Next week (February 2nd) will mark forty years to the day since I first arrived on Okinawa - as a twenty-three-year-old Army lieutenant. Things were so much different back then. I remember sending two telegrams home in the nineteen months that I was here - and making two telephone calls back to the States - when Nick was born.
Making calls then was an expensive proposition, and the most reasonable way to do it was to go to what was called a MARS Station (shortwave facilities) where the operator there would contact a shortwave operator in the States, and that person would call the number you were trying to reach over their US telephone. It wasn't quite as expensive as an overseas telephone call, and the quality of the call was fairly crappy most of the time.
Today I have "Magic Jack" and the call goes through my computer and is somehow digitized and routed through cyberspace - and the connections are almost always good. I pay a small fee once a year to use it - $20 or so, and I can buy 5 years of service for around $60 or $70. (It gives me a US number, so my kids can also call me on their regular phone plans.) Someone was complaining to me recently that Magic Jack will cut you off after an hour-and-a-half - and she would have to redial. Needless to say, I told my friend that she needed to get a life!
And Skype! For a very small fee a person can call from here to the States and watch the person on the other end of the line as they visit!
Oh, yes - things have changed a great deal in forty years! (Most communication home back then occurred by letters. Remember letters?) And if a military spouse wanted to talk to her husband at work, she had to call the orderly room and explain to the First Sergeant why he needed to be pulled away from work and brought to the office to talk to her. Now the poor soul's cell phone just keeps ringing or vibrating until he or she answers it - and the mission be damned!
All of the above was written as prologue for a discussion of my grandchildren. Most weekends I am able to speak to all of my children and grandchildren, and many days I receive photos or movies of them just moments after they are filmed.
Tonight I came home to pictures and a movie of Baby Willow. In the video I watched Willow laugh at her mother as Molly made funny sounds, and I could hear Sebastian running around the house talking to "Daddy" and "Molly." Then I watched a movie of Baby Olive jumping in her jumper and just having a grand old time! After that I pulled up an older video of Judah eating dinner just as he was starting to learn to feed himself.
It's hard to put stuff like that into letters - and if a person does print off a few photos to mail, it takes more than a week to get them here.
Things change - often for the better. It is definitely much easier being overseas today than it was forty years ago!