Bonding with grandkids over technologyAug 31, 2020 01:58PM ● By Adam Cochran
Reflections from the family tech guy
Recently, I saw a Facebook meme featuring a close-up picture of a scared chihuahua. The dog had an overlay of a chaotic war scene—as if having a traumatic flashback—with the caption, “When you’re the tech guy in the family and you overhear someone say Grandma got a new phone.”
At first, I laughed. But it was the kind of laugh that comes from empathy and, possibly, when you mean to cry but a laugh comes out instead.
While I’m grateful for how often I get to help my friends and family, I regret that I allowed my resentment of my skills to miss out on getting closer to my grandpa before he died.
Grandpa Charles was fascinated by gadgets and had an engineer’s mindset for solving problems. Before WiFi, he had every room of his house—including the bathroom—wired with a TV and a phone. Because of his inherent need to tinker and his love for experimenting with tools and materials, I was terrified of the day he’d buy a computer.
My fear was both arrogant and completely unfounded. When he wanted to get a computer to start cataloging his 80,000 or so photos since he served in World War II, I agreed to help set him up on one condition: I didn’t want to be his 24/7 tech guy.
Today, the dreadful scenario I had of him calling me to come over and walk him through a problem is something I fantasize about. What would Grandpa Charles have thought of smartphones? I’d give almost anything to spend a day explaining how to post old videos on YouTube or connect with extended generations of his eight sisters via Facebook.
Grandpa left us with boxes of pictures and hours of videos in which he narrated a slideshow (literally a video recording of his slide projector screen) of his entire life. He could’ve done a lot more with my help. But I’m so grateful that he taught himself how to do so much on his own.
This reflection triggered by a silly meme prompts me to offer advice for both grandparents who struggle with technology and family members who grow weary from offering help.
Grandparents: Don’t stop asking for help with your technology. Don’t worry that you are being a bother and don’t stop trying to learn more because your family computer guy has a bad attitude.
Family computer guy/gal: Don’t feel obligated to drop everything to help, but keep in mind that your help won’t always be needed. We all wish we could have one more moment with a loved one who’s passed.
It’s strange how the moments you wish you could spend together aren’t necessarily road trips or sporting events. If I had a day with my grandpa, I’d show him how to use his computer to track airplanes flying into the airport, how to use an iPhone to measure a shelf or text his daughter and grandkids who live out of state.
I’d probably be doing it via Zoom due to COVID-19. But I’d gladly accept that limitation.