“Slide right, enter password. Oh, that’s not right, just answer it. What? Where are you? What’s happening?”
“Mom, settle down. Will would like to ‘FaceTime’ with you.”
Will is 2 years old. His mom and dad were awaiting the birth of Will’s sister at any time. Our daughter was also due with her first child.
The night before this phone call, I woke to panicked thoughts of my being the only grandma in the world who didn’t know how to send or receive a text message. One family in Pittsburgh, the other in Plano, I accepted the inevitable.
A friend accompanied me to the Verizon store, where I went for the gold — a device with colorful jiggling icons, a camera, bells, whistles and even a genie. By signing on the dotted line, I gave the salesman the equivalent of my first mortgage payment and promised to repeat that for the next 24 months.
He recommended that I not read the enclosed pamphlet of directions — “Just play around with it for a while.”
I felt as if I held a bauble from the tomb of King Tut. It needed protection, from breakage and theft and me. It needed a case and screensaver. Play around with it?
Like Yoda training Luke Skywalker in the Dagobah system, my friend sat across from me at a local coffee shop, imparting her wisdom. I touched the camera icon, touched it again, and her face appeared on the screen. Seconds later, she had her photo attached to her e-mail and phone number, under my contacts list.
She practice-called me and, voila, her face appeared.
We spent an hour playing with my phone. She waved goodbye to me and walked off downtown to run an errand.
A half-hour later, she knocked on my car window. I had been trying to send her a text and nearly jumped out of my skin. Where had the time gone? Where was the send button? What am I doing parked here? The seduction had begun.
A rookie still at 8 that night, I set the crickets ringtone up for my son and piano riff for my daughter, both alarming enough to wake me from a dead sleep.
The ringtones were fun. I patted myself on the back and went to bed with the rectangle-of-joy on the nightstand.
A week later, my phone tucked snuggly in my purse, my husband and I flew to Texas. Both babies were due on Valentine’s Day. Pittsburgh was only a click and a finger skate away. I had “FaceTimed” with Will, a bit like Skype with the help of bifocals.
I was learning the new language of phones: data allowance, clouds and safaris. The learning curve had taken on a life of its own. My eyes and head hurt.
“We’ll work on it when you get here, Mom. Don’t worry about it.”
I was encouraged when I successfully texted, “We’ve landed” — this, after countless corrections of spastic thumb spelling. Are we on the moon yet?
I did not learn to swim by being thrown into a pool, but by years of once-a-week lessons at the YWCA.
I did, however, learn to text message multiple people, take a profusion of pictures, forward them embellished with a gaggle of hearts and happy-face icons, all within 30 minutes on Valentine’s Day 2013, when my first granddaughter was born.
A week later, I was on top of the texting when granddaughter No. 2 arrived in Pittsburgh. Photos sent back and forth, forwarded.
I complained to my son that I had 83 pictures of Evey on my camera roll and only two of Vivian. “Mom, be patient, she’s only 49 hours old. You’re in Dallas. You’ll be in Pittsburgh next month.”
My phone had become “the force, a light saber.” I carried it with me in Plano as if it had a beating heart. Crickets and piano riffs, better known as phone calls, became “tip-toes” and the pleasant notes of a text message arriving, or “Sherwood Forest” the announcement of an e-mail.
My neck hurt. I hadn’t taken a deep breath in days and my thumbs had become arthritic. A twinge of headache pulsed, like the one following final exams in college. I turned the phone off, put it in a dresser drawer and closed it.
“Hey, let’s take Evey outside for a walk.”
I felt the sun on my face and watched the clouds drift in the sky. Next month, we’ll do the same in Pittsburgh. Take a deep breath.
— By Ann Brugger, Tribune community columnist