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Family, Food for thought

Teaching Mom to phone home

Most of us are so tied up in technology that we don’t stop to consider that the whole world isn’t clicking and swiping all day long. Some people — my parents among them — still manage to live unplugged save for a standard-issue cell phone.

We decided to change that recently. For a little while as our plan unfolded I was starting to think we might owe them an apology.

Last week we passed along Basil’s old Samsung smart phone, upgrading Mom and Dad from a basic cell phone (the kind with an extra big keypad) and opening a door for them on the digital age.

Unfortunately, we weren’t bright enough to erase all vestiges of Basil’s usage first.

Samsung Android phone

Samsung Android phone (Photo credit: Danny McL)

Basil had given Mom – the chief cell phone user of the two of them — a brief tutorial when we visited recently, and mailed the user’s manual along with the phone. My mother is smart, we assured ourselves; she’ll get this.

I encouraged her to spend some time playing around with the phone when it arrived, thinking that would be the best way to find her way around its features.

We didn’t think about how all the bells and whistles would appear to the uninitiated, however. Mom only knows the Internet via TV and what little she sees us do with our various gadgets when we visit.

So you can imagine the confusion we caused.

Here’s a snippet of the call I received at 6 pm Friday:

“… All of Bill’s contacts are in here. It must be every person he’s ever spoken to. Every place he’s ever gone to. Am I in his personal messages?”

No, I assured her, apologizing for the confusion and promising we’d delete the contacts.

Then she wanted to know what the blue box with the white “f” was on the home screen and why a stream of messages kept popping up.

Uh, oh. The Internet was still connected to Basil’s Facebook.

“It keeps asking what’s on my mind,” she said.

I explained it was just Facebook, which we would also disconnect.

“For awhile, I thought the messages were telling me how to use the phone,” she said.

I had to smile a little — I’ll bet a lot of people think Facebook status updates are telling them what to do.

Mostly, though, she was worried she had encountered Basil’s personal messages. I assured her any one of his friends could read what she was seeing now.

“I saw something by you come by — I think it was your blog. I tried to tap on it, but it didn’t work.”

Our conversation continued in this vein for an hour — until we had nailed down turning the phone on and off, making and receiving calls. It was good progress.

I couldn’t remember how text-messaging worked on that phone, and neither could Catherine. I promised to get back to her after I talked to Basil, but I needn’t have bothered. By the next day, she had figured it out and was sending me notes.

Yesterday, however, I tried to call and she couldn’t remember how to answer. “Slide the green phone icon,” I texted her, but a neighbor was visiting and showed her how.

Tonight, she sent me an unfinished text followed by a note of apology: “I touched the paper clip and couldn’t figure out how to make it go away, except by sending.”

I explained the paper clip was to attach things and asked if she was having fun.

“YES,” she replied, reporting she had gone online for the first time today — to look up stink bugs because there was one on their deck.

I’m trying — really hard — to not be disappointed that she didn’t go to Pushing on a Rope.

About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.


6 thoughts on “Teaching Mom to phone home

  1. Parents seem to be alike. My mom has trouble working the computer/e-mail at first and still has issues every now and then. But overall…..she got upto speed. I tell her, “what would you do if you were not retired and had to work all day with the computer system” She says thank God I’m retired.

    Posted by Mike Colaluca | October 17, 2012, 12:06 pm
  2. Too funny. Sounds like my parents getting their iphone this summer. The kids got lots of calls asking how to do different things. “Siri” doesn’t seem to understand my father’s voice so we get some interesting text messages. They have gotten better after many grandchildren lessons and free iphone classes at the store.

    Posted by Jacquie | October 15, 2012, 9:48 pm
  3. She will get to the blog! Honest.

    We taught Bill’s parents to use their computer. Mom thought it would be a waste of time; now she and her octogenarian friends email each other around the world. I taught her to Google. Now she Googles a lot of things. The one thing we can’t get them to do is video chat. We thought they’d like to see Iris and Carter — and they would — in person. Oh well.

    Old dogs can learn new tricks. We figured Pop would learn. He flew a 747 for years; a phone should be a piece of cake. But Mom was a little more of a challenge to convince that it is a useful tool.

    Posted by Karen Waggoner | October 15, 2012, 9:11 pm

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