Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

How the Internet Thinks We're Still Together

Sunday, March 26, 2017
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About three weeks before Will’s birthday this year Amazon sent me a reminder to look at Will’s wish list so that I could buy him a present in time for his birthday. The announcement was filled with imaged of pocket knives and fancy winter bike accessories. Buying gifts was one of Will’s specialties, he was seriously the best gift buyer I have ever met. Every gift from Will was a surprise, and it was always something completely unexpected but perfect. I, on the other hand, did better with a list. Growing up, we would spend months making our Christmas gift lists. And my siblings and I would always go through wild negotiations to get bigger presents since our birthdays were so close to Christmas and we often combined the two gifts into one. I always got great gifts that I loved, but I usually knew what I was getting. I spend weeks waiting in excited anticipation to play with the toys I saw wrapped up under the tree. It was a great family tradition that I loved, but it meant that Will’s surprise gifts were a new and exciting experience.
One of our first Christmas’s together, Will got me a grab bag of hand-painted polish dishes that we had seen the previous summer at a gift shop in New Glarus, Wisconsin. I remember the intense giddiness of opening the package and the magical feeling I experienced when realized he had paid such close attention to me that day in the gift shop. The pottery was really expensive so he purchased a quirky mismatched set of plates on eBay, complete with a lidless teapot and a creamer pitcher. We declared it would be our life long mission to complete our mismatched dinner set and on multiple occasions he called me over to the computer to look at teapot lids on eBay to see if he had found a match. When we ate dinner we would call different plate patterns and we each had our favorite plate to use.
Another year he bought me this incredible illustration of a sheep from a book that was over 100 years old. I have a small obsession with sheep and historical living so we used to watch a British TV documentary called Victorian Farm that Will found on the internet. It was about a group of historians living on a farm using house-keeping and farming techniques from the Victorian era. Whenever they had to complete a task they would reference the Book of the Farm, a contemporary manual for farming and animal husbandry from the Victorian era. Since Will and I always joked about our future hobby farm, Will scoured eBay to buy the book for me as a gift. Since it was too expensive to buy the actual book, Will bought me a single page with a hand drawn sheep on it that he matted by hand and framed for me; I think I cried when I unwrapped it.
So with that type of competition, buying for presents for Will was always an incredibly stressful task. And after few years of pathetic, disappointing gifts, Will set up an Amazon gift list to help me with purchasing. I remember the last pocket know I bought from the list resulted in Will nearly chopping off his finger within a few hours of unwrapping it. When I use the knife now I think of Will sitting on the couch flicking the knife open and closed and making silly sound effects.But the Amazon gift list is just one of many electronic connections I still have with Will. On Facebook, I am still in a relationship with Will. After a year or so I hid the status so that new Facebook friends wouldn’t get confused or ask me questions, but I just could delete the actual relationship status. My rational was that if I deleted it then Will wouldn’t have a girlfriend on his Facebook page and for some reason that felt incredibly unfair. I’m not even all that in to Facebook, but it still feels like some type of modern relationship right of passage and a betrayal for me to break up with him there. My other electronic connection to Will is our shared google calendar. When I add an event, our shared calendar is always listed as an option. I could easily delete the calendar as well, but again I just can’t do it. At this point it’s been three and a half years, but as far as the internet is concerned Will and I are still linked.

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