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Grandma and the Horror of the iPad

Grandma has lived alone for the last seven years, without a computer or smart phone. She doesn’t e-mail, and she sure as hell doesn’t text. She gets the newspaper, in print, delivered to her door every day, and reads it front to back, as she sips her decaf, teacup after teacup. She even reads the TV listings in print, circling certain programs she’d like to watch, because, although she could easily read the TV listings on her TV screen, she has been reading the TV listings this way for more than 50 years. And if a particular article strikes her as something that a particular somebody (like her grandson) might appreciate, she will neatly cut out the article, place it in an envelope, and drive it to the post-office her damn self.

Inevitably, she and my mother have had the following conversation, repeatedly, over the past few years:

Mom: “Hey, mom. How about we get you an iPad? Would you like that?”

Grandma: “No, no. That’s all right. I’m too old, and it would take too long to learn. What the hell would I use it for, anyway?”

Mom: “E-mail. You could look at pictures, read articles, watch videos…”

Grandma: “No, no. I’m too old. I’d rather…”

Mom: “Rather what, Mom?”

Grandma: “Rather… anything.”

But this year, for the high holidays, Grandma finally got an iPad. She accepted the gift as one would accept defeat.

Grandma: “Thank you… I guess now I’ll just have to find somebody who can teach me how to use it.”

Me: “I can teach you.”

And I did. I showed her how to turn it on, open the Internet, read the news online, and search for things on Google. She already had an e-mail account, from when she last owned a computer, seven years ago, and I showed her how to use that. That’s all you really need to know, I told her.

When I visited her again, a month later, the iPad had not been touched. It was making her go crazy, she said. It was making her feel old and stupid, "like a ditz." No, she had not tried to figure it out. She had just left it there, out. Like a college kid leaves his dirty dishes out, loathing them.

And this concerns me, for selfish reasons. Will I be like this, when I am 88, rejecting the latest technologies, for what… fear of failure? Pride in my own 50-year-old habits? Will I be the old guy refusing to get contact lenses that double as computer screens?

Me: “Don’t worry, Grandma. If you don’t want to use it, you don’t have to. No pressure. But it’s there, if you get curious. Another door you can open, if you like.”

For me, seeing how the world ends up 50 years from now, and experiencing that world to its fullest, has long been my greatest motivation for staying alive. But maybe, I think now, I’ve got it all backwards.

Grandma: “Okay. Whatever you say.”

Maybe it’s my own habits that I’ve got to impose more fully on the world.




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