My fingertip taps the bright blue icon and I hear the familiar “zoooop” sound as Skype starts up. There are ten contacts but my eyes zero in on two, Sam and Nick, and I see the lights next to their names are bright green, which means they’re online. Chances are good they are playing a game together, Dungeons and Dragons probably. My finger hovers over Nick’s picture but then I change my mind and close the app. I don’t have anything to tell either of my kids, really, except I love and miss them, which they know already.
I sit, iPad on my lap, and rapidly exhaust all the internet urls in my favorites list. I scan the headlines on an endless array of amusing, educational, snarky articles, watch adorable pet videos, work sudoku puzzles and the Sunday crossword. Don’t I have anything else to do? Some larger purpose besides being a source of visits, views and clicks on other peoples’ websites?
My purposes have all flown the coop. I am not needed hourly, monthly or even yearly, if you go by one particular child’s communication habits. I have nobody’s socks to pick up, no one’s meals to prepare, no one’s life to organize, except this one right here in front of me. All my brain, no longer portioned out evenly between three children, is now able to focus on just one life, my own, and it is apparently not that interesting.
The Skype light is a secret beacon, a dot of comfort. See? Both green lights are shining together, so I should be happy. They used to fight constantly at home, sending the dog running for cover. Once, they were looking particularly glum after coming home from the paper route they shared. They told me someone had pulled over on the street and stopped them from fighting. “You’re brothers,” the lady had scolded. “You ought to take care of each other.”
I sat them down and pointed out that they were more alike in their opinions than not. “You two agree with each other. You just come at it from different directions,” I said. “One of you is emotional, the other is logical.”
I see their bright green lights here on my iPad, in the evenings sometimes and most weekends. Now and then, it will just be one green light, and that’s my cue to send a quick message, “How’re you doing?” just to see if anyone needs anything. Old habits, old purposes are hard to change.
Here’s a time-lapse of this painting’s progression.