Jewish World Review July 13, 2011 / 11 Tammuz, 5771
An iChat with my grandson
By Sharon Randall
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It's one of those things -- there are lots of them these days -- that make me wonder: What on Earth would my grandmothers have to say about this?
Yesterday, thanks to Natalie, my wonderful daughter-in-law's wonderful sister, we set up on my computer something called iChat, a wondrous bit of e-magic that lets me "video conference" with anyone I choose -- namely, my 10-month-old grandson.
It wasn't easy to set up, but it was so worth it. It didn't help, of course, that I had messed it up royally trying to do it myself without asking for help. Some people get less stubborn with age; most of us just get older.
Natalie, bless her, "talked" me through it over the phone.
"OK," she said finally, "click on the little green icon."
I held my breath and clicked.
Suddenly there was Randy in all his red-haired glory, staring at his parents' computer, wondering how and why his nana had climbed inside that little box.
When I shrieked, he blinked really fast the way he does when he splashes himself in the tub.
"You can hang up the phone now," Natalie said. "We hear you through the computer."
So I hung up, but couldn't hear a thing. "Can you hear me?"
My daughter-in-law nodded.
"But I can't hear you!" I said.
She smiled and raised a finger to say wait. Seconds later, my son held up a handwritten note that read: "Turn up the volume on your computer."
I turned it up and heard their laughter and saw their sweet faces crowded together shining at me from a computer, of all things. And I shined, too.
When I was 4 years old, my mother remarried against my advice, and took me from my grandmother's house, the only home I knew, to live 10 miles away with her new husband.
Ten miles may not seem like much to you. But to a 4-year-old on a tricycle, it's forever.
"Here," said my grandmother, slipping me a scrap of paper, "learn this by heart."
So I memorized her phone number and called her every day. Sometimes twice. It wasn't the same as being together, but it was the best we could do. And somehow, it was enough.
That was my mother's mother. My dad's mother lived in the mountains far away -- 30 miles as the crow flies, said my dad.
I went to visit her every time my mother allowed it, weekends and summer vacations. I was 10 when she got her first telephone -- a "party line" shared with a few neighbors. You'd be amazed at what you can learn about people sharing a party line.
I also learned her number by heart, and called her every day until the phone bill arrived and my mother explained in terms I would not soon forget the meaning of "long distance."
When I grew up and moved 3,000 miles away, I took my grandmothers' numbers with me. I didn't call often -- not as often as I should -- but I never forgot them. You don't forget things you learn by heart.
I remember the sound of their voices, how happy they always were to hear from me. It wasn't the same as being together, but it was the best we could do. And somehow it was enough.
I can't imagine their reactions to an iChat -- if they could have seen my children's faces and watched their eyes light up in recognition when they called.
Tonight, from 500 miles away, I watched my grandson smile at me from a computer and take a few first steps on his own.
I wish you could've seen him.
I wonder. Years from now, how will he stay connected to his grandchildren? As my grandmothers used to say, it's worth waking up each day just to see what will happen next.
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