“Mo-o-o-o-M! If you’d just listen, I can show you. But if you’re not willing to learn, then I’m taking off.” Jason Seiger wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to his mother. But his mother and computers just did NOT mix, and he was afraid that his own hair was going to go completely grey trying to teach her.
The grown, scattered kids had banded together and bought their mother a shiny new laptop computer for her birthday. With the family slowly spreading further and further apart all the while adding new grandkids to the brood, they all wanted her to come into the 21st century and get online.
Jason volunteered to teach her how to use it. The other siblings were relieved because he was closest and had infinite patience from his years of teaching. It’d be a good fit.
“Don’t get me wrong. My mom’s not afraid of anything. She was eager to learn. It was just that after years of broken telephones, answering machines that never made it out of the box, a VCR she refused to get rid of as ‘it’s perfectly fine! Why would I throw away a perfectly fine thing that works?’ the task seemed daunting.”
Their father was all for it. He was busy with his hobbies - golfing, poker and skeet shooting, he was often out of the house and wanted her to learn exposure to the world that the internet could open for her.
“So why don’t YOU teach her, Dad?”
The deep belly laughter resounded through the house. “I gave up trying to teach your mother anything years ago. If you want our marriage to survive, then YOU teach her.”
Jason got prepared. He bought some basic computer books and left them behind when he visited (only to find them in the exact same spot, unopened, when he returned). He began peppering his conversations with computer jargon. When he was on his way to start their first lesson, his father called on the cell phone and mentioned that she was having problems with her monitor, so be sure to check that out.
He was prepared to start at the very basic basics. How to turn on the computer, how to exit an application, how the mouse worked. Still, when they sat down together, it definitely took all his patience to explain again and again the same instructions and things that, looking at it from a perspective of a “newbie,” that didn’t seem to make sense once she was asking questions such as “Why do I have to click the -- to minimize a ‘window’ and why is it called a ‘window’ anyway - I can’t see through it to what’s behind it!?’”
She delighted in search though. This was surprising but also fun to watch her exclaim when they would search the members of their family and find things about them. “.053 seconds and 11 million results! How on earth is that possible? No one in this family is that important!”
Jason’s mother was diligently writing everything down so that she could. She was already up to 10 pages of neatly scripted pages when Jason realized that, two hours later, he hadn’t even explained email to her, let alone the video cam that he desperately wanted to set up so that “Gramma” could see the grandkids on the west coast.
“When teaching a generation that hasn’t been online much and has lived eighty years without being on a computer, the sheer audaciousness of explaining why the internet does what it does is daunting.”
Jason then installed an Instant Messenger account on the computer and was setting up an email account for his mother when his father returned from his outing. “What are you all doing here?” He leaned over and smiled.
“We got her going and then I called my brother in California and told him to get online so we could chat.” Jason’s parents both audibly gasped when the “beep” came up indicating there was a message from their eldest son.
“But why doesn’t he just call us on the phone?”
“Where does the message go - it is on our computer? Does the computer need to be on to get the message?”
“Why can’t we see him? If it says ‘typing’ why can’t we see what he’s typing?”
And so on.
Of course teaching a generation that hasn’t been online and has managed to lived almost eighty years without being on a computer, the sheer audaciousness of explaining why the internet does what it does is daunting.
Jason discovered that his patience wasn’t infinite. He wanted to end the session for the day but his mother was on a (slow) roll and wanted to keep going until she “got it.” She filled an entire note pad with notes on everything from how to underline words to responding to and forwarding emails.
“I created a monster! After I left that night, my mother became an email forwarding psychopath. She forwarded every joke, chain letter, movie, PDF and anything that had been debunked by Snopes since 1997 that came her way she had to forward to us. We needed an intervention!”
To prove it, while conducting this two hour interview, Jason received FIFTEEN emails from his mother. Forwarded jokes, video links, prayers and lots of “Maude” cartoons, the chain-smoking, boozy grandmother who gives snarky, sage advice with curlers in her hair.
Jason’s mother had indeed discovered the power of the internet. Today she is video-conferencing with the grandkids and a whole new world is open to her.
Jason literally laughed out loud at the story about one of our other featured story subjects, Mary Russell, who told us about HER son teaching her how to use a computer who kept instructing her to “hit ‘return’ (on the keyboard).” Searching the keyboard in frustration, she didn’t see anything that said ‘return.’ Exasperated, her son huffed, “When you used a TYPEWRITER you know that carriage return thing that you’d move manually to get to the next line? THAT’s the RETURN button!” Mary stared at the keyboard some more. “You mean Enter?” “Yes, I mean enter! If you can’t learn simple things then I’m not going to teach you!” Mary got a stern look in her take-no-nonsense expression and said very slowly, enunciating every word, “Listen, you little brat. I spent MONTHS teaching you how to use the potty. What I did, I can undo too.” Mary’s son taught her how to use the computer as well.
Jason is glad that he took the time to teach his mother how to use a computer. Despite her lack of 'netiquette' she is having a blast with the unlimited potential of things online.
During this interview, two more emails beeped in from Jason’s mother and then an invite to join his mother in a video chat. He laughingly rolled his eyes, then called in his kids with a sing-song “Kids! Come in here; Gramma’s on the computer!”
Next up? A camcorder so she can record her own life stories to preserve for all her grandchildren…
Thank you Jason, for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2009 by Kristen Kuhns and Story of My Life®