My morning commute is one of the only times I can call her. I'm usually on the road by quarter to seven in the morning -- that's 8:45 pm Pacific, a relatively lively hour for her -- and none of my kids are around to do that thing kids are known to do as soon as Mommy gets on the phone, which is to appear out of nowhere with some sudden and exceedingly urgent concern in need of your immediate and total attention.
Grandma: So, what did you think of the speech?
Me: (Speech. Speech? What speech?... Oh, THAT speech.) Actually, Grandma, I had to miss the speech. I have to be at work for a 7:30 meeting. I'll catch it later, on the internet. (to self: Oops. That last comment was completely useless).
G: People are saying he sounded, well, very presidential.
Me: Yeah, that would make sense, under the circumstances.
* * * *
Later I was reminded of a question I'd been meaning to ask Grandma during our mutual visit in Southern California; namely, would she be interested in receiving a digital picture frame so she could receive updated pictures of the kids on a more regular basis. Only I had no idea how to phrase the question. I made a mental note of a couple of previous Grandma conversations my younger brother had recounted.
Grandma: Did you also get copies of those photos that your Mom sent of [ALN] and the kids?
Younger Bro: Yah, Grandma, she sent them directly to me by email.
G: So you already hung them on your fridge?
YB: No, Grandma, they're digital. They're still on my computer, I haven't gotten them printed, so I can't hang them.
Grandma: But I thought you just said she already sent them to you?
YB: No, Grandma, they're -- (Never mind). Yeah, I put them on my fridge.
* * * *
And that conversation doesn't begin to compete with this one, between Grandma, Younger Bro, and Sister-in-Law, while the latter two were showing Grandma some pictures on their laptop.
Younger Bro: So, Grandma, what do you think?
G: Yeah, that's nice. Uh, what did you say this was called?
YB: This is a photo browser. It allows you to view photos, edit them, add text, run a slide show, or publish to the web. (Grandma looks puzzled).
Sis-in-Law: (shaking her head at YB) Grandma, this is a computer.
G: (Face lights up) Oh... A computer.
Retrospectively, maybe the two of them should have borrowed my college roommate L's one-size-fits-all explanation of how these things work: Magic. Except that Engineer Bro and I grew up with Engineer Dad, who used to made us solve math problems by drawing on the napkins at the dinner table, and who's always insisted on understanding how things really work, by researching and preparing explanatory articles complete with illustrative diagrams. So while "magic" sounds good, we know better than to buy that one.
* * * *
I remember hearing a Lubavitch concept: "If you know aleph, teach aleph," (i.e. teach as much as you know, and don't worry about the rest for now). So here I was, driving the car, talking on the phone to the other side of the world (another nice piece of magic, wouldn't you say?), while my left- and right- brains were making a united attempt to translate into Grandma-ese an explanation of digital photography, the internet, and wi-fi technology, none of which (let's be honest) I really understand myself. But I tried anyway. I figure, at least she'll understand that I respect her enough to assume she might follow.
Our review of digital picture frames eventually came to a close with her concluding that it would be nice to have such a thing, but actually using it would be completely beyond her.
I'll look into it anyway. If it does work out and we end up buying her one, I only hope she won't try to hang it on her fridge.
Keep the balance,