing a pattern. First, my family needs better disaster preparedness, in the sense that all we have is a text thread among my siblings. How to get in touch with adult nieces and nephews, their spouses, my sibling’s spouses… pretty patchwork. My mother’s old, falling apart address book used to be the bible for points of contact. Mom has been gone for four years and we have not found a means of replacing that central node of connectivity.
Second, why “check in” mostly when my loved ones face a disaster? My daughter and I are pretty good about keeping a casual line of communication open, and my sisters and I have gotten better at Zooming, but there are a zillion authors I could email with a quick, “Hope the words are treating you well. Been thinking of you…” Or, I could Zoom with them for the heck of it…
If I’m only going to send up a flare when hurricanes and wildfires inspire me to appreciate my friends and family, it’s no wonder my middle-distance relationships tend to languish. I think some of this tendency is because the wildfires and hurricanes are getting so much worse, and some of it is social media sucking away our impulse to initiate communication with people we know casually.
But some of it is just me, being oblivious, because it’s Xavier’s Fournier’s turn to fall in love, and I will walk into walls and lose my glasses until I get him figured out. That is no excuse, though, for my lax attention to friends and family. (Though if anybody knows what’s going ON with that guy, please do let me know… I’m thinking of titling his book, Monsieur Disaster.)
How are you managing lately with the keeping-in-touch challenge? Does your family have a central address book? Are there friends you only hear from during hurricane/snowstorm/wildfire season?
This week, I’m sending some love to Baldwin and Co. a New Orleans bookstore and coffee shop, and to Tubby and Coos, another New Orleans independently owned bookstore. If there’s a charity you are particularly attached too, feel free to leave the link with your comment.
(And PS–finally got the last of the previously published Windham novellas back into circulation. That only took me a year…)