Posted by Ron on Sunday, January 10, 2010
Preface: I am a right/left brain thinker. I am not bragging. Everyone is right-left brained to some extent and many people are capable of turning on the side they need at will. In my case, both sides are prominent...neither side is dominant…and I can get both sides working in harmony simultaneously given the situation. Think of it as the ability to scream in panic while dialing 911, and then calmly describe the emergency. Think of it as being cerebrally ambidextrous. I have thought of myself as an impulsive conservative or even a logical anarchist. My friends tend to see it as a kind of mild schizophrenia…but then this isn’t about them, is it? By the end of this post I will have illustrated my bi-cranial hemispheric abilities (or abuses) and frankly this is only mildly relevant to the point I want to make. Along with the right and left brain stuff, I also believe that each of those hemispheres is divided in two parts as well; front and back and the back quarters work in unison all of the time. We have all said or heard “I’ll keep that in the back of my mind.” Or, “In the back of my mind, I thought…”. Well, the back of my mind is a junk drawer where I store denial! I have a plan, I think through all of the parts, and the obvious consequences of good intentions with less than optimal results are stored (sealed tight) in the back of my brain…the denial part. And now…the rest of the story… My mother will be 84 at the end of this month. She lives alone in her own home, and has for the past two years since my father passed away. She still drives [another story], has friends and activities to fill some of her time but she sometimes gets bored and doesn’t know what to do with herself. I talk with her between 2 and 20 times [still another story] every day. After giving it a great deal of thought I started talking with mom about computers, the internet and the world of information that is available to her at the click of a button…the drawer in the back of my mind squeaked open. I told mom I had a spare laptop and I thought it would be a good idea for her to get DSL hooked up to her house; I would give her the laptop and teach her how to use it, and the internet…there was a shuffling sound in the drawer…making room for new stuff. I spent the better part of 3 days getting the computer ready to give to her. Make it simple! I made everything bigger and easier to see. I put icons on her desktop so she wouldn’t have to search for anything, and I planned how I would teach her to use it based on her never having touched a computer…[more room in the drawer]. We started with the absolute basics. “Your power cord plugs into this hole, and here is the button that turns the computer on…now let’s do that again.” The concepts of files, folders, icons and programs are familiar to all of us, but in the context of seeing them in a digital world can be hard to grasp…and then there is the “mouse”. “Here is your mouse Mom.” “Why is it called a mouse?” “You can call it your clicker and you have 2 buttons to click. I will explain them.” Right and left brains are now in sync. I planned a lesson that would cover the basics, but knew that getting used to the “clicker” would be a hurdle. It takes understanding the concept, dexterity and patience. I opened the solitaire game and handed Mom the clicker. “put the curser (the arrow) on top of the card you want to move, hold down the left button and drag the card where you want it to be.” “I don’t like solitaire!” “That’s fine, but this is about getting used to the clicker. Go ahead, give it a try.” Now comes the fun part. For those of us who use a mouse daily it is second nature. For those who “call it a clicker” there is a different dynamic going on. I know that in getting used to a mouse some folks relate it to piano forte; the harder you press the key, the louder the note. Or if you apply enough pressure it will surrender to your wishes. I told mom, “You don’t need to cramp your wrist applying pressure to the button. You can’t choke it into submission. It will go where your hand tells it to go.” I took my mother’s wrist and lightly shook it to relax and said “Okay, let’s try again. You are doing fine, you just need to relax.” The drawer getting a little crowded. I had chores to tend to. Lamps to repair and other maintenance things to do so, I left Mom to play with the computer. In the distance I heard her turn it off and back on again. I heard the solitaire game start up again. This is all good! Before I left, I went through the startup and shutdown procedure with Mom and I left with a smile. By golly, she’s going to find something fun to learn and enjoy it! When we were kids and asked Mom a question, especially one she was not ready to address the answer choices were “Yes..No… or Ask your Father!” I told Mom that there would be times on the computer that she would press a button and the computer would pop up a question that asked “Are you sure…” When in doubt, the correct answer is NO, because there is no Ask You Father choice! About that denial drawer: When I first got the idea to give Mom a computer knowing that she had never touched one I still believed that she would get used to it, enjoy it and take advantage of the world of knowledge that was at her fingertips. She truly is a bright and intelligent person who reads 2-3 books a week and is always interested in learning. I also knew that I was opening a whole new can of worms [this is the denial part]. I already have not less than 3 conversations a day with Mom and it has peaked at more than 20. I live 15 minutes away from Mom. On the trip home from setting up the computer (in less than15 minutes) I got 3 (three) “Help Desk” calls from Mom. “How do you turn this thing off? Why won’t the clicker go where I want it to? I have this thing plugged into the same outlet as the microwave…is that going to be a problem” Those were just a few of the things I had locked in the denial drawer that came to fruition…and there will be more…I just know it. Even though I believe this is a good idea for my mother, I also know that in additional to the frequent daily communications I have with Mom otherwise, I will now become the 24/7 Help Desk for her learning curve with technology. I ignored that last part in coming up with this plan. The denial drawer is now full. In the end, if Mom embraces her new tool, and gets used to how it works, she will excel and find all kinds of new things to fill her time. It all good! She will however conquer the internet, get email, learn to use search engines and discover my blog and read this post. I WILL get heck for that, but it’s still a good idea because Mom will have found a new frontier to explore, and I will have cleared some space out of the denial drawer to store new stuff. I’m just saying.