A few days ago, my father sent the following email to myself and a handful of other people:
My father is the King of Email Spam, known throughout the whole family as the guy who grants every email equal attention, no matter what the message or who its sender. What the rest of us call spam, my father considers “important information,” and will often forward it to the rest of the family and a few of his unlucky friends under “FYI” (including notifications about sales at CVS).
At one point, one of my cousins, unable to further stand the daily onslaught (at least five or six emails!) of my father’s spam, replied all:
“KTHO! PLEASE UNSUBSCRIBE!”
And yet there is something admirable, even enviable about my father’s approach to email: the slow, thoughtful way he goes through each one, which, ninety percent of the time, has been forwarded to him from men and women of his same demographic.
I marvel most that in them – all variations of poorly constructed slideshows paired with flowery font and classical music featuring “50 of the World’s Most Beautiful Places! Must See!” or “100 Stunning Photos of Rare Natural Phenomena! ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!” or “How to Prevent Cancer and Live Until 120 With One Simple Breath Exercise!” – my father is able to find something illuminating and worth sharing with those who already struggle to achieve inbox zero.
He’s living fully in the digital future, but a little too fully, because much of the future is spam. He also still uses AOL.
Will he take the time to read my blog? No. The words are too small for him. But will he spend hours clicking through slideshows, watching videos and selecting from his address book which lucky dozens he will enlighten? Absolutely. In a way, he does it for us. My father means well.
“Did you read that latest email I sent you?”
He would ask, when I still lived at home.
“They’re all great. You should see them all.”
“Dad, I don’t have time.”
And each time I said this my father would snort, “Oh you have time to read all your magazines but you don’t have time to read a few short emails I send you? I send them to you because I think they’re worth your time! I don’t send you all of them, just the ones I think are good.”
AKA almost all of them.
Then I moved away. And for a year or so, aside from our short, bi-weekly phone calls, it seemed my father’s forwarded emails were for the most part how I “heard” from him.
So last year around this time, I made up my mind to start reading each week, at random, at least two of my father’s emails and to respond with something short and sweet like, “Oh wow, that’s great, Bah,” or “Thanks for sharing! I didn’t know that!” The intention was not to be facetious or fake, but to show my dad from afar that I appreciated his efforts to forward someone else’s thoughts and share them with me.
And what do you know. Some of those emails were pretty informative. Some of them were quite funny and stunning and amazing. And I told him so.
So a few days ago when he sent the email with the follow video, I clicked it open and watched.
I had teared up considerably by the time the video finished and was about to share it with the rest of my world. What a gem! But first, I had to tell my father.
“That was very sad…thanks Bah. But I thought you didn’t believe in organ donation?”
A few minutes later, my father replied:
To which I wrote:
“Then you missed the whole point of the commercial, Bah. That old guy went into the hospital and didn’t come out because he died and his organs were donated to the young woman!”
To which my father replied:
I laughed then, wondering if I was the one missing the point. But aside from “Okay, good night!” there wasn’t much else to say after that.