Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Narrowing Gyre?

All the discussion of circles of interaction that social networking promotes has had me musing on the relationship between what would once have been period-specific acquaintanceship -- the kind bound to a particular school or job -- and the sort of closeness strong enough to endure through a series of life changes. Perhaps the most surprising thing to me about Facebook's development, at least for people of my generation, is that it has rendered that distinction much more fluid. Like most people my age who use the service regularly, I am now in touch with high-school and college classmates, former co-workers, and some of the students I have taught over the years. Sometimes I marvel at the complexity of the mental Venn diagram to which these varied connections lead. At other times, though, I get the sense that they are still period or place-specific.

Being back in Maryland so unexpectedly the last few days and under such trying circumstances has made me perceive a stronger bond with my high-school classmates than I had thought possible, living so far away from most of them for so long. Their words of support and encouragement have helped to give me the strength I need to deal with my mother's severe injury and the other problems that it has made apparent. My parents live thousands of miles from both of their children and have no family at all nearby. Knowing that things were getting hard on them has been weighing on me for a while. During the record recent snowfall I kept calling them to check in, wishing I could somehow find a way to get across the country to help them dig out. As it turned out, I was able to finish what kindly neighbors and warmer weather had started. But the satisfaction of helping in that way felt insignificant in the face of the overwhelming evidence that their lives have grown much more difficult since I was last back for a visit.

Over the past two days, as I have spent all of my time either at the hospital, commuting back and forth from there, or curled up on the couch at my parent's home, too tired or sick to be of much use to anyone, I have periodically had the sensation of my world contracting to its smallest possible dimensions. But then I'll check my messages on my phone and see more words of support from my circles of less intimate acquaintanceship, including some from people I literally haven't seen since 1986, and that feeling of contraction will be turned on its head. It's a strange dynamic. I wish I had the time or opportunity to meet up with some of my contacts in the D.C. area, from high-school or otherwise, so I could close the mental gap between my physical experience of this strange visit and my electronic perception of it.
Tags: autobiography, blogging, everyday, family, health

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