#writerproblems: #technology #grief


I stand in line at Geek Squad. Again.

The staff has grown accustomed to me over the past year, after my old workhorse of a Toshiba laptop died. Bo and I had just gotten a new desktop to replace the dead one; the budget for yet another technology expense was not there. But Bo couldn’t deny the need for a laptop–if I couldn’t, I couldn’t keep my job.

So when the staff, already astonished my Toshiba lived eight years, pointed to a Lenovo on sale for under 200 bucks, I bolted for a box and checked out. It’s not like I needed anything more than bare bones.

Silly me that “bare bones” meant a computer screen that turns off when I have more than four tabs open online. “Bare bones” meant a power cord port that breaks after six months. “Bare bones” meant a memory card that’s soldered onto the hard drive, so I couldn’t get a bigger memory card. “Bare bones” meant a memory that’s so shitty it couldn’t even function with Microsoft Office downloaded because Office is too big and I couldn’t delete the Office programs like OneNote or Access because Office is a UNIT. You want a taste of Word? Then you swallow Office whole and like it, bitches!

Barely a year owning the laptop–yes, just after the warranty expires–and I’m in line at Geek Squad because no power cord of any kind will work on the laptop now. It’s down to its last ten percent of battery. Windows 10 refuses to properly update due to lack of memory.

I put the Lenovo on the table. Again.

The Geek tries my cord. Goes into the back. Tries one of their cords. Then shrugs. “Yeah, you’re not gonna find anything. It’s a cheap computer. You need to spend at least five hundred to get a good one.”

End of service.


Just having the money to get the kids shoes is a problem. All three needed new sneakers this spring. That’s a hundred bucks right there.  The boys shredded half a dozen pairs of jeans this winter.

At least they’ll have cutoffs galore for summer.

I’m happy to wear stuff until the holes are so prominent I could be arrested for indecent exposure. I’ll eat what everyone else hates, what’s expired. Hell, I’m starting to give plasma to help cover the grocery bills.

Where the hell’s five hundred bucks going to come from?


If your only knowledge of pastors comes from the televised evangelists, you might assume pastors are quite the affluent folk.

If you know what a rural church is like, you know how that’s utter bullshit.

Every dollar counted at home. We lived on the hand-me-downs of relatives, on rummage sales, on gifts from farmers. Christmas meant presents from the elderly of our church, rarely from our parents.

So the useful going unused always stings me. All the more for my mother, as much of my father’s things still stand, sit, lay about. His books on doctrine. His comics. His carefully gathered Dr. Who canonized novels. His thousands of recorded sermons, bible studies, coloring pages for Sunday School. All just…sitting.

But today we’re not looking at those things. Today Mom’s pointing to a little Lego display Dad had in his study of Lex Luther in his robot fighting Superman and Wonder Woman. “Think Blondie would like this for her birthday?” she asks.

“Of course!” I say, happy every time Mom’s able to let something go without tears. I glance at Dad’s crown, wishing I could ask for it, but I know Mom still uses it with her own students.

I spot something else.

Dad’s computer backpack.

“I thought Pierce took Dad’s laptop.” Dad had bought a Sony Vaio the year before he died. Spent at least a thousand on a top model, knowing he’d need it for producing services for local broadcasts, bible study presentations, liturgy projections, the lot. Thankfully the church covered a chunk of the cost. That’s probably what kept Mom from going crazy about the price tag.

“He did. He tried to use it, but, you know. It’s hard for him.” Mom sighs and moves a few preschool assessments across the desk. Dad’s old desk.

Yeah, it’s hard.

But sometimes we don’t get to leave something untouched just because it’s hard.

“Are you using it?”


The first thing I do is change the picture: Dad and Mom outside their mission church in the Dakotas. That much I must do, because seeing him laughing there and knowing my kids have forgotten what his laugh sounds like turns the skin beneath my eyes hot.

Much of the software’s out of date, but Office still works, everything still works. The battery’s not much, but an hour of work time in the car is better than nothing.

I scroll through the files.

There’s so many.

Pictures. God, the pictures.

Pictures of my childhood, of his. I’m seeing more relations here on a dead man’s computer than I have since his funeral.

Hymns he wrote. Sermons. Notes for come-and-gone weddings and funerals.

A newsletter he was working on for Mom’s preschool to be handed out the month he died.

So many writings, begun.



“Dad’s computer working okay for you?”

“Great. It’s really helped a lot.” I don’t tell Mom about the scraps of Dad I found in the backpack: post-it notes about contacting Grandma’s doctor. An old bulletin with bio stats and hospital info, all in Dad’s thin, clipped scrawl. I doubt Mom ever looked inside his backpack. I wonder if Pierce even made it so far as to open the laptop itself, with Dad’s highlighters and notes still jumbled up in the power cord.

