Wonders of Technology

My mom’s family holds a family reunion every year on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Mom was disappointed that I couldn’t take her this year, having neither the vacation time nor the funds after my surgery. So I invited her to spend the day with me and asked my aunt to call us when they were all gathered together.

Mom and I had a nice day. We went to church, then she came to my apartment (the second time this month that she’s climbed the eight stairs into my building – yay for exercise) and we ate a stew I’d prepared for lunch, and then we played Scrabble. Mom won two out of three games, which makes me happy.

But the highlight of the day, for both of us, was the fifteen minutes we were able to join the family reunion via Skype video chat. It was Mom’s first experience with such a thing, and as we sat side-by-side on the couch looking at a blank computer screen on the ottoman in front of us, she kept saying “What are we doing here?” There were a couple of technical glitches, but then we were looking at my aunt and cousin smiling and waving at us, and Mom was grinning like a kid in a candy store. There were some 30 relatives in my cousin’s backyard and the adults all took turns gathering around to say hello. It must have been difficult for them to hear our voices coming out of the tiny tablet speaker with all that hubbub around them, but Mom just leaned closer to my laptop and shouted at the screen. It reminded me of people shouting into the mouth piece of those antique telephones in old movies. Mom can remember when those were a new invention, when only a couple families in town had a telephone and you had to use a party line. She was delighted with the video call technology and kept repeating “This is a new experience for me!”

One of the traditions of the family reunions is singing around a campfire. They hadn’t gotten to the singing yet, so my aunt and three or four of my cousins gathered round in front of the screen and warmed up their voices with that old children’s song Paw-Paw Patch. “Where oh where oh where is Dorothy? Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.” Mom sang along happily and we all laughed. And then they sang Happy Birthday to her, an early wish for her 87th birthday coming up in a couple weeks.

Driving home, she told me, eyes shining, “This was a wonderful day! Being able to see everyone like that, it was almost as good as being there.”

Why didn’t I think of this sooner? Such a simple thing, this miracle of technology, and it brought her so much joy.

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