Tag Archives: grandpa

Old People and Technology Don’t Mix

As most of you know, we’re spending a lot of time at my parents’ house as we get the condo situation straightened out and look for a new place to live. They’ve been absolutely fantastic taking us in, putting up with us and watching Will more times than I can count. We’d truly be lost without them.

So naturally I’m going to ridicule and humiliate them here.

My parents have been together FOREVER. They’ve known each other since the 6th grade, they’ve been dating since their junior year of high school and married for almost 35 years. I can’t be sure, but I think they ran out of things to talk about after the first 12 days or so. And since then, they’ve filled their downtime with an endless amount of bickering. I’m not kidding. Anyone who knows my parents knows they go at each other like—well, like an old married couple. It’s not (usually) nasty or mean-spirited or anything like that. They love each other. They just have a funny way of showing it sometimes.

And one of the arguments that seems to pop up is over technology.

My dad has an iPhone 4S. Probably because my brother has an iPhone 4S. The two of them are in an eternal technological competition, always trying to one-up each other. My dad gets a 50-inch TV and my brother gets a 52-inch TV. Then my dad spends the next few months trying to convince my mom to get a new TV—and TV that’s bigger than Nate’s. To my dad’s credit, he does know how to use his phone for the most part.

But that’s in stark contrast to my mom. She doesn’t care about the difference between regular def and HD on TVs. Her cell phone is a Droid Incredible and she has absolutely no clue how to use it beyond the phone and texting. Seriously. She’s had the phone for two years, and last month she asked me what the funny little icons were at the top of the screen. She had no freaking clue there was a drop down menu and had never updated any of her apps, checked missed calls, etc. Which is mind-blowing to me.

But despite her technological shortcomings, my mom has no shortage of opinions regarding the matter.

The first thing you need to know is my mom hates Siri. If you’re not aware, Siri is like a virtual personal assistant on the new iPhone. You just ask her a question and she’ll find your answer. Even though I’m not an Apple fan, it is pretty amazing technology. But my mom DESPISES her. Which isn’t totally surprising considering my mom tends to dislike and mistrust any robotic persona that attempts to tell her what to do.

Case in point, a few years ago my mom got a Tom-Tom. But instead of using the GPS as it’s supposed to be used, she would quarrel with it and try to trick it. If Tom-Tom told her to go one way, she’d automatically take a different route just out of spite. Which, ya know, kind of defeats the purpose of a GPS. And that was just with directions, so you can imagine the angst she feels towards the all-knowing Siri. To make matters worse, my father’s sole purpose in life seems to be crawling under my mom’s skin and pissing her off every chance he gets. Which means he’s constantly using Siri in her presence.

Which takes us to last Tuesday night.

Mom yelled at dad for using Siri. Again. Dad then told mom he uses Siri because it allows him to skip a step and do things like text faster. My mother (who just an hour earlier learned about the “missed call” notification icon on her own phone) took issue with this and basically told my dad he was full of shit. She claimed she could use the voice activation on her phone to text me something faster than my dad and Siri could. Whoever sent me a text that said “I’m home” first would win.

I sat on the couch in disturbed silence as these two elderly smartphone gunslingers prepared for a not-so-epic duel of inept proportions. After a 3-2-1 countdown they were off. I took mental notes and it went something like this:

Dad: “Siri, send a text message to Aaron—”

Mom: (speaking into her Droid) ”I’m home.”

Siri: “I’m sorry, I did not hear what you said. Who would you like to send this to?”

Dad: “Cynthia, you can’t talk while I’m talking. She can’t hear what I’m saying.”

Mom: “Done! It’s sent. Told you.”

Me: “Mom, I don’t have a text from you.”

Dad: “Siri, text Aaron and say—’”

Mom: “What do you mean you didn’t get it? I sent it!”

Siri: “I’m sorry, I did not understand–”

Dad: “Hey, that’s not fair. You’re talking over me.”

Mom: “I’ll try it again. ‘I’m home.’”

Dad: “TEXT AARON ‘I’M HOME!’”

Me: “I still don’t have your text mom.”

Siri: “Are you trying to contact Nate?”

Mom: “I don’t know what’s wrong, I’m texting you!”

Dad: “Jesus Christ Siri, you’re not helping me here…”

Me: “Mom, your phone automatically imports Facebook contacts. You’re probably trying to text my Facebook.”

Siri: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand—”

Mom: “Oh shut up. I win. I’ve already sent two text messages.”

Me: “Two text messages that haven’t gotten to me.”

Dad: “Siri, you’re making me look bad after I stuck up for you!!”

Me: “Everyone looks bad today. I’m going to bed. You two work it out amongst yourselves.”