“Good. It just seemed so wasteful, sitting here.”

I don’t tell Mom I still feel like I’m borrowing this technology with the intent to return it to Dad, say thanks. Share the struggles I’ve had with parenting, faith, maybe even writing.

But Dad’s heart broke a few months shy of his 60th birthday. Despite repair after repair to his throat, his stomach, his legs, one bad break rendered the whole lifeless.

End of service.


“Ooo, Mommy, you got a new computer!” Blondie peers over from her sketch of the Nautilus. After reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with Bo, she’s fascinated with technology altered by fiction–especially if it involves a church organ. “What’s the sticker for?”


I’ve put such a sticker on every laptop I own, A) because I love the coffee, and B) because it separates this one thing from all the other stuff in the house. I’m the only coffee drinker. Bo hates laptop-sized keyboards. Blondie wants a mouse when she plays computer games. Don’t ask what the boys do with a working piece of anything.

Now Dad’s good and faithful servant holds chunks of my own fiction, analyses, and interviews. It keeps me connected to my students. Right now it’s letting me type this post while “attending” a meeting about cornerstone projects in liberal arts education while also pulling Bash off of Biff in a fight over worms and dump trucks.

My words may not be poetic hymns or thoughtful sermons, but they are filled with study, feeling, and imagination. And now they share a space, however small, with the words of my father.

I think Dad would like that.

68 thoughts on “#writerproblems: #technology #grief

  1. Jean, I have so many words but I have none. My soul empathized with low budgets (then and now), Geek Squad, and with a missing parent’s presence.
    Seems God took care of you many ways with connecting you with your dad’s laptop. Thank you for sharing my writing friend.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The message really helped, although oddly – taking the dyslexic thing into account – this read ever so smooth, like watching it pan out on TV. I glad your dad’s laptop is the business and saved you a ton of money. ~ George

    Liked by 2 people

      • Well I am back now writing a message to you that will seen on your dad’s laptop. It is funny how in life we need something and we don’t know how we are going to get it cos we need more than that something and the bills are endlessly swallowing us up in a black hole AND then there is that something. Your dad would be glad to know it is in your hands now my sweet lady Jean even if some of the windows you opened were sad. So glad I came back to read this again. xxxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • I do indeed see your message on my dad’s laptop. Gosh, you are summing up life right there: all the birthdays and the bills. I keep telling myself I need to move stuff off of this computer onto my desktop that’s protected with Carbonite, so if there’s a meltdown or a virus, I won’t lose the images. But my wiring tells me those files are not mine to move. I’ll probably cry, but I’d rather have a cry and make Dad’s work safe than leave it the only copies where they can be lost to a single virus.
        I’m glad you came back too. πŸ™‚ xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • You should move what you feel in your heart is right to keep my darling. You should perhaps move them to half way house. Because there might come a day when you don’t have them to look at and you wish you did xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s hard and truly I can see that like many a mam with young children it’s not easy. Horrible to have these financial worries. This is almost like a wee gift from your dad xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. To end up with an item…especially a much needed item…from one nolonger with us always produces that ‘warm glow’ feeling. Just the other day sorting out junk in the attic I discovered my mothers small ceramic ‘owl’ that was always on her mantelpiece. The owl stays, the junk in the attic goes to the tip! A fine and gentle post of ‘good’ news.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gosh, some story. And can relate well.
    I could never convince my dad to get a computer. He died short of 100 last month.
    Not being the youngest myself, I found it quite stressful to sort his stuff, well, what was left.
    I sometimes wonder how the next generation will deal with our digital & online material.

    Liked by 1 person

    • An excellent question. So many photos sit in boxes around us, but they can’t be forgotten completely. So much of my children’s photos are online. Will they ever stumble upon them there?


