One of the great mysteries of modern life is this: While there are more ways than ever to keep in touch with those we love, somehow it is never enough.
My husband and I live hundreds of miles from our children and grandchildren, from our sisters, my brother, from our nieces and nephews and from great friends who seem more like family.
We all try to stay in touch as best we can. We phone, leave messages, send photos and videos. We email, text, FaceTime and Facebook. We exchange cards in the mail for Christmas and birthdays and other important occasions.
But somehow, the more I hear from them, the more I want to hear. And the more I say to them in a text or email or on the phone, the more I long to say.
Occasionally, if never often enough, we get to visit in the flesh. We look into each other's eyes. Touch each other's faces. Smell each other's necks. Tell the same old stories. And laugh at the same old jokes.
It is heaven. Or as close to it as we seem to get on this Earth. But still, it's not enough.
For the record, such visits can also be thoroughly exhausting, and make us wonder, briefly, what were we thinking?
But recovery is usually fairly quick, and we find ourselves hoping for another visit soon.
Love doesn't make any of us perfect. But it can make all of us, miraculously, more lovable.
One of the ways I like to stay in touch with people I love is to listen closely to a story from one of them, then repeat it (with permission) to another. Usually, it's a story about one of my grandchildren. I share such stories judiciously with those I'm sure will appreciate it.
Recently, for example, my daughter texted this story about her five-year-old, Henry:
"Today, out of the clear blue, Henry said, 'Mama, when you're arguing about something, do you ever back down?' I said, 'Sure, I think sometimes you have to. Why?' And he said, 'I never back down!"
Great story. I had to share it. So I told it first to my husband, who loves all of the grandkid stories. Then I thought, who better to share it with than my brother, Joe, who was born blind with cerebral palsy and has never backed down from anything in his life?
So I called Joe. No answer. He lives in South Carolina, three time zones away from me. I left a message. Two hours later, when he'd still not called back, I called my sister, who lives about an hour away from him.
"I'm worried," she said. "He's sick, bad congestion. He told me an hour ago he might go to the ER to get checked. And now he's not answering my calls."
She had phoned the hospital. No record of his being there.
"Call him again," I said. "Then call the hospital. If he's not there, call the police."
"I'll call you back," she said.
Ten minutes later, she did.
"He's in the ER," she said. "They're admitting him. He's dehydrated. They're giving him fluids, and plan to release him tomorrow. That's all he knows. They won't tell me anything. I told him to call me, if he can, after he's admitted. And I'll go down there tomorrow."
It was midnight. Too late for me to get a call through to him.
"If he calls you," I said, "tell him I'll call him tomorrow. Let me know what you find out."
"I will," said my sister.
We've been down this road before, she and I, with our brother. She is always the one to take the lead, God bless her.
But I will follow up tomorrow. I'll call and keep calling until I reach my brother. I've got a great story to tell him about his great-nephew, Henry.
In our family, as perhaps in yours, we never back down from arguments. Unless we have to.
And we never, ever, no matter what, back down from love.
Randall is a longtime newspaper columnist who may be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson, NV 89077, or via her website, www.sharonrandall.com.