When I was working, I kept my Rolodex nearby. It contained every phone number I would ever need. It also listed people's children's names, their birthdays, and any other necessary tidbits I might require.

After I retired, I tore apart the Rolodex and put names, phone numbers, and other items into a small, leather address book. We carry that book with us when we travel just in case. It's comforting to know that we can contact our family and friends without having to commit their numbers to memory.

I know, I know our cell phone has many numbers stored in it, so carrying the address book might be overkill. Well, one never knows when the modern technology gods will cause the cell phone to fail. I'm a firm believer in back-ups.

Yesterday, I took some time and went through the address book while Jim was driving us home to Florida from a visit to South Carolina. We had attended a wedding there and I wanted to put my friend's new last name in the book and also list her new husband's cell phone number.

As I paged through the book, I started erasing. Jim said, "What are you doing?" My answer was, "Getting rid of people." He laughed and said, "Are you mad at them?" "No," I replied, "they're gone." I was erasing and/or changing names of folks who had died, been divorced, remarried, relocated or alienated somehow from us.

It ended up being quite a task. As I was erasing the name of a good friend who had died recently, I realized that we hadn't been in contact with her husband in a while. I resolved to call him soon to check on how he is doing. Just because my friend died shouldn't mean that he doesn't hear from us anymore.

When I got to another name, I giggled. I had erased her last name so many times that the paper was wearing thin underneath. She was on her fourth last name and headed for a fifth. On another page, I added the name of a new baby and realized that I was running out of room for that family. They would either have to stop having kids or I was going to have to give them a page all by themselves.

Another friend has moved a dozen times, so her address line was a mess. I said a silent prayer that she would soon be able to find a permanent home and stay put for a while. Still another friend hasn't been in touch with us for years. I considered erasing the whole entry, but decided to wait, send a Christmas card, and see what happens.

When I got to a particular letter of the alphabet, I saw that one family had just about taken it over. When the family was young, all the kids' names were listed under the parents. Now, the kids have grown and started their own families, so the boys' names were entered separately. The girls had moved on to a page listed under their husband's name.

Maybe it's because I am a writer, but the experience of refreshing my address book became an instant topic for my column. The job turned into a soul-searching encounter with life. Births, deaths, life changes, and crisis all came into play as my eraser hovered above the names.

I finished the address book work long before we arrived back home in Florida. I realized that there weren't as many names written in there as there had been 16 years ago when I retired. Lots of folks have been erased.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.