About a week later I spoke to him – for the very last time in my lifetime. He was trying to recover from a cold, battling India’s heat and sounded upbeat with some of the things happening in our lives.
On August 27, 2011, he died. In the weeks following his death I tried to find something, anything that was his, that he bought, that he wrote that I could hold on to. I was hoping he wasn’t really gone.
Sometimes you hear things and for some reason, they stick with you. It could be that you identify with them, there is a ring of truth to them or it is that sixth or perhaps seventh sense, your gut, that knows you might need to remember what you heard and you store it safe. One such thing I heard and stuck with me was a line from one of my Poynter peep’s personal essay. She had said, she tried using all the technological tools and tips she knew to find out more about the death of one of her friends, and none of those tools helped her get the information she was looking for.
I wanted to get a hold of that message my Dad had left me.
Even to this day I can hear his voice as he ended the call, saying he was hanging up. Most people in India still use telephone booths to make international calls, and my Dad being hesitant with technology usually preferred a telephone booth rather than his cell phone. In that message, I could hear the guy at the telephone booth telling my Dad to hang up after he’d done talking and I’d be able to get the message.
I don’t know how and why I managed to erase that message. I was talking to my Dad on a regular basis and, perhaps, never thought of him as a mortal being. I thought there’d be more messages, meetings and musings.
The week of his death I called AT&T. I asked them if they could retrieve this message my Dad had left. I tried explaining to them that he had died and this was his only voice recording I would have. The service representative said he could not anything – once erased, the message was gone forever. I called again hoping another rep could help. I got the same answer. I called a few times. No luck.
My Poynter friend’s line from her essay haunted me … technology was no help at all.
I’ve recently started writing about technology and its use in conservation. Every time I research something new I wonder how much can it be trusted to keep the last thread of hope intact. How much can we depend on it? True, technology has helped me have his photographs but it failed me when I made that one mistake and erased that message – the one last tangible source of comfort.
Technology, I think, is a fickle friend and a hard master. One mistake and it can take away a lifeline. All that remain are memories.