Matthew Cohen for Reader’s DigestMy granddaughter visited last weekend, and while she was here, I asked if she had her brother’s new address, as I had something I wanted to send him. She scrolled through her phone, and I marveled again at the convenience of technology. A phone, not an address book? While I’m not entirely techno-illiterate—I type, after all, on a laptop—I find it hard to grasp the changes that happen so quickly.
“Here, Gran,” said Carly when she found the address. “I’ll write it down for you.”
“Will you put it in my book?” I asked, pointing her to the phone table in the hall. They probably don’t have phone tables anymore, either, I mused.
Carly picked up the well-worn address book and looked inside, a curious expression on her face. “There’s hardly any room left to write numbers,” she said with a laugh as she wrote what I needed in the margin. “And it’s full of names you’ve scratched out.”
“Well, dear, those are people who’ve passed on,” I explained.
“Dead?” said Carly.
“Dead,” I echoed. “I can’t press ‘delete,’ so I just scratch out the names.”
“Oh,” she said, looking a little horrified. “That’s so sad.”
After Carly left, I picked up my address book and took it into the living room with a cup of tea.
I flipped the pages to the beginning and found a date, 1955. That’s a lot of years, I thought, and while I never considered this book as being sad, I also never looked at it as anything more than a place to store information.
But opening the pages, I could see the stories it represents, a repository of lives lived and lost, marriages, births, friendships, changes.
I’m 91 years old, and I’ve outlived all my siblings. Two sisters and five brothers, with a history of where they lived and how to contact them neatly written, then gradually scratched out as they succumbed to whatever ailment took them to the next world.