Keeping in Touch on Paper

I freely admit to being a 21st-century technology junkie.

I love my Kindle, and HDTV, and Spotify, and my smart phone, and the Internet, and my Transformer Prime tablet. I spend a lot of time using all that stuff. Almost all of my shopping for gifts, clothing, train and plane tickets, etc., is done online. For all its flaws, without Facebook I wouldn’t be able to stay in touch with anyone. Whenever I have a free moment during the course of my day, I’m most likely on my phone or my tablet. My mom and I used to email one another regularly, but increasingly these days we text. The instantaneous communication it offers is so much better than having to wait hours or even days for a response to an email. And naturally I keep in contact with all of my friends through Facebook and texting. With me living in Sweden those two things are absolutely indispensable for staying in touch with family and friends back in the United States.

And then there’s my dad, who’s just about the only person I know who is almost off the grid. He’s got a landline phone and a fixed address but that’s about it. He has no cell phone, and though he has a computer of sorts, it was manufactured sometime in the previous century, and is used mainly to play Tetris and Solitaire and not to access the internet. The thing is, though, is that I prefer him like this. I don’t want him to change. When I was still living in Oregon, I used to go and visit him for days at a time and always loved staying at his house on the coast and being totally unplugged.

However, I’ve had very little contact with him since I left the United States, but it’s not entirely his fault. Neither of us has made much of an effort to stay in touch. There have been a few phone calls but our main contact is still paper-based and amounts to one or two letters a year. Usually he encloses a check for several hundred dollars, which I endorse and immediately mail to my mother in California, who deposits said check in my American bank account.

This really is the most efficient way to deal with checks, which are used rarely, if at all in Sweden. I get my monthly salary deposited through bank transfer, as well as my tax refunds and all other payments, and all my bills are made online or through bank transfers. So when I get an actual check from the United States the way to deal with it involves a charmingly 20th-century process of using postage stamps and envelopes and mail boxes, all of which I don’t use very often anymore, so it’s fun in a quaintly nostalgic kind of way. Kind of like listening to music from the 90s or reading books made out of paper.

A couple of months ago, I got a check and a nice long letter from my dad, thanking me for the book of poetry I sent to him for Christmas. (I put this book together on Shutterfly, and put a lot of thought into the selection of the pieces and photographs. With the understanding that most people don’t like, appreciate or even get poetry, I felt comfortable sharing my work with only a few people, my mom and grandmother, my brother, sister, and my of course my dad. None of these poeple write poetry, but they know I do, and some of the pieces were quite personal and full of negative emotions.) I got busy (not in that way, you perv) as teachers often do at this time of year, and never got around to writing him back and thanking him for the $300 check. Then low and behold another envelope arrives a couple of days ago, this time with a $500 check and a one line message that reads, “Just because!” Now, I feel a bit sheepish. Or maybe like some other animal that doen’t write its semi-estranged father back in a timely manner.

With this additional amount of money, he’s now sent me enough money to buy a plane ticket to Portland to visit him. Perhaps this is supposed to be one giant hint, though I doubt it. He’s not the hint-giving type. I sat down at my computer and wrote him a letter. Not hand written, mind you. (Come on) I thanked him for the checks and informed him of my impending visit. It will probably be sometime in the fall. It’s just too expensive to travel during the summertime. The cost of a plane ticket more than doubles then due to the price gouging bastard airlines.

So it’s been, gosh, seven years since I last set foot in my dad’s house on the Oregon Coast. Seven years since I last saw the Pacific Northwest. I’m quite fond and familiar with it, you know, having lived there for the last ten years before moving abroad. I’ve got two degrees from the University of Oregon. GO DUCKS!!!

And my younger sister lives in Portland now, so that gives me another reason to visit that fair city. She manages a pub there, though I’m not sure which one. When I found that out, I got really excited. “I’m coming over!” I said.

English, motherfucker, do you speak it? J/K - it's ok if you don't.

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