Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Greetings & Farewells

He's baaaccckkkk....

Hello again. After an absence of 6 weeks, here I am again. Of course, that depends on what you mean by "here." Not to be too existential about it, but wherever you are at any one time is your "here." Wherever you go, there you are. You always take you with you. My "here" in December, though, reverted from this virtual space (a new alternate form of reality) to being with dear friends and family back in the States.

Think about how our sense of place has changed with the advent of the Internet. So many of us spend hours online on the computer every week. Hey, I'm talking to you. You're looking at a computer screen right now, aren't you? With email and social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc., we go online to have virtual interactions with our friends. For example, I follow about 5 or 6 Yahoo Groups--sort of virtual bulletin boards on specific topics like "Living in Mexico" or "Mazatlan Info." I'm comfortable with and have come to recognize the regular contributors to those groups. We frequently have email "conversations." These artifical "places" have transformed the social psychology of what "here" means. "Here" can mean our virtual space in the ether of computer digits, and it can mean "where I am right now."

That's the long way around of telling you where I am right now---Mazatlan, a port town on the Pacific coast in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. I've never been here before. It's fitting to greet the new year with a brand new place (for me) and a new retired life. New Years are for new things. The custom of making resolutions at the new year is a way of marking changes, leaving behind the old year and facing the new with hope and optimism. There is nothing so permanent as change. The new year is a punctuation dividing the past and future. But the two are connected. I like the quote from--of all people, Gracie Allen: "Never put a period where God intended a comma." Our stories continue on from chapter to chapter.

We represent the New Year with an illustration of a baby, wrapped in a 2009 banner. And the old year is drawn as Father Time, in a shroud carrying a scythe. For me, this figurative "changing of the guard" is literal. My dad died on Jan. 2. I'll be forever grateful that I got to say goodbye at Christmastime. The entire family was in the house spending time, by turn, with him. I was remarkable how natural it was. Life flowed around him, people chatted, watched a game on TV, napped, ate, laughed, held his hand. It underlined in my mind that death is part of life.

In Spanish, you can say "goodbye" in a number of ways: hasta luego (until later), adios (go with God), hasta la vista (until I see you again), que te vaya bien (I hope that your leaving is pleasant). I just can't bring myself to say goodbye to dad. The Spanish versions say it so much better.