Friday, June 20, 2008

So Far Yet So Near

My family started scattering at least two generations before me. My progenitors left Germany primarily and started a new life in 19th century America. My Dad was born in Kentucky, lived in Illinois, Texas, Florida, and others I can't remember right now. My Mom was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. Soon after I was born, my folks moved from Texas to Louisiana. Our final move was to Ohio, just before my senior year of high school. My brothers have lived in various states but have pretty much settled in Reno, Nevada and Littleton, Colorado. Once I was done moving around to Pennsylvania, New York, and California, I settled into Oregon where Barbara and I have lived for 25 years. All of our children were born here. They all grew up in the same house since we haven't changed dwellings since we first moved here a quarter century ago.

Now Julia moved from Canada, to Norway, and finally Tanzania. Pamela has lived in England, Austria, Illinois, and now Nicaragua. Charles has been living in Arizona for a couple of years. Samuel shows all indications of wanting to travel the wide world once he graduates from high school next year.

Geographically my family is scattered farther than I could have imagined until recently. Yet, in many ways, we are as close as ever. Cell phone service and internet connections are available to every member of my family. We call, write, and even see recorded and sometimes live video of each other. It feels odd if Barbara or I haven't at least read an e-mail or had a phone call from one of our kids in a week.

I mentioned this to an acquaintance who was a missionary in West Africa more than thirty years ago. He could only reach family via snail mail. No phone. No internet. He says writing a letter and getting a reply took at least three months.

I can remember that long distance phone calls were a luxury item when I was a boy. So I doubt that my parents chatted up a storm with my grandparents who lived hundreds of miles away. We were able to visit most relatives with a very long day of driving. I didn't fly anywhere until I was 20 years old.

At 57, I have always taken automobiles for granted (not to mention phones). My grandparents could take a train or send a letter. I suppose a telegram was an option in a pinch. There are towns here in Oregon that are a 20 or 3o minute drive from here now, whereas it would have been a day or two of hard travel before autos.

International air fare is fairly expensive for most folks, nonetheless any member of my family can stand beside any other member within a few days of being notified of a reason to do so. Now that we all carry cell phones, the notification itself could usually be accomplished in less than a minute.

So how far apart are we? I would dearly love to hold my grandson's hands as he learns to walk. I would have liked to have been able to physically comfort my daughter when her GI system rebelled at being relocated to Nicaragua. I would like to look my son in the eyes as I pray for him to have peace while tackling an upcoming exam. I thank God, however, that we are as near as we are.
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