I could tell by my wife’s tone of voice that she was about to deliver bad news.
“Hey,” she said over the phone.
“What’s up?” I asked, dreading the answer.
“The printer died,” she said.
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“It could have been worse,” I said. “It could have been the cat.”
I didn’t say that to be flip; I said it because I honestly meant it. I was expecting to hear that our senior cat had succumbed to old age.
In recent years, I have received too many phone calls made to deliver bad news, so I was expecting the worst when my wife called.
The earliest of the bad calls came from my mom — the first to say she had ovarian cancer, the second to say her cancer had returned after what we thought was successful treatment.
Some time later, my dad called out of the blue, which he never did, to say his 104-year-old father, my grandfather, had died. Then came another call from my mom, who said her doctors had recommended she end treatment and enter hospice care.
The next phone calls came from my sister-in-law, who called on Feb. 12, 2014, to say my mother had died. She called twice more in 2014, first to say my father had entered the hospital for tests after experiencing nausea and then a few days later to say my dad had been diagnosed with cancer and given just weeks to live.
So yes, I was genuinely relieved when my wife said the printer had died after seven years of reliable service. After the passing of so many loved ones in just a few years, I am not especially bothered by the death of inanimate objects, especially those that have fallen in price dramatically in the tech age. Put another way, Hewlett-Packard will make more printers, Lowe’s will stock more lawn tractors, auto-repair shops will stock replacement parts. So when I need something, I will buy it, with cash when I can, with a credit card when I need to.
So let computer printers, lawn mowers and car batteries die; I can handle that news and the toll it takes on my wallet. But I’ve had my fill of phone calls made to deliver news of illness and death.