Friends without Quotation Marks

The internet has been a true fount of friendship for me over the last 15 years.  In the early 2000’s, if I was talking about someone from the internet, and mentioned that they were my friend, people looked at me like I was insane.  Online friends aren’t “real” friends, their attitudes conveyed.  We used to say that people who were online friends lived in cyberspace and those friends that we knew in the flesh and blood lived in meatspace.  Twelve years ago,  I even ventured out to meet some of my cyber friends, in a time when Dateline NBC was portraying all online encounters as doomed to tragedy, yet many of those wonderful people are still in my life today.  They’ve met my family, attended Corrigan’s baby shower, or showed up at Johns Hopkins to bring me a warm meal when Corrigan was sick.

With Corrigan’s diagnosis, an entire new world of friendships was given to me when families of those affected began to find each other on the web.  I have spent thousands of hours in online conversations, rapid-fire email chats and Facebook group messages with people that understand exactly what it is like to live with rare disease.  I’ve even been blessed to meet some of those UCD families in meatspace during the National Conference this past summer.

I’ve made extraordinary friends (no quotations needed, let me tell you) on Yahoo, Facebook, Flickr and from a local news and information chat room.  I have been so fortunate that my online experience has been mostly positive and filled with more good people than weirdos (though there’s been a handful of them too) and now that we are more than a decade into the new century, social networking has turned a lot of people into believers when it comes online connections. Just because I have not been able to reach out and touch many of them does not diminish the value they have in my life.

Last year, someone new began posting on one of my message boards and began to share short stories of memorable moments in his life.   His posts were rich in detail that was remarkable to me, considering he told us that he was in his late 70’s.  I can hardly remember what happened to me four years ago, let alone forty, but our new poster didn’t seem to forget a single detail and we were captivated.  I messaged him privately to tell him how much I appreciated his posts, all of my grandparents were deceased and I was too young when they were living to hear their stories, so the new poster’s tales made me feel as if I were sitting at the knee of my cyber Grandpa.

In a remarkable twist, our conversations revealed that though he had long ago moved from our area, he was close friends with my Dad’s parents and other family members and he shared with me sweet stories that helped to round-out my own memories of my Father’s side of the family.

Through our online correspondence we became “friends without quotation marks” and I learned what a kind and generous man God had put in my life.  I don’t know what compelled him to join our local message board and share his stories, but I am certain there was a divine nudge. Over the last year, he has encouraged me and lifted me up during some hard times, always ready with a sincere word of support.

And of course, because I love Civil War history and scarf down as much Fiction and Non-Fiction as I can about that time period ( Mark proposed to me at Burnside Bridge at Antietam, remember?) of course I would find someone that not only knew my family but was writing a book about the Civil War.  Did I want to read a few chapters before he submitted it to a publisher?  Would I like to see the cover art?  It was like Christmas, and Mr. George Stein was my gift.

Speaking of gifts, today is George’s 80th birthday and yesterday he sent out a celebratory email to friends and family that Amazon had finally listed his first novel,  Sing Before Breakfast.  What an incredible birthday gift that must have been to learn that on the eve of his 80th year, his lovingly-written book had finally been listed for sale!  I’d like to think that I was the first person to race to to buy it, but so many of us have been waiting patiently I imagine there were dozens of copies purchased seconds after reading the last word of his email.

(cover art by Mr. Stein’s son, Doug)

From the Amazon site:
With a universal message on war, Sing before Breakfast is a historical fiction of stellar note, impressive allegory, and surprising tenderness. Powerfully wrought with painstaking accuracy, author and history buff George Stein realistically captures events of the American Civil War and its impact on civilians and their land. Through the eyes of a young boy, a nation is being forged.

About the Author:

With a passion for folklore from the Civil War, George Stein first visited Gettysburg in 1959. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, before helping to design and implement operating programs for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and devising the formulae for distributing federal funds to public television and radio stations. Serving as site manager for the construction of the world’s first major satellite interconnection system, he was later appointed Director of Planning and Vice President of Telecommunications. For twenty years, he was a consultant to public broadcasting stations and other clients throughout the country. He loves fly fishing and golf and lives in Virginia. Sing before Breakfast is his first novel.

That’s an impressive description, my friend, and while I am not as eloquent as you in any capacity, I would like to add to the end of that description, “ He loves fly fishing and golf…and is a remarkable friend.”

Happy Birthday George! Thank you for sharing you with us on our little message board and for your unwavering support and friendship to me.  I cannot wait to read Sing Before Breakfast and I thank you for sharing those first few chapters with me many months ago.  I’ve been itching to know what happened next and in a few days I will finally know!

Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
― Mark Twain

You can purchase “Sing Before Breakfast” by George Stein on by clicking here.

One thought on “Friends without Quotation Marks

  1. What an exceptional friend you are! Thank you for bringing tears to my eyes on my birthday and for disseminating information on SBB. I thank my lucky stars that I followed up on your first Chat message to me. Your kind words are a special treasure to me because I have come to know something of your heart and your talents: writing, photographer, violinist, mother and wife exceptionale, and the decent, honest loving person that you are. You make me wonder if email might have greater impact than we can imagine for finding and fulfilling friendship this planet so sorely needs.


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