My day began as usual this morning. Before I went down to the shower, I ran a script that logged on to a local bbs and downloaded the waiting messages from the RIME conferences to which I subscribe. When I came up, the messages were waiting. I scanned them for anything of particular interest. Then I logged on to Chicago Syslink, read my mail, checked for anything new and as I do every other day, while I pulled on my socks, I played a trivia game or two.
Then, like every other day, I logged on to the Internet. As my family were getting ready to leave the house, I checked my mail, read a few newsgroups and looked at my home page just to see that it hadn't changed (that's a strange habit I will have to talk about another day).
As I was logging off the phone rang. It was shocking news. As I listened in stunned silence, I closed Windows and watched my screen return to black. The c: prompt sat alone in the top left corner.
I listened in near silence as tears worked their way down my cheeks. My wife came in the room, impatient to begin our day. I waived her away with one hand and stared at the screen as I listened to more details. She stood there stunned and looked at me as I typed these words: "Arthur is virtually dead."
This is not the place to talk in detail about Arthur or the difficult life he had. Nor the place to talk about his moments of brilliance, his huge heart or so may other things. The things we shared in the 40 years since both our fathers died. Nor is this the place to talk about the details of his death. A proper memorial will have to wait-- wait until I can think more clearly and remember the emotion in greater tranquility. Arthur is virtually dead.
What is appropriate to say here is to think of all the time spent at this screen and to vow to dedicate just some small portion of that time to the living-- to conversation with flesh and blood.
It is easy to become convinced of the importance of everything in the virtual world that appears before me on the screen. I religiously answer the e-mail of total strangers, I seek help in creating better web pages. I tout the wonders of the Web to total strangers and friends of lesser acquaintance. But when was the last time I called Art? When was the last time I tried to break into his strange isolation..or out of mine. Arthur is virtually dead.
Those words haunt me...This morning Arthur's body clung to life. But, Arthur was virtually dead. The irony of those words struck deep as they stared out at me in the phosphorescence of the screen.
It is too late to call him up again, to take another walk along the lake or fly another kite with him.
Under ordinary circumstances, I would spend a little while longer here before the screen writing my column, but I need to be with people tonight. I need to celebrate life. I have asked the editor to leave a little blank space at the end of this column. A little space reflecting the time I will spend tonight with the living. If it isn't there imagine it. It bears this dedication in my heart:
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