My eyes filled with tears as I kissed my
family good-bye at the Sydney, Australia, airport.
Because the trip from America is so expensive, I knew I
wouldn't be returning to be with my son, my Australian
daughter-in-law or my precious grandchildren for at
least two more years.
Tracy, nine years old,
and Phillip, eleven, were born there. I'd seen
them only five times in their short lives - one month
every two years. I so wanted to be a good grandma
to them, like my grandma was to me. I wanted to
bake them homemade cookies, visit their schools, watch
Tracy's dance recitals and Phillip's bowling
tournaments. I wanted them to be able to come to
me when they were hurting and let me wipe their tears
and give them hugs. I wanted to be able to talk
with them every day - to listen to their laughter, to
know their dreams, to say "I love
Each time we
parted, my heart ached a little more. But on this
visit Tracy and Phillip had given me exciting hope for
the future. They had talked incessantly about
their new computer and how, if I bought one, we would be
able to communicate daily! "Remember, Granny,"
Tracy squealed as I waved good-bye, "get a
computer! And write to us!" "Every day!" Phillip
shouted. "We'll write to you, too."
And so it was
that I abandoned my outdated typewriter and made a
frightening leap into this fast-paced, high-tech era of
e-mail. Everything about my new computer scared
me. I was afraid to touch the keyboard for fear
I'd delete something important or do some sort of
damage. I even had trouble getting started with
the one-page, loose insert of quick tips:
Click on the
(Wait! I wanted to
scream. How do I
turn on the
the Start button, located on the
Programs with the mouse
(What part of this
silly-looking mouse thing is a
started questioning my sanity when he heard me talking
to my machine, aloud, on a regular
Invalid MAPI.DLL present. Cannot provide MAPI.DLL
(Did I ask to be
WARNING! This program has performed an illegal
operation and will be shut
(So shut down already. I
don't want to work with something illegal
WARNING! A printer time-out has
(What?! My printer is
taking a break? Who's in charge
My first few
weeks of learning were not fun. I spent full days
and nights reading tutorials. I bought Windows for
Dummies. I waited on hold for hours, the
phone glued to my ear, trying to connect to a live
helper on the "helpline." I harassed my friends
with annoying calls - at 7:00 a.m., at meal time, at
bedtime - pleading for a simple escape from some program
jam that had me trapped in limbo.
became my nemesis, and at the same time, the hero that
could link me to my family. It was definitely a
love/hate relationship. But no obstacle,
technological or otherwise, could deter me from the
possibility of hearing from my grandchildren every
I've missed out
on so much of their lives. But with electronic
mail, everything has changed. Now, one month and
dozens of messages later, I'm up-to-the-minute with news
from Tracy and Phillip!
Phillip tells Gramps and me about his role in the school
play. He regales us with his account of getting
caught in the rain on his bike. And he makes us
proud as he announces his test scores in
On my last visit
I taught him a goofy language called "Op." He
recently sent a complete e-mail message using our
"secret code" - no easy task. The best part was
OpI lopove yopou
sopoopoopoopo mopuch! Translation: I love
you soooo much!
Tracy turned ten last
week. We were in on the birthday plans from day
one - the porcelain doll she was hoping for, the
anticipation of a slumber party with three of her
friends and a Lion King cake.
On the night of
her sleepover we smiled at the computer message from her
dad complaining about the unbearable noise level.
We quickly responded to Tracy by saying, "We had to
close our windows because we could hear you and your
friends all the way across the ocean!"
immediately replied, "I just went in and read your
message to the girls. They started to apologize,
then realized it was a joke. The look on their
faces was priceless!"
Before long we
received a short note from Tracy. It was almost as
though we were right there enjoying her party in
The kids write to me
when they're happy. And they write when they are
hurting. They share some secrets they don't even
tell Mom and Dad, and they ask me questions that only a
grandma could answer.
I can't wipe
their tears or put my arms around them and hold them
close. But I can "listen" and show how much I care
with my empathy and advice. I can send them funny
jokes and precious poems. I can tell them how much
I love them - every day.
I still make lots
of mistakes on my computer, and my heart still jumps
when I get one of those obnoxious, threatening, WARNING!
alerts. The most recent one said I had committed a
"fatal error." Fatal! I nearly
threw in the mouse pad! But on the same day we
received a message from Tracy saying, "I love you guise
bigger than the entire world!"
For that I'll take any
abuse this whiz-bang wonder of chips and a motherboard
Just call me