Good Narrative Principles

My Hobby Is Failing Me


My hobby is failing me. I feared this day would come. I used to fill my Saturdays coaching soccer, or working to stay in shape so that I could coach soccer.  Then one Saturday, towards the end of the season, following my best ever, pre-game speech to the troops, I had a massive heart attack. That put an end to my soccer coaching career and opened up the chasm that was soon filled by my hobby.

It kept me going for years. It was my ballast when my wife died suddenly from cancer, and during the rocky years when my youngest, motivated by a strange sense of loss and obligation, moved back home. Without my wife there, the two of us had little to talk about. I was growing less interested in food, menus and family whereas her devotion to the domestic life was taking flight. Flourishing.

Finally, just to be rid of her and the endless cakes, cookies, torts and cream puffs which weren’t helping my waistline or my relationship with my GP, I moved out.

My other two were unhappy about my decision and I recognize that eventually there will be hell to pay. But, the way I see it, by then I’ll be gone and I suppose the three will either come to peace with my passing and who I really was vs. who they wanted me to be. Or not.

At one point that simple observation would certainly have found its way into my card collection. And I’d embellish that observation — the shop-worn truth about siblings still caught in that primal argument about misallocation of resources — with stories, examples and personal anecdotes. Come to think of it, I’m confident that I had a card or two on the topic, with references to Cain and Abel, Leah and Rachel, Lear’s three daughters, Kate and Bianca and Bart and Lisa.

Last Christmas my kids got together and bought me a computer. It was a Mac, which somehow was supposed to make the transition to computer literacy as easy as finding the power button and listening for the Chang! The three, who couldn’t seem to agree on anything, agreed that I must be accessible to them via email. Secretly, I suspect it was negativity that united them, not the desire to improve my lot and usher me into the computer era. Negativity has that effect on people. I can say with confidence that I had many cards devoted to that topic. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that collecting the numerous manifestations of negativity might just have been at the heart of my hobby.

I admit that in the beginning of my reluctant relationship with the Internet, I was cheap. I insisted on using a dial-up service. On a fixed income one doesn’t casually embrace a new monthly expense. But again my kids demanded and eventually I acquiesced.  They wanted to send me pictures of my damn grandchildren looking impish, tottering about, loaded diapers scraping their chubby knees. I fought back, arguing, why does one need to see pictures immediately? It doesn’t automatically follow that one selects an option based solely on its availability.

Another one of my series of cards were devoted to the struggle between immediate and delayed gratification. Certainly, my children’s inability to wait for the lull at the holiday table to take out snapshots and pass them around seemed to be a sign of immaturity. I would have tried to teach them the value of delaying satisfaction through anecdote and example, but instead they arranged my computer so that it hooked into my neighbor’s signal. By “hook” I mean to say, “steal”.

Ordinarily I’m not a passive type. I had a series of cards comparing passive and aggressive traits illustrated with numerous references to the hostile office staff at my GPs. But once my eldest rearranged my Internet connection I was unable to undo it. I tried my old dial-up service, but the call didn’t go through. Apparently, the middle one canceled my contract.

I found myself feeling nostalgic for the good old days of dial-up when that infernal machine was present but its reach contained.

I didn’t want the world in my lap, accessible, clickable.  I want to work for knowledge. I like the hard slog through the library shelves. Hunting down the right Dewey decimal number on the bottom of the book felt like a treasure hunt.

I’ve lost my appetite for keeping up with change, let alone fighting it. I recognize change is inevitable. I would have happily referred you to the cards I’ve collected on the subject but they are gone.

It was clear I couldn’t compete with the collective beehive of nameless individuals that are drawn to and contribute to the Internet.

And so, I threw out my card collection.

However, the instinct to collect, to categorize, amass and define is powerful. Too powerful to be contained by a switch from one technology to the next.

I’m hosting Christmas this year. Not because I particularly relish the prospect of cooking, cleaning and all the prep work involved, but because my eldest promised to help me set up a blog. And my middle one agreed to design it.

I can hardly call that a hobby. There are no physical traces of how I spend my time, but none-the-less, I suppose it is something.

Having my cards would have been a comfort to me during this transition. But it’s slippery, as Ben Franklin once observed, to contain two contradictory truths in one brain, namely the reality of thinking a thought and Googling a fact.

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