Sunday, October 28, 2012
Letters to Mom
My mom no longer uses e-mail, no longer can use her computer at all. She's 93, and her fingers are no longer as limber as typing requires, and she also tends to forget what she needs to do to turn on her laptop, to access an e-mail program, to compose and send. It's been over a year now. My brothers and I have tried several times to get her up and running again, but it just frustrates her. So we've given up.
Mom was very proud of her computer savvy and was constantly updating her machines, her software, her skills. She was a very early user of Quicken--did all their finances on her computer. She continued doing this well into her eighties. Then, of course, the inevitable ... I bought her last laptop for her two years ago, but the changes in Windows and in other features of her programs frustrated her deeply. She found she could not always figure out what to do. And she was so proud that she would never ask anyone but my brothers and me for help. Sometimes she would call and ask me something; sometimes I could help, but other times I just could not "see" her problem--see her screen--and both of us would hang up, frustrated.
She would never ask help from someone at the stages-of-care place where she lives. No way. She would rather sit there for two weeks, computer-less, than call the front desk and make a sort of public declaration that she was stymied. Such pride. Such touching pride.
So now we've been forced by circumstance to step back a couple of technological generations. My mom lives in Lenox, Mass., and my two brothers are just a couple of hours away, so they get out to see her every week or so. But we are about 560 miles away--about a 10-hour drive, each way--so we don't get there as often as we'd like. Not even a half-dozen times a year.
So what do we do? We use the telephone. I call her 2-3 times a week, usually right after dinner while she's watching the news. We chat about the news, about silly memories, about the weather. We both laugh.
I write to her every Sunday and Thursday. Newsy, frivolous letters--often with photos I've pasted in--about what we've been up to (which is not ever all that much). I remind her of tales from my childhood; I write about my dad (who died in 1999 and whom I miss--fiercely); I write about her two great-grandsons, 3 and 7; I write about books I'm reading. But when we call, she sometimes says she hasn't heard from me in so long ....
Mom can't write back, though she tries sometimes. Her notes will arrive much delayed because of inaccuracies on the address. And as her fingers have begun to betray her, her handwriting has become barely legible. We got a thank-you for something we'd sent for her 73rd wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago, and for the life of me I could not read most of it. But it didn't matter: I wept anyway.