Keeping Long Distance Connection In A Health Crisis

Not everyone has a smartphone/device, how do we connect?

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Buttons of access, Christyl Rivers

My husband and I live in Hawaii, and my last surviving brother lives in Washington state.

I can’t find my brother. If you are like me, you have someone you love who never joined the 21st century.

He’s gone all ghosty, I think the term is. This wouldn’t concern me much, but it turns out there is a global pandemic and all its attendant chaos. In the short term, I’m sure there’s a reason that we got cut off, and he’s likely fine.

But I worry about it in the long term, because he is alone, and remote. He also stays very intensely, focused, and has been known to miss details, like having sufficient food and water on hand.

Every family is different. I never had a family where a sibling would call me regularly. Only my mother spoke to me daily, and that was only in the recent years prior to her death.

A little over a week ago, I called the mainland Seattle area, to reach Ken, but I only got either ongoing ringing without any trace at all, or else, I have left dozens of voice mails on his old machine.

When we can’t reach a loved one, the human mind seems to suddenly burst forth spewing negative thoughts, like a fear fountain activated by uncertainty. Usually what we imagine is worse than reality.

I think we need to take a deep breath at this point. And wait.

There is usually a good explanation, not at all like the one you fear.

In the past few days, the COVID-19 illness is spiking at various hot spots around the world, who knows what could happen. All of us worry, from our own padded sofa ‘cells’, to tendrils of concern threading to India, Africa, and beyond.

Then, we speculate, Maybe he fell and hit his head?

Ken is in the Air Force, so maybe he was deployed. He is also still at his job because it too, is military, and infrastructure related. Maybe he’s not at home much. And he’s not allowed on public lines from the military base. Maybe he is at the gym. Or under a truck.

For now, Ken has left me with no other way to reach him. He has eschewed high tech toys that connect the rest of the world.

How can I know he is okay? Most people won’t go back thirty years, prior to the digital, electric connection that eroded away our in-person connection.

Like you — with your own home and family — we need to stay in touch. We need to remind ourselves every single day, that we cannot separate ourselves from a society needing cooperation with each other. We must also collaborate with Earth and the organisms here, or face dire consequences.

People once knew community as kin. We can again. And, now we can move beyond to supportive roles, and healthier relationships, with , the family of man, the natural world, the extended family you forgot, and everyone we need aboard. This includes my family, too, of an annoying, ghosting, brother.

People are realizing how truly important that being ground yourself in belonging. We belong to family, to science, to nature, to information, and to one another. That’s how a surviving, social species need to be.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, there are dozens of things that may have gone awry — everything from freak weather to food shortages.

We expect all loved ones to be accessible. And almost for 24 hours per day we live in, and on, our phones.

Still, not everyone is “wired”. Most people depend upon having a cell phone and live online lives. Not my brother.

He likes being present in person. And he does have a point. I hope reality helps brings us back real people, though, too. Mentally, people have moved too far inward. Online, we separate and silo, it makes us vulnerable.

We created a high-tech world and now we have to all join, or fall behind. Ken is most definitely in the ‘fall-way-behind’ crowd of happy selfie takers, and ‘Tweeting twits’, as he thinks of them.

I am fairly tech phobic, but my brother is more resistant of it than me. He has no cell phone. No home internet. No camera phone of any kind. He has a four-five-year old, black and solid desk sitting phone. Sitting beside it is an answering machine that he got in the 1980s.

His ancient machine garables language, but sputters it out on his end as a recording of what sounds like interspersed words in between beeps, nad unintelligible piffle such as this:

“jibberisheee she clarrbi at a job, right? Chhha reeterwed, Okay? Snopixxable?

“Hey bro, are you ever going to pick up your phone?”

It is going on ten days since Ken and I were talking across the ocean, and his medieval equipment began to click and drop out. We were disconnected. Now, I can’t do anything but call and squawk into his infuriating antiques.

Guess, I will have to get out the snail mail. Ken likes postcards. Rather than call, he has been known to write. However, he only writes on vacation, and this pandemic is not very supportive of those once-ever-so-normal faraway trips these days.

I love my last remaining brother, Ken, even if he is truly a weirdo.

With the three older boys, and one younger one, now deceased, I try hard to stay connected to Ken as my last biological tie to my family of origin. He is funny, he is smart, and hard working. He is truly among what most of us think of as “the good guys.”

We need to listen to each other, all of us. Ken needs to pick up his phone, but that is not all.

We need to listen if we are to lift ourselves out of the global instability brought on by our many distractions, and our challenging indifference to living beings. With and without electronic connection, we have so much to share!

Once in a very blue moon, I call Ken, and suddenly, out of the blue, he picks it up. I think he must have set it up for cheap long distance. Yes! Some people still have landlines and call plans for their phone bills. He seems to have some goofed up, intense, long serial of numbers to punch into his phone if he were to try to call me.

If he did call me it would likely be only if someone has died.

My brother will probably pick up soon or later. Meanwhile, I will continue to ponder this massive new world that sits upon all of us. We will have to protect our health workers, continue an infrastructure, and resource allocation.

But, also, we must see ourselves. We must look into our disconnection to one another that frays the threads of life.

My intent is to write an actual paper letter and see if I ever hear back.

I am sitting here on a remote tiny land, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

It occurs to me I may not reach him for weeks. Tossing a note in a bottle would probably be more of my brother’s first choice of low-tech contact, with an even slower response.

I can tell you one thing — reach out — To your own family, friends, community, and neighbors, reach out to one another. There’s a little catch in the heart every time a hopeful telephone tries to tie to worlds together.

And if you see some tall, uniformed guy standing around a Northwest street with NO DEVICE, that’s him. You will know him by his eyes which will be looking ahead, or around, rather than on his phone.

He is probably the last guy in Washington State to be without a cell phone. Please tell him to call me.

Written by

Ecopsychologist, Writer, Farmer, Defender of reality, and Cat Castle Custodian.

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