She felt the sky had caved in. I felt like a moron.
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 30 years


A reprieve from a very hard lesson when my wife's priceless work was stolen

July 21, 2013

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, The Post-Standard

When Nancy and I returned from a long journey a few years ago, we found our house had been broken into. The burglar -- a drug addict, as we discovered later -- had stolen Nancy's computer, keyboard, speakers, mouse and external hard drive. Her backup drive.

We didn't get any of Nancy's things back. The burglar was caught, but everything was gone.

It was a huge loss for Nancy. Her computer held many years of work on a book she was writing. She felt the sky had caved in.

I felt like a moron. I had dutifully backed up everything she did, all she wrote, every item she had collected from all her research. The backup drive was handy, easy to get to -- right next to her computer.

Right next to the thief's left hand as he stood over her desk.

I thought about that a lot. I stood where he had left his fingerprints, imagining how his gaze would have fallen on the shiny hard drive, realizing how careless I had been. I had left the backup drive in plain sight.

It was a hard lesson. I'm easing my embarrassment by sharing this with you.

Obviously, a backup, no matter how thorough, is no good at all if you don't have it when you need it. I used to write every few years about the need to back up important files on your computer. I might even have written a couple of times in the last 30 years about storing backups away from the computer. But obviously I didn't take my own advice.

The thief who climbs through your window or jimmies your door is not the only danger. The firefighters who see smoke aren't going to ask where your backups are stored. The cat who jumps up on your desk isn't going to ask you if it's OK to knock the backup drive onto the floor.

Nancy hasn't talked much about her disaster. We both forgave the thief and asked the judge for leniency. All I could do is hope that somehow, before the robbery, I had copied that backup drive's contents to a blank disk and stashed it away. I had no memory of doing that, but -- well, you never know.

Over a long weekend, I rounded up every CD, DVD and Blu-ray disk I had ever written anything to, more than a thousand, on shelves, in boxes and behind old books in the corner. I found nothing relating to Nancy's book.

So I gave up. I didn't want to tell Nancy. I said something like "maybe all that stuff will turn up some day." If anyone ever tells you that, laugh a little, then cry. You'll probably never see your stuff again.

Then one morning last week after taking out the trash, I found an unmarked DVD in the garage, behind some boxes. I brought it in. Maybe, I thought, it had some of my old newspaper columns. Or maybe some of the music I recorded when I was convalescing from cancer surgery.

I slipped it into my DVD drive. The disk spun for a long time. Sometimes that means it's unreadable. I was about to eject the disk and toss it out when a window opened on my screen. The label said "Nancy's book, complete backup."

I had to look at it three times before I was able to believe my eyes. I started thinking, God's in His heaven, all's right with the world. My mom used to say that.

I made a copy of the folder. I made two copies, in fact. Once bitten, twice shy. My mom said that, too. And maybe she even said I should run upstairs and hug my wife and give her some good news now and then. Because that's exactly what I was about to do. It was turning out to be a great day.