By Sylvia G. Hubilla
California — The little boy picks himself up on unsteady feet and makes a few unsure steps … before he falls again. My eyes light up with joy and I break into a smile as I look at my youngest grandson, Nicco, take his first steps.
“OMG! (read Oh my God!) He’s walking!” I type on the message box on my Yahoo Messenger, while looking at the small video on one corner of a computer as I chat with my daughter in California from an internet café in Manila. This is the highlight of my week, when I go to an internet café and specify to the technician, “with a webcam.” I then invite my three daughters – one in California, another in Arizona, and one in Texas – to a conference where they have set up their webcams and speakers on the other end and we all see and talk to each other as if we were all together! I am there on highlights like my grandson taking his first steps. Or see my oldest grandson, Xavi in his Halloween mask and try to look scared when he says “Look at this, Meh (this is how my grandchildren call me, short for Mommy) as he makes blood drip from his mask. I am there on birthdays and join in the birthday song and watch them blow their candles on the cake. I am there on Christmas and see them opening presents from grandma. And get such a warm feeling when they say, “Thanks Meh. We love you.”
The wonder of technology – takes globalization to a new level and creeps into the living room where the family bonds and nurtures – thousands of miles apart.
I used to think my life as a grandmother would pretty much be like my mother’s. Sundays the married children bring the grandchildren to visit. Or I could visit my grandchildren anytime. But by 1994, when all my three daughters were all out of the country, I found myself face to face with the reality of the empty nest syndrome.
It was on one visit of one of my daughters when I was introduced to text messaging. It took a while for my right hand to learn to operate my cellphone with just my thumb. I used to hold the phone with my left hand and type with my right. It took me forever to reply to messages from my daughters, they ended up calling me to ask, “Why aren’t you replying, Meh?” And I of course said I am, but it just takes me so long to type a message. Finally, I got the hang of it – before my long distance calls to my daughters almost sent me to the poorhouse.
Before my eldest daughter moved to Europe, she enrolled me in a basic computer class before I could say no. So I learned Word and Excel, and most enjoyable of all, the world of electronic mail!
I have expanded my vocabulary to include lol (laugh out loud), brb (be right back), idk (I don’t know), fyi (for your information), omg (oh my God), isnf (it’s so not fair) among others.
Not only can we “chat” on the internet using the keypad, there is the wonder of voice mail! I receive my daughters’ voice messages even when I am not logged on, and check it at a later time – much like an answering machine on the phone. We can do the same thing on our cellphones.
When I first joined the grandma club at age 54, I got and printed out the first photo of my first grandchild, Xavi, from my daughter’s email, all the way from the Hague in the Netherlands. I marveled at this technology! And I felt so empowered to be part of it.
On one trip to California to be with my second daughter, for the birth of her first baby, my son-in-law gifted me with my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot A60. Not only could I take still shots, I could take video shots with sound! Oh I had a field day recording almost every move my new granddaughter made. Then I could immediately view the photos from the camera itself, or from the television screen using a royal cord. Best of all, I learned how to download the pictures from the camera’s memory card and save them into the computer using a USB attachment or a card reader. So I can view these photos over and over again when I am back in the Philippines.
Now, 61 and a grandma five times over, I needed more and more time on the internet. And the time difference in our locations made internet café conferences difficult, if not next to impossible. So I subscribed to my own DSL connection. Now I can listen to and watch four-year-old Gianina sing to me a song from High School Musical, have a real conversation with six-year-old Maite, and listen to three-year-old Rocco sing me “Happy Birthday” on my birthday – no matter how late, in the privacy of my living room.
My phone bill? Oh, I have learned to call my daughters for free from my computer, using (get ready for this) VOIP, or voice over internet protocol. I love using big sounding technical words! And although I still miss the warm, little hugs and wet kisses from my five grandchildren, the seemingly cold world of complicated technology has brought back the warmth of family in my empty nest.
Oh btw (by the way), this grandma makeover story doesn’t end here. I am now finally with my daughters and grandchildren in the U.S.A. as of March, this year. But since they are spread out across three states, I still use the internet to keep in touch with all of them, and with family back in the Philippines. (Women’s Feature Service)