It is Sunday afternoon. I’m about to go for a walk before I start ironing, and my eldest comes and finds me. The conversation goes roughly as follows
– When’s the last time you spoke to Nanny and Grandad?
– Well, you were over there yesterday so when Dad phoned to come and get you, why?
My son then showed me a page from the Internet, which linked to a news story from Sunday morning, about a death in the quiet, unassuming town that my parents live in. Normally I would not be that concerned, but the picture he showed me?
My family and I have a love/hate relationship, but the first call next was without thinking and to my brother, who I probably last spoke to about six months ago (he works with my husband so it’s not like I never see him.) He was in the car and off to see what was going on without much need of a prompt, because YOU KNOW, INTERNET. Various calls to both parents on landlines and mobiles were met with silence, and having arrived at the house my brother found they were out. It took thirty minutes to establish both were alive and well, and that they’d gone shopping (and that’s why neither were at home when brother screeched round.) In fact, the way he found out they were okay was passing them on the way back home as they came back from their trip, still blissfully unaware both of us were panicking.
Who’d have parents, eh?
It transpires that it was the man opposite who died, having killed himself after a particularly loud and viscous row. I dropped my daughter off to my mum’s the week before, and seen his girlfriend arrive. Watching her enter the house and remembering the previous residents made me grasp just how much this road has changed since my youth: I lived in that house since I was four, until I left in my early 20’s. Nothing exciting or untoward really ever goes down in the town either, except there was some rioting once, but even that was hardly earth shattering. The thing that freaked me the most about all this was one of my son’s best mates, knowing that he spent time at weekends there, noticed the location and sent him the picture. Effectively, the Internet informed me of the death before my parents caught up.
The internet was alerting me before the Real World got there.
It is an odd world we live in. A lot of the time I rely on the Twitters to keep me sane, and don’t expect reality to intersect quite so forcefully, but this is a salutatory reminder that, like it or not, everything is news to somebody. I’m not sure I’d ever want to learn about personal tragedy via Social Media but more and more, this is becoming the norm. One of the hardest things I ever had to do was be the person to tell my husband his father had passed away, and that moment still causes discomfort and anxiousness in the recall.
However great you think the Internet is, sometimes it might just be better not to know.