My mother, new ways to communicate, and me

Several million people will celebrate on my mother’s birthday — not because she will be turning 87, but because her birthday is January 20, inauguration day. I will be among those who will salute Barack Obama on his historical ascendancy. But I will also salute my mother.

She’s really a pretty feisty character. I can usually tell about what kind of day she is having by the amount of complaining she does about her computer.

About four years ago, I thought it would be good if she had a computer so she could e-mail her seven children and possibly others. (A few, although not many, of her contemporaries have computers.) I had recently purchased a new laptop, so I gave her my old one. Although it wasn’t fast, I thought it would be good enough for dial-up e-mail. So, I set her up with a free Juno account and taught her (long distance) how to use it.

Well, the fascination with e-mail turned into a fascination with the Internet. And mom became a surfer. She discovered sites she enjoyed looking at regularly, such as the newspaper in our old hometown. (She reads the obituaries every day.) She even learned how to Google. The old laptop was slow, but it gave her enjoyment — when it worked properly. When it failed to work right, she would call me to become her computer repairer. (Somehow I have always been able to fix her problems.)

Shortly after my father died, her computer died, too. I knew she was depressed when she declared that she wasn’t interested in the computer any more, so the computer’s death didn’t matter. I knew it did, though, and so we siblings chipped in and bought her a new laptop.

One day (her interest renewed but her frustration growing because the new laptop came with Vista), she told me she wanted to get high-speed Internet. So, I helped arrange for cable Internet access.

We’ve had some ups and downs with the access. When she moved, somehow her password got changed. She doesn’t always know the right questions to ask or the right statements to make to the help-desk people, but we have always managed to get the account straightened out.

Mom uses Webmail instead of an e-mail client on her laptop. As often as I have explained that her mail resides at the “post office” in cyberspace — not on her computer — she doesn’t quite understand.

Recently, I installed LogMeIn (a great “freebie” remote-access program, incidentally) on her computer so I can access it easily to run cleanup programs and tune it up. When I installed it, I also signed her into Windows instant messaging. I showed her the “little green man” in the toolbar and explained how to use IM.

The next day, while I was online, I saw her sign in (automatically, when she starts up the computer). I IM’d her. No response. I tried again. No response. Later that evening, I called her and asked her why she didn’t respond. She said she didn’t know what to do. I explained again.

The following day, I IM’d her — and she responded! Chalk one up for the grand old dame!

Today, I went offline for a while, since I was out of my office. Later, I called her and she said, “I click on that little man, but you weren’t there!” Chalk another one up!

I guess the moral to this story is that you can teach old dogs (or mothers!) new tricks. My daughter is even teaching me some. She (and my daughter-in-law and others in the family) recently signed up for Facebook. She suggested I do, too.

Well, I did. I’m an advocate of networking, and I have a growing number of contacts on LinkedIn. But I’m not too sure about Facebook … I don’t need it. What good is it? Why? Ooops … that’s my mother talking, not me! Who know, maybe I’ll get mom signed up, too.

Until next time,

Linda Segall
Segall Enterprises: Writing and Editing Solutions

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