Those of you who don’t reside in my neck of the woods (which, I presume, would be the vast majority) are probably unaware that the world temporarily ended at approximately 8:30 AM on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. That’s almost the precise moment when the networks of both AT&T and Version ceased to function. I know because I was on my phone when the call “failed”. And when I tried to call back, it “failed” again. And when I checked my service dots (‘cause iPhones don’t have bars), I had one . . . which immediately changed to those words no one wants to read.
I didn’t know what to do since a lack of cell phone service basically shuts you off from the rest of the world. Even if you have a land line (which we do and for which I am now eternally grateful) most of the rest of the world has decided cellular devices trump hardwired phones. I may be able to call them, but they can’t answer me. But then I didn’t know if it was out everywhere or if my phone had just died, never to be revived. Getting another one is easy enough. Time-consuming and frustrating, but simple compared to repairing the whole rest of the world. Unfortunately, a few land line calls confirmed the worst—an area-wide outage.
That could have presented a major problem when our housekeeper came running in to inform me that our backflow preventer was busy dumping water all over the floor of the mechanical electrical room. If the only employee who knew what to do hadn’t been in the building we’d have been forming a bucket brigade to try and keep the flood waters from spilling into the hallway and beyond, ‘cause there was no reaching him on his cell phone. We couldn’t have called the plumber, either.
I tried contacting the hospital to confirm the number in attendance for a meeting the next day, but they evidently have AT&T for their phone service; my effort produced nothing but silence in return. All over town restaurants were posting signs telling customers no cash, no food because they couldn’t run credit or debit cards. Pharmacists who needed Internet access to confirm coverage couldn’t fill prescriptions if their provider was AT&T. People were messaging each other through Facebook since texting was impossible. It was almost like an apocalypse without all the death and destruction.
Apparently, we’ve become so dependent on technology—and so trusting in its reliability—that we have created a situation where we cannot function without it.
In the overall scheme of life a temporary lack of phone service is really nothing more than a minor annoyance for most of us, unless your building is flooding and you need to call in reinforcements. But take that state of all-encompassing dependence and think about those couples where one spouse takes care of everything required to run their household. They pay the bills, balance the bank account, make sure the insurance is current, handle all the business aspects . . . and suddenly, they’re gone. The one who’s left behind is completely awash in a sea of paper with absolutely no idea where to start. Not only have they lost their other half, they’ve lost the half that kept their financial world revolving.
It’s a very difficult position in which many widows and widowers find themselves. Dealing with the loss is hard enough but being confronted with a litany of legalities when they may never have even signed a check can be overwhelming when coupled with the grief. Depending upon the generation involved, there is a real possibility the survivor can’t even drive, a notion that seems absurd to us today but was commonplace years ago.
In a perfect world the spouse who knows everything would impart that knowledge and the necessary skills to use it to their other half. But our world is not perfect and often there are reasons why one spouse handles the business end of a marriage while the other carries a different load. As a matter of fact, that inability to function can flow both ways with household chores being a mystery of life to the surviving spouse who may have been the financial whiz. Crunching numbers is very different from not washing the whites with the colored items of clothing and being certain the pantry is stocked when suppertime rolls around. Both functions require different skill sets and both are necessary to survival after the loss of a spouse.
So when you’re familiar with a couple and you know the weaknesses of the one who’s left behind, offering assistance and education will mean far more than flowers or a casserole. It also takes more time and dedication but the end result is so much more important to the new “normal” which has become their life. By helping them learn to help themselves you will give them a tremendous gift—the gift of independent living.