  5. Your Dad would love this. He’s there with you whenever you write, but especially when you write about him. You and your Dad’s computer, and all that it holds, have brought a huge smile to my face.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sarah! Oh my GOSH, I can’t believe they even sold that tripe. On a different visit to Geek Squad, the Geek rolled his eyes and said, “I know it’s a cheap computer, and people ask why we sell cheap computers, but we can’t help what we sell.” Apparently I wasn’t the only one showing up with that crappy excuse of a computer. What an answer, you know? “We sell garbage because that’s what we get to sell.” UGH.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Jean Lee – I found your post moving. It made me think about writing needs and struggles; the necessity of our tools and what happens when they break; the costs of cultivating and supporting a growing family; how – even though the marketplace makes it seem that everyone has access to the newest, most up-to-date technologies, fashions, and extras – many people are functioning without these things….And then it turns out that Pierce DID NOT take your Dad’s laptop, your mother had not even gone through his backpack….now, this poignant connection between you and your Dad and his belongings – what you share and what you’ve inherited.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you dearly, Leslie. It was a writing that drove itself to the page–not just the frustration with technology, but the frustration in trying to *make* myself be okay with deleting *his* tools on a device he can no longer use. It’s that stuckness I’m just not sure should hold me over something as trivial as old software.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank the heavens that there was a solution! I’ve been in the place where I feel as if there is no way out and I’ve had my share of hard financial times when you absolutely don’t know what to do or choose between. Weirdly enough (serendipity!), I ‘m reading a book right now by Margaret Lynch called “Tapping into Wealth” that uses EFT, emotion free therapy, to clear blocks you have to money. I’m using it for that and more since I have a lot of blocks about things like what being a success in the world means (more for writing than anything else), and I’ve noticed I”m less reactive to things since I’ve been doing the tapping exercises. I’m only about a week into it. See if your library has the book. Lynch also has a ton of free videos on youtube so check her out there. Try to start with a video that explains what tapping is. I like the book because she breaks down how many of our money woes are tied to childhood feelings about it and that’s so intertwined with feelings about our parents that it’s a tough to separate it all without feeling like you are dissing your parents. You want to develop your own feelings about things so they can shine through independent of what you were raised to think. You have a double whammy of being a pastor’s kid (lots of vows of poverty both conscious and unconscious taken by religious folks — I know we Catholics take great pride in poverty) so EFT could really help you move past all that. Just a suggestion. I’m still in the infant stages myself, but really willing to give it a go. Love your writing, Jean. You need to have the technology to keep at it! oxo, pam

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “I still feel like I’m borrowing this technology with the intent to return it to Dad, say thanks.” This line summed up for me how I feel about losing the ones we love. In a sense, we’re just borrowing them for the duration. They aren’t ours, they never were. We’re just holding on to them for the time being. It’s a precious thing–the idea of borrowing and being borrowed. We hold the things we do not own, but feel responsible for in a different way–a reverent way. That’s how I like to think of the people that matter to me–they are on loan. They do not belong to me. I cannot take them for granted.
    What a beautiful tribute to your dad and your memories of him. And a very practical approach to honoring his legacy through continuing to build on it with your own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Angela! I do remind myself that time here is precious, and that we are to be together again later. Heaven’s nice like that. πŸ™‚ I suppose it’s the reminders of the absence that almost hurt more than the absence itself.
      And oddly, I feel like I don’t miss him for *me* as much as I do for my kids. I grew up with four living grandparents. My kids have one, my mother. I just can’t wrap my head around the concept of a childhood without a grandfather. That sounds so strange, alien. And I don’t like that absence in their lives. I suppose that’s why I’m all for nudging my mother’s relationship along…which she’s fine with, too. But much of our family is not, and that’s a pity. Her boyfriend is kind, faithful, and very caring. Plus he’s amazing with my kids. When I see him with them, I think, “He’s not what I imagined Dad to be as a grandpa. But this guy would make an *awesome* grandpa.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can understand how you’d want your kids to have the best of what you had and more.
        It’s lovely that your mom’s boyfriend is so very caring. Though, of course he isn’t your dad.
        I think of my own son and the effect of having divorced parents. It’s not the experience I’d have wanted for him. And yet, it doesn’t follow that the experience is bad. Just different. It’s not the same thing as losing your grandpa (or your dad) but it’s a comfort to me to know that there isn’t one “right” way to experience love.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a powerful story, Jean. I’ve also had computer issues and had to rely on a Lenovo while my pc was being repaired. I needed extra “space” for the 5-hour window.s 10 download and luckily found a flashdrive with lots of space and a USB hub to accommodate all of the USB plug ins.

    What was most compelling about your post though, were the beautiful memories of your father. You are such a gifted storyteller. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. What a lovely archive of photos, and how wonderful to be sharing your father’s laptop.
    I still use my grandmother’s garden trowel – I think of her every time I put plants in.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I am so moved by your story. You are so good about telling all of it, all the details and your feelings, the little nuances. It is like I know you all. Really touched.
    I could totally relate to making do and doing without. I wasn’t expecting the story of your father’s things.
    While I was making a recent move, I finally started going through my mother’s things in earnest. She has been gone since ’97 and also died shy of 60.
    Her stories are all in there, I was just too disorganized to read them. It is almost like having her in the house again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that, exactly. That’s another reason why I can’t bring myself to even remove the old software for his church projector. It’s like I’m borrowing this computer (I’m on it right now) while he’s working at church or out in the garden with Mom.
      And thank you so much for all your kind words. Lovely readers always make these moments worth sharing. xxxxxxxx


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