Fort Mill Times

Transplant Times: Technology for transplants

There was a time growing up in Connecticut when I had an uncle in the Navy stationed in the Philippines, an aunt living in Switzerland, a grandfather in Texas and a grandmother in Florida – and that was just on my mother’s side of the family.

I can distinctly remember having to keep an eye on the time while I talked on the phone, because a call to the Philippines would actually speed up the debt clock, not to mention it was usually the middle of the night. I also remember getting handwritten letters and cards from my grandparents, who had the most beautiful penmanship I had ever seen.

Sometimes, you knew you were in for a special treat when an oversized envelope showed up that was stiff as a board. In it, two pieces of cardboard sandwiched a few choice photographs.

And in that moment of opening the envelope there was a genuine reveal: cousins had grown, grandparents had traveled somewhere exotic, aunt Michele got a new dog and uncle Steve did something crazy, exciting and extremely dangerous (but always insanely cool).

In so many ways, we are living in a time when being a transplant has never been easier. In our house, we have two iPhones, two iPads, two iPod touches and one iPod nano. That’s a total of five Apple devices for two adults and two children.

(For any burglars who may be reading this, we keep them locked in a 1-ton fireproof safe guarded by a rabid pit bull.)

(For anyone on our HOA reading this, by “rabid pit bull,” I mean cat.)

Between the Internet, all of these i-devices, Facebook, digital photos, Skype, FaceTime, text messaging, emailing and unlimited long distance, it sometimes feels like we never left Connecticut. In fact, when we do go back, there’s often very little left to catch up on. Honestly, it takes some of the joy out of it.

I grew up in the city of Norwalk, Conn., and as long as I could remember I always seemed to be in or on the ocean.

Well … I should clarify: the body of water along Connecticut’s shoreline is Long Island Sound, which, if you are not familiar with the area, is kind of a skin tag on the armpit of the Atlantic Ocean.

My dad has had a boat since I was an infant, and our weekends in the summer were usually spent out on the water. Some of my greatest childhood memories were made on that boat – sunny and rainy days alike – exploring tide pools on the local islands, crabbing in the marshes, swimming until the salt chapped my legs and sometimes just taking a nap in my bunk while listening to the sound of the waves gently knocking against the hull.

I often wondered what would happen if there was an emergency on land. How would they get in touch with us? It made me feel very “disconnected” at a time in a person’s life and a time in our history when being disconnected was the norm.

Years later, when I had my own boat and my own family, I would venture out to some of the same spots as I did as a kid. This time however, I brought my laptop, MiFi device, cellphone and iPad, and was every bit as productive sitting on the beach as I was in my home office.

Amazing how things had changed!

These days, we are imprisoned by the absolute fear of being disconnected. I am as guilty as anyone. If I haven’t checked my phone, email and Facebook every 20 minutes, I start to sweat and shake.

But I have come to hate that feeling, too.

I have found since we’ve moved that I have been able to put the phone down more often. Fort Mill strikes the perfect balance between a suburban and rural community. It’s “country” enough to relax and say you’re in the country, but “city” enough to keep busy. It’s also easy to strike up a conversation in the grocery line, local pub or even pumping gas rather than feeling like I have to update my Facebook status or upload a selfie to pass the time.

These advancements in technology are truly a marvel. I used to use FaceTime a lot when I was traveling so I could “help out” with the kids. I would monitor them brushing their teeth while my wife would get ready for work. My son Aidan quickly discovered that by laying the iPod down flat, Dad became a stuck turtle who couldn’t yell at him to do better with the back teeth.

My grandmother’s last words to me were “Nice house” when I posted a picture of our new house being built on Facebook. A couple months later, she lost her battle with dementia, but I was grateful for Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, both of whom helped her see our new home.

We transplants are a little more sensitive and prone to rely on these technologies because, often times, it is all we have to connect with our loved ones “back home.” It hurts to be away from our friends and families in other parts of the country or other parts of the world, especially knowing life is going on without us. But what was once a tool has become entertainment, which has turned into a crutch for many of us, and an addiction for some.

Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, but technology negates that absence and is making us aloof to the world around us.

Put the phone down, shut the tablet off, go for a walk, watch the sunset and don’t be afraid to miss your loved ones.

And if you really want to make their day, send them some photos and a post card from Beautiful Fort Mill, S.C.!