being smarter than randy (keeping them alive)

19 08 2009

i was in St. Louis this past weekend, which was really cool; more on that later. i was there to visit my friend clk, whom some of you know. those of you who know her probably know she used to work with randy pauch of the last lecture fame: “used to work with” like “published with because she’s a genius too” and “was still working closely with when he died.” so she and i learned a few lessons not too far apart from one another about losing people we adored and admired. the “genius like that” part of that line is important. if you’ve read randy’s book or seen his lecture, you know what i mean already. if you haven’t, i recommend at least one if not both of these things. the lecture is here (it’s too long for a mid-day break, but maybe a lunch or two…).

so i’m hanging out with clk and her sheltie for the weekend, and i’m leaning back on the couch with my feet out, and the dog walks by, and i pet the dog with my feet, and then she wanders off and comes back and stands over top of my feet, and i rub her belly with my toes. later in the day, i’m standing in the kitchen and i poke her with a foot to try to trip her, and the dog, untripped (they’re very agile little creatures–watching her manage to run full-speed at a brick wall over and over all weekend and not slam her head into it was also delightful fun) maneuvers to get so that she’s standing over my feet. so i scratch her belly with my toes again. “fast learner,” i say, commenting about the dog, who seems to have picked up that standing over feed equals a belly rub she doesn’t have to bother to lie down for. “ha,” says clk. “she teaches that one to everybody. you’re the fast learner. randy had to have it explained to him.” whether it’s me or the dog who’s smarter than randy in this story remains to be seen, but i hold randy somewhat in awe, so this is cool, and it makes me smile.

later, clk is on the couch putting numbers from her old phone into her new one, and she gets up suddenly and makes something like an “oof” noise. i ask what’s up, but if i’d had a minute to guess i would have known, because she’d said when i came downstairs from my shower that she was up to M. “i’m about to get to randy’s number, and i have to decide whether to transfer it or not to.” we talked about that a bit. lynette’s number is still in my phone. it’s the last of the L’s, so i see it every time i enter “M” to call my mother. “it’s not exactly cheery to run across it,” she decided, “but it would be worse not to.” that’s pretty much exactly what i’ve decided every time i run across lynette’s and think: should i delete this? it’s useless, of course; the account was canceled years ago and some stranger has the number now and those numbers will never call the people they used to call. but in a way they still connect us. it doesn’t take up real “space” on the phone to store one extra “useless” number, and when we see the numbers, we think of the people. and we take the phones with us everywhere, and see the numbers.

another friend and i were talking a little while ago about household shrines, and how our cultures and our families don’t have them, that we don’t set aside spaces in our homes for relics for our eyes to pass over, we don’t build in those triggers for memory necessarily–or at least we don’t do it obviously, by building something so straightforward as a shrine. but i was thinking, after those conversations, about how we keep people with us. stories are one way; i know randy differently than i did from just reading his book, because i’ve seen a scene from his life involving her dog that i never would have otherwise seen, and in that way, she’s kept him alive and spread his non-public life in ways that keep him real to her, and to me as someone who cares for her and is inspired by him. but i also think of these lists of names in phones, of the people we don’t delete, of these little digital shrines we carry with us that assure us we’ll be reminded, and that’s another.




2 responses

19 08 2009

I still have my grandmother’s home number (and address) in my phone for just those reasons.

19 08 2009

I still have my grandmother’s home number (and address) in my phone for just those reasons.

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