For years, my mother has lamented that she does not hear often enough from her children and grandchildren. “I call and leave messages at your office, but I never get anybody,” she’d say.
I usually had one response: “Mom, it’s time you got a computer. If you sent us email, you would hear back from us immediately!” She said she was “too old to learn something new and complicated” like a computer, but I kept assuring her that lots of people in their 70s, 80s and 90s were internet-adept.
Then one day, she called to say she had just returned from a meeting of the condo association and that everyone in the building, including her, now had broadband. “What does that mean?” she asked. “It means it’s time we bought you a computer,” I said.
So I purchased a new, fast, inexpensive computer and she was suddenly typing again after a 50-year break from the keyboard. And it did bring us closer together, but not in the email-exchanging way I had envisioned. What mom needed more than anything was a tutor and I became one of several relatives who have spent time with her in front of cyberspace.
She’s been frustrated all these years when TV news or the paper referred to web sites for more information. So, in a few minutes, I had her clicking through on the New York Times, yahoo and other sites of interest. She most enjoys researching an ancestor who once served as a congressman and a colonel in the Civil War.
She will call me a couple times a week, getting computer tips. Often, if I have meetings in Buckhead, I will stop in and help her when she is stumped. One day she called and said she couldn’t get anything to download. I dropped by, looked at her attempt and noticed she only had two “w’s” rather than the required three in the internet address. We had a good long laugh about that.
Several times a week, her children and grandchildren might receive an email from her asking about family or giving advice. Frequently, an email will arrive on my screen, urging me to get a flu shot or go more frequently to church. One, entitled “Renew,” suggested I “take a minute to get back your dependence on God. He is such a comfort, and wants to direct you. I’m afraid you have gotten in the same phase I am: too much world, and newspaper and TV. It clouds my mind!”
My mother turns 85 years old this month. She is a wonder of energy. All her offspring wish we had her zest for life and ability to focus on people most important to us. Since my dad died seven years ago, she has been more active than ever, driving to the beach, the mountains and all over town.
Her definition of family is large, including nieces, distant relatives, neighbors and ex-in-laws. Several times in the past few years, she has been thoughtful enough to send a little money to my ex-wife in Charlotte “just to help with back-to-school.” Recently, I drove Mom up for my daughter’s graduation. Mom held court at dinner the night before and at the ice cream store after the ceremony. She asked questions of my children’s step-dad and his kids and helped ease some awkwardness. Afterwards, my ex mentioned several times “how great it was to see your mother.”
As my children reach college-age, I’ve begun to think how much I look forward to being a grandfather. I never knew any of my grandfathers; they died years before I was born. But I did know Mom’s mom and her grandmother, who lived to be a month or two short of her 100th birthday. I believe Mom will live beyond the century mark and will be there to serve as my role model. I am humbled by her awesome example. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.