Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Emotional Importance of Objects

I've written before about the emotional significance of things that once belonged to our deceased loved ones. I was reflecting on why certain ones are more important that others and I think symbolically, the ones that we associate with them due to our memories are the hardest ones to part with...if we ever do.

There are some of Leif's things that I don't use or see every day that I can't bring myself to part with; his photo albums, his wallet, his army uniforms and dog tags, for instance. There are also things I use every day that I don't want to lose.

A couple of times in the past few months I've been saddened to think I'd have to get a new cell phone. The one I have is almost five years old and it needed a new battery and had some sound problems. I didn't want to let it go because Leif chose it for me and brought it to me in July 2007 in a cute gift bag from t-Mobile. Although I paid for it, it was yet another example of Leif's importance in helping us with the technology of our lives. The phone I had before that had poor reception at our house, and he knew this one would be better.

I didn't want a new phone because this one I associated with Leif, but not just because he brought it to me. It was the phone on which we had so many text exchanges, sometimes whole conversations. Every day after I went swimming, I would check this phone for messages from him, and most days, it seemed, there was one. Often in the evenings he would send me messages and we'd talk about anything from politics to what was going on in our lives. I still have the last messages from him on the phone. I don't ever want to take them off. He's not there, but his last text messages are.

Leif had one of the first generation iPhones, always the one to adopt new technology. He loved it, and when he died, it was valuable for me to use the contacts he had on it for notifications to friends, his employer, and others I would otherwise not have known how to contact. I didn't want to switch carriers and pay the monthly data fees to use it as a phone, so I terminated his account and continued to use it as an iPod Touch for over three years. It was somehow a comfort to me to have it, hold it, use it.

Then one day not long ago, it froze. I couldn't get it to work no matter what I did. So I "restored" it to factory settings, thinking I could then restore the contents from a backup, but it didn't work. Then Peter dropped it on the metal rail of our bed and cracked the screen. I took it to the "Genius Bar" at the Apple Store to ask how I could get it working again. They said it was useless, in common parlance, "bricked."

I know it won't work forever, but it made me really sad to lose the use of it. I was determined to make it function again. My nephew, Rick, encouraged me to try jailbreaking it to see if that would help. Since it was long past warranty, I decided to try it. The results were frustrating. It would now at least get to the opening screen, but I couldn't get it to do anything further. My niece, Brenda, figured out that if you made screen input fast enough, you could get it to do one thing more . . . and if you were really fast, maybe a few more steps. We tried a lot of things and finally it worked for a few fast steps before freezing. Then the only way to make it work was to turn it off and back on again. Not satisfactory.

I couldn't help but wonder what Leif would have thought of to try, whether he would have had it working again in a couple of hours. I spent many hours over many days, determined but losing hope. I still don't really know what made the difference, but it's working quite well now, although it's anyone's guess how long. I'm glad. It makes me feel better, somehow, that it's working and that I can use it. It seems a little silly how something this small can make me feel a connection that really isn't there.

At his last birthday celebration on January 27, 2008, I took a couple of photos of him talking on his iPhone. I think he was taking to Justin about how to install a newer version of the Mac OS on the laptop he'd bought used from Justin. I was wishing he was paying more attention to us than his techie toys, but he was engrossed, so I took pictures. Today I decided to make the opening screen on his iPhone be one of those photos. The first photo is the unlock screen, which shows the photo in an app that gives a contact phone number in case I lose the phone and someone responsible and kind wants to return it (I removed the number for posting on this blog) and the second is just the photo alone.

There's something good about having this photo on his phone. Something that brings back memories of a good birthday evening spent together. Something that shows him using the phone I now hold in my hand, even with it's screen cracked in a spider web pattern in the upper right.

Tomorrow it will be four years since we last saw Leif alive. On April 10 it will be four years since we found him dead. It still seems as though I should expect him to come riding up to our door and take this phone out of his pocket to check his messages. I want him to.

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