Twitter’s terrible, except when it’s a memorial to your dead father

December 22nd, 2015

When my father died two and a half years ago, he was the first person close to me to bequeath a digital legacy. Sunday was his birthday. I know this because I still get reminders on my desktop, and email, and Facebook, and tablet, and phone. I think about shutting them off, about deleting the event from my calendar. But I never do. Although it pains me to think of his loss, it also reminds me of the man that he was, and of the man I still hope to become.

On what would have been his 85th birthday I found myself browsing through my dad’s old Twitter account. I never disabled it. Honestly, I’m not even sure how I’d do it. But I liked knowing it was there. I hadn’t looked at @mugwump7 since he died in the spring of 2013. Looking at it again gave me an odd sense of communicating with the dead. A digital seance, of sorts. I was surprised by how much joy it brought me, and by how well his brief existence on Twitter managed to encapsulate the man.

This is his first tweet at the age of 78. Not bad, and certainly better than mine. My pops was an electrical engineer by training and career making him more comfortable with the insides of a computer than "mucking about" (as he was fond of saying) with apps and keyboards. Still, he tried, always willing to learn. Diligently double-index fingering his thoughts out into the world.

Not everything worked as expected, though.

His military service was a defining characteristic of his life.

He served his tour of duty in Germany, just after the war, where he developed a taste for beer and sauerbraten, and a distaste for the French.

He knew things about aliens because of his top secret military clearance as a civilian engineer working on Cold War-era projects.

He saw the frivolity in the Internet of Things long before it was given a stupid name.

And there was this exchange.

And this.

His humor was dry.

Really dry, and delivered with the absolute stoicism of an only-child raised during The Great Depression. I found him hilarious.

And he was incredibly proud to be my dad, following every move as we launched The Verge.

His final tweet was just a simple "#" less than a month before he died. I’ll probably never know why, but I like to think of it as a metaphysical sign-off, a hashtag wildcard bidding farewell to all the things of life.

I'll read and reread his 134 Tweets for years with the fresh perspective that comes from time and experience gained. Some Tweets I'll remember, while others will appear brand new as I pore over them with new insights accumulated since his death. Not unlike the closing scene from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. A scene setup by the following quote:

"After somebody dies, you can still keep learning about them. You know, their life. It can keep unfolding itself to you just as long as you pay attention to it."

I’m paying attention dad, and I’m still learning.

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