I have been on a writing retreat for over a week now. Productive, powerful time. I pulled together the hundreds of articles I've written over the years and realized that I've written four good books from them.
I also spent several days revising and rewriting what is my Magnum Opus, a book called, "An Ordinary Death," an account of my mother's decline and death and all I learned from this, both about myself and about this mess of the dying process most of us engage in these days in the US.
Yesterday afternoon, after several intense hours of editing and rewriting, I suddenly knew: I was finished. A sense of immense satisfaction overtook me. I was done.
I've been working at my mother's house, known now to her children as "The Manor." There is no computer here, so I had brought my aging MacBook. I was so proud of myself last week, having figured out how to solve a software compatibility issue I'd been facing by the relatively inexpensive purchase of Office for Mac.
My oldest son bought this computer for me about three and 1/2 years ago when my dad was dying, and he knew I needed a laptop to be able to work during the long hours I spent with him in the rehab/skilled nursing facilities where he spent his last months. I never really became familiar with the inner workings of this machine, but was aware that I have never had one moment's problem with it.
Why should that change?
My work computer is backed up daily by a very reliable online service. Not this machine. I generally use it only to do email or to create articles on Google Docs, so everything was saved on remote servers anyway.
But in the last week, I had pulled together much of what I have written since 2006, sorted it into collections, edited it, discarded large portions of it, and, as I've already stated, spent hours and hours on "An Ordinary Death." All stored on the hard drive of this computer.
So, late yesterday afternoon, after that moment of intense satisfaction, I realized that I was out of ink for the printer here and also needed some good quality stationary upon which to print what I hoped would be an irresistible query letter to a potential agent.
I thought about sending this final copy to a friend who has promised to read and give comment on the manuscript, but decided to wait.
I left, joyfully ran errands and purchased paper, ink, and padded envelopes for mailing.
When I returned home, I went to check email and noted that my computer was frozen. Never happened on this machine before.
I turned it off, restarted it, and looked for my documents. Microsoft Word would not open--I got a screen indicated I needed to reinstall Office for Mac.
Fighting panic, I turned off the machine again.
Two more times, I tried to start it. It hung, stuck.
I gave up, and sat down, trying to gather my thoughts and stay calm.
I knew there was nothing I could actually do last night, and, again trying to fight panic, started reading a good book, and eventually went to bed, hoping for a simple fix.
This morning, I checked on my IPhone for anyplace that worked on Mac Computers. The person who answered the phone at the first place I called rudely told me that they didn't work on Mac's and told me to go find an Apple store. Second place I tried said, "Yes, we do fix them." He said he could look at it today and gave me directions to his office, thankfully only about three miles from here, and I took off.
I walked into an small office in an obscure office park, seeing no one in the tiny reception area. A second later, Andrew appeared. Andrew, that kind voice on the phone, appeared and listened to my frantic explanation. "It sounds like your hard drive has completely failed, but I think I can retrieve your documents for you. How much of a hurry are you in?"
I explained to him what I was potentially about to lose and he said, "This is my priority for the day."
An hour later, Andrew phoned with the good news and the bad news. Good news: he was pretty confident he could indeed retrieve the documents. Bad news: hard drive completely gone. Rebuilding this computer would be expensive, but still less than purchasing a new machine and once he was done, I'd essentially have a new one, good for another three to four years.
I gave him the go-ahead and made alternate plans for the day.
At 2:00 p.m., I began to panic. Andrew had begun working on the computer at 9:30 a.m. No word. At 3:45, I phoned a friend who had been offering significant help with the project and told her what had happened. Horrified silence followed my words.
At 3:50, Susan, Andrews's partner, called and said, "It's all fixed, dearie. We've retrieved all your documents. Come and get it."
At 4:05, I sat in their office, and wept with relief when I saw all that hard work springing to life again on my screen. Andrew and Susan nearly wept with me. Then they sent me out with the admonition: don't go home until you have purchased an external back-up device. I followed their advice.
Grace visited me today at a place called, "mactracks" (www.mactracks.com). Good people, wonderful service, incredible empathy. Call them if you need help with your Mac. Perhaps you, too, will experience the best of the kingdom of heaven in their capable hands.