Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Alter Bubbie and Zaidie and the Computer

That does mean older, right? Alter?

I'm talking to my mother last night, she's 82. She tells me that my father's upset because he's having trouble with the Internet. He's going on 89.

"I'll come over in the morning," I say. "I was going to come over anyway."

We make a date. Her schedule is worse than mine. She has the beauty parlor at 9, physical therapy at 12:30. Yesterday it was Canasta.

So in the morning I run into Best Buy to get a new router because Mom wants me to set her up with a separate computer. I envision the two of them online together, each with their own terminals, working katy corner. At some point my father says, 'Wouldn't you like some orange juice,' a hint that he wants some orange juice.

It seemed like such a nice thing, such an easy thing to do, and my old laptop isn't that bad. It works-- just a little slow, is all. Like all of us.

I drive up to their house about 10:am and Mom does, too, in her car. She's still driving and uses a hand break.

"Where were you shmaying this early in the day?" I ask. She looks marvelous, white slacks, make-up is perfect.

"I was at the beauty parlor! Can't you TELL?"

"Oh, right! Of course! You look great!"

"Sure," she murmurs, bending down to pick up the newspaper on the driveway. She moves slowly, but she moves.

"I'm thinking," I say, "that I should be taking a lot of video of you and Dad. You both look fabulous, and people in my generation are all kvetching about their aches and pains, and you would be a good example of how people just buck up, you know, still function and don't complain. Still smiling."

She's not sure what to make of this.

I find my father asleep on the sofa, the TV blasting. I nudge him and he opens his eyes, surprised. "Let's fix that computer of yours," I say.

He turns off the tube and we head to the bedroom, my brother's old bedroom, now a museum of old cords and boxes, disks, routers and other equipment. Printers he has in spades.

"I got rid of AOL now," he tells me, "and signed up for EarthLink. And now I got nuttin'"

"Did you install it?"

"Yes. But they want my password and I don't know what it is." He shows me a piece of paper with his hieroglyphics and I see where I got it from.

This is taking a long time. I'm working every algorithm, every combination of cables and routers, plugging and replugging, getting nowhere.

He's dropping off, clearly tired, but patient and hopeful we'll get somewhere. He's upset that he's so tired, however.

"I can't believe I got this way. I never thought I'd be this way, so tired all the time. So tired that it's work just to stand up." He struggles to his feet and shrugs.

I look him in the eye and say, "You had a good run, Dad. You made the most out of every day. You ran, ran, ran until a couple of months ago. Your whole life you ran. It's okay. So you don't have to run so much. You can behave like you're retired, now."

"I played gin the other day with some really good players. These are really sharp men, keen minds. Very smart guys. And I won."

"See? You're not so tired."

"I can't believe it's me," he says, and shuffles off, probably for some orange juice.

I continue to furtutzel around for another half our (didn't charge him) and still, no Internet. I'm getting nervous because I do have to get to work. I finally give in and call the cable company and they tell me, "Someone canceled your Internet, signed up with another provider."


That's what he meant when he chose EarthLink over AOL. Not just an email address. He changed providers.

I reinstall Earthlink, find that slip with the log on/password, and we're rolling. While we wait for EarthLink to configure the EarthLink router (nothing else will do, so Mom won't have a laptop after all), he points to a couple of framed photographs of himself on the wall.

In one of them he's solo, wearing a mustache. In the other he's next to my mother at their wedding, clean-shaven.

"Look at these two pictures," he says. "Am I younger in this one (the one with the mustache) or in this one (the one with my mother)?"

"You look older in this one (the one with the mustache)" I say with confidence.

"Wrong," He tells me. "I had the mustache in high school. I grew it to look older."

He thinks this is hysterical.

"I grew it back after we got married, but shaved it because your mother didn't like it. But then I grew it back. Do you know why?"

I have a memory that this is connected to my brother's death, something about shaving and bad luck.

"No, why?"

"Because I shaved. Then I walked into the kitchen and said to your mother, 'Do you notice anything different about me?' And she said, 'No.' So I grew it back."

He's still got it, of course.

Flying Wired


  1. My father likes the Internet but my mother wouldn't touch it with a bargepole.
    Shabbat Shalom to you and yours.

  2. Nice post. I'm proud of my parents, they should live and be well, for being online. This post resonnated (sp?) for me.


Cry, it's okay, bubbala. Tell me everything.