2019 update: My mom lost her decades-long battle with COPD in May of this year. I found good homes for her new Macbook, her iPad and some of the new hobbies she had taken up in her 80s. I kept her iPhone 8 with the wallpaper set to celebrate her beloved Cleveland Indians, and the framed printed version of this blog post that she proudly displayed in her living room. I’m glad I didn’t wait until she was gone to write it, or this one, The World I Want to Live In.
“I need a new Skype headset, do you know if they take PayPal?”
That was a text I received from my then 72-year old Mom a couple of years ago.
From her iPhone 3G.
Before she upgraded to the 4S, 5S or her current 6S.
She also had a Twitter handle and a Kindle before I did.
The ‘Figure it out’ Gene
It’s not that she’s necessarily tech savvy. I sent her my old wireless router so she could have finally have WiFi at home after she bought her first iPad. She had no idea how to insert it between her cable modem and her Dell desktop at the time, so she placed a call into her personal help desk (me), while I was walking through O’Hare airport. After a confusing round robin of misunderstood explanations on both ends, I finally said (lovingly, of course) “You will have a time to speak, but this is not that time” and then I dictated a diagram for her to sketch out for herself. It was kind of like trying to play Draw Something through Siri.
We still laugh about that, but she figured it out, she is naturally curious. She once described herself as having the ‘figure it out’ gene, and I quickly realized that was a trait present in most of my favorite people. Neither of us is very patient with helpless types.
“At work they ask me how I know how to fix copy machines” she once told me. “I just open the cover and look for things that look like they’re broken or disconnected. How hard is that?”
Sadly, it’s apparently too hard for too many.
A Ph.D in Common Sense
Mom doesn’t have a ton of formal education, but she is a voracious reader of nearly anything that she can get her hands on (on paper or in pixels), and I always say she has a Ph.D in Common Sense. She grew up working with my small business-owner grandfather, and I’ve heard her give advice on marketing and management to the successful entrepreneur who has entrusted her for the past 30+ years.
And believe me, you don’t want to come up against her on Words with Friends. She holds about a .700 record against me, mainly due to her maddening penchant for tucking multiple words into random gaps (usually with Triple Word Scores) and leaving me nothing to work with.
It’s not that she doesn’t appreciate formal education. She dropped out of high school, but she grew up in a very different era in a blue collar family that worked early and often. But she made sure that I was the first person in the family to go to college. “When you go to college…” I always remember saying to me when I was young. Never “If you go”.
She instilled in me my love of reading, learning and traveling (often to her chagrin, she worries, you know), and she encouraged me to explore, take risks and be an early adopter. I wouldn’t be who I am without her.
Happy Mothers Day, Mom.