My Technology Challenged Dad and A Tribute

I think I have emphasized in past blogs (for my long-time or regular readers) that my parents are stuck in a 70’s time warp. If you don’t believe me, check out their rotary phone!

For many reasons, this is a good thing as my father has not seemed to age much since this era and I am so lucky he is still vibrant and in good health. He just turned 84 years old, and he is a young 84 if there ever was one. He goes to work several times a week – he greets people and checks aisles for a supermarket.

This is a perfect job for the social man that is my dad. In life, he is still in a home where the neighborhood has changed and he doesn’t get to hang out with neighbors anymore, so work is his whole social life.

He loves conversing with the customers and his co-workers and looks forward to going in each day. (He is a character with a great sense of humor and is a sports fanatic too so he has loads of fans among the employees and regular customers)  It keeps him busy without exhausting him, it fulfills his need to be with people, and he gets some pocket change out of the deal. A win all the way around.

But when it comes to modernization, technology, and anything more current than 1977, it is lost on my dad.

He does not have a telephone answering machine, microwave, and certainly he doesn’t have a computer. He didn’t have a VCR or a DVD player either till I got him those things as he enjoys movies.

As a sports fanatic, he listens to all of his games that aren’t televised (he does not subscribe to Cable TV at all – no flat screen either) on an old-fashioned console radio, or on a transistor radio. He changes the batteries on that thing and it keeps on ticking.

Aside from sports, my dad is a music lover and loves all sorts of music, from the classical standards, to the forties and fifties hits to more current pop music. He is a big Beatles fan, and liked the Monkees too when I was wild about them.

As a gift, he received a portable CD player with headphones, so I started sending him CDs of all of his favorites. This was the first time he moved away from cassette tapes, and albums before that to listen to his favorite music on demand.

Since he doesn’t own a computer, he knows nothing of the radio stations on the Internet that play genres of music, nor does he know anything about YouTube.

It’s hard to believe someone could be such a fan of music and not be able to enjoy things like YouTube and music on demand.

I will never forget the time I visited him with my brand new iPhone. I had explained to him that it was my new cell phone (he does have an antique model of one of these for “safety” reasons – but no the voice-mail is not set up so when I say he has no answering machine, that includes the cell phone)

I also explained that it is a tiny computer that can look up answers in an encyclopedia, and I demonstrated that. Then I showed him my photo files – virtually every photo I own is stored on my phone and he was fascinated and amazed. I showed him the GPS feature, which we used to find a place we were driving to, and then I showed him the calendar and weather features. Again, utter delight and fascination with my gadget was his reaction over and over again.

I saved the best for last. I showed him the YouTube channel on my iPhone, one of my personal favorite features of the phone.

I challenged my dad to think of a performance on Ed Sullivan that he loved and he asked for Tony Bennett. I was able to pull up quite a few memorable moments from Tony’s various tv appearances in the 60’s. My dad watched the little tiny TV on my iPhone with awe – I could see how it took him back to a long ago time and place.

That moment of discovery  that I was able to share with him was something I was able to share with my kids many times in their growing up years, but it was just as special to watch my father’s sheer wonder and thrill at discovering YouTube on a little computer cell phone. He marveled at it as if it was a time machine, taking him to a different time and place.

Over and over again, he exclaimed, “This thing is AMAZING!”

On many occasions I offered to get my parents an answering machine, a touch tone phone, a microwave, and especially a computer – we live far away from each other – so we could video chat or internet chat or email each other. But my offers have been consistently turned down. My dad is fearful that he could actually learn to use something technology related.

I once took him to a local library so he could see my writing online. I had stopped sending him clippings of my work and wanted him to see how he could access it with a computer.

Though he was charmed by the instant access to my work on the library computer, he said he could never learn to use it.

Of course he is wrong about that. He is a lot smarter than he gives himself credit for, and his joy of music and sports and in my work, and keeping in touch with me and the grandkids, would only be enhanced if he would branch out a bit with an iPhone or computer.

He just turned 84 though, so he is pretty firmly set in his ways and I have learned not to argue about how he chooses to live his life. I have to remain content that he is alive, in good health, and is the same loving man with an intact memory.

[This part is directed to my dad] Dad, though I know you won’t see this till I travel into Philly next and show you on my personal phone or computer, here is a video from an old 60’s show I know you were a fan of – the Donna Reed Show and I am dedicating Paul Peterson’s song “My Dad” to you on your birthday. I know you will enjoy sharing this with me when we are next together. Till then, Happy Birthday!

As for the rest of you reading this, if that doesn’t make you cry, let me know!

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