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When Bob and I moved to Seymour in 1978, we left behind family and friends in Illinois. Back then we communicated with those special people by writing letters and making telephone calls—in May of 1978, first class mail went up to fifteen cents. I just checked USPS.com. We’re up to 50 cents today.

Telephone calls were placed before seven in the morning. That was still considered late night and was the cheapest rate. If the phone rang early I knew it was either my parents or my sister. We all counted our pennies—I’m still counting pennies today.

Calls were the next best thing to being with family, though hugs could only be felt symbolically over the phone. Still it was all we had.

These days we can connect with family and friends with regular telephones or cell phones. People can also text messages to anyone, but there are better ways to touch base with others. Today we have the Internet.

Phone calls to my friend Pauline in Australia are still costly, but now if we use Facebook or Skype it is free. Using these computer programs, we can visit face to face. We can also hear our grandchildren sing ‘Happy Birthday’ or recite ABCs from their home to ours, no matter the miles. To connect with Pauline, we have to find a time when we are both awake. The time difference is seventeen hours, so we choose our time with care.

My girlfriend Joyce is in Illinois, so in the same time zone. We often connect on the telephone, but recently we’ve come up with a way to make our calls extra special. We play a form of Scrabble on the Internet called WORDS with Friends on Facebook.

People do not have to be online at the same time to play. The game allows for one person to make a move while the other is far from their computer. Playing this way has helped me connect with friends during the dark of winter, so it has many benefits.

Joyce and I grew up in two different towns. We used dial telephones connected to our walls to visit in our childhood. It wasn’t long distance, so we could talk and laugh for hours. Our conversations often ended something like this, “You hang up.” “No, you hang up first.” We added an extra five minutes giggling and not hanging up until parents stepped in or someone else needed to make a call.

Today, Joyce and I have found a way to draw out our phone conversations. First, we use our cell phones to call each other. This kind of call doesn’t cost any more added to our monthly phone bills. Then we get on our computers, boot up our WORDS game. From then on it is talk, and play WORDS, and laugh, almost like when we were kids.

Neither Joyce nor I care if we win the game or not. We just like the challenge. I actually taught my friend how to play, giving her pointers on getting more points by placing words so they cross double or triple spaces—the first few games we played, I won. Now we are about even. Soon, Joyce will surpass me, but that’s okay. It’s all in fun.

I’m lucky to be able to reach out to family and friends using the computer. I’m sorry to say I’m much slower answering letters. Right now there are four letters sitting here that need answering. If you are one of those people waiting for a letter in your mail box know that it is on the way…I hope.

All kinds of friends are great to have, even if they are a long way away. Remember to reach out today to your special people. Sure it’s better to be close enough to hug, but I’ll take what I can get to brighten a gloomy winter day.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com.

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