Until next time, when they fight about who’s the worst driver. In the meantime, if you want to see the most hilarious parody video ever involving Siri, just click here.

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All Roads Lead Home

Moving back in with your parents at the age of 32 with a wife and kid in tow is fairly unsettling. Second only, I’m sure, to being said parents and having your house unexpectedly invaded by two adults, a child, a pesky golden retriever and a fish. Sure enough, it’s taken some getting used to on both sides.

And while I can only speak for myself, I have to admit: it’s not so bad.

This is my hometown and this house will always be home to me. It’s where I spent my youth. It’s where I went to school. It’s where MJ grew up too. I live 3 miles from my old elementary school and just a few more from the school at which MJ and I first met in the sixth grade more than two decades ago. When we got engaged we drove to the school parking lot, put on our song and danced in the falling snow.

My grandmother’s house is in this town on the reservoir where I caught frogs. I can name at least one family who lives on every street. I know all the restaurants, including Downtown Pizza, the place that kept me alive throughout my formative years with delivery trucks that automatically shot towards my house when you put them in gear. I know the best places to go for a walk, I know where the cops set up speed traps and I can drive the roads with my eyes closed.

My dad graduated from Norton High School, as did his father before him. I’m not lying or exaggerating when I tell you half of the teachers I had in high school also taught my parents. My parents met in middle school and were dating halfway through high school. Three years after graduation they were married. And while they’ve lived in several homes over the years, all of them have been in Norton.

My mom is involved with the church because my grandmother was the choir director until her death in 1996. My mom also drove the school bus. My dad has been a selectmen in town twice, a finance committee member and currently serves as the Town Moderator. He also writes a column for the local daily newspaper. High school sweethearts? Check. Lifelong residents? Check. Total townies? Big time check.

All of this to say that for a creature of convenience like myself, this kind of familiarity is extremely comforting.

I’m a traditionalist at heart. And the older I get the clearer that becomes. So I’d be lying if I said the thought of Will spending time in the same town and house I grew up in didn’t please me in some small way. So far I’ve taken him to one of my favorite ponds, showed him my grandmother’s old house and walked on the field on which I learned to play baseball.

I even took him to the cemetery where my two grandmothers, grandfathers and two aunts are buried. Which sounds a little morbid, but really isn’t at all. He may not have met all of them, but he’ll hear stories about them and learn from them nonetheless. It’s important to teach kids to pay their respects.

Every kid grows up trying to escape their hometown and I was no different. I swore I’d get out and never come back, at least not for good. But the more places I visited, the more I saw my hometown wasn’t so bad. And then I slowly realized it wasn’t just “not bad,” it was pretty damn good. Finally I became a parent and realized it’s a helluva place to raise a kid.

Hometowns have a way of calling you back. They’re magnetic in more ways than one, and you can’t underestimate the strength of roots that are dug in deep.

In a few months we’ll move out and have a new place of our own. But in the meantime, I’m listening to the call of my hometown and enjoying what it has to offer. Will loves being with his grandparents (while simultaneously missing his Nana and Grandpa B back on Cape Cod, the one big downside to all of this) and I think he’ll really benefit from getting to spend so much quality time with them. And I get to heed a timeless call, raising my son in the same place I was raised. Fostering an appreciation for a town that will always be special because it will always be home.

Welcome home kid.

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The Mother of All Hoarders

So we moved in with my parents.

Maybe I’d feel more like a failure for writing that last sentence if my parents weren’t a thousand shades of awesome. Honestly. I’m not just saying that because they’re my new landlords roommates. I’m basically a younger, better looking, more talented version of my father so living with him is like living with a slightly less cooler version of myself. And since I know I’m awesome, that’s pretty great. And my mom is just about the most loving, caring, compassionate person I know. They love us, they love Will and I think this will be a great few months while we save up first, last and security to find a new place of our own.

But…

Of course there’s a but. You can’t suddenly move back in with your parents after more than a decade and not have a but or two.

I’m sure you’ve all seen or heard of A&E’s TV show Hoarders. People who feel the need to collect everything in their homes and never, EVER throw anything away. Now before I go any further, I want to say I understand this is a serious condition. Also, my mom is not a hoarder. Well, she’s not a full-fledged hoarder. I guess you could say she hoards as a hobby.

Exhibit A is the picture to the right. Those are nutcrackers on top of the piano. Hundreds of them. Those creepy bastards freak me right the fuck out. I’d love to get rid of even half of them but my mom isn’t having it.

And my new sister-in-law Melissa can tell you about Exhibit B. It was last Thanksgiving and she was cooking something that needed nutmeg. My mom—who is a good cook but doesn’t cook often—pointed her towards the spice rack and all was well. Or so we thought.

I’ll never forget the look on Melissa’s face as she told us the nutmeg might be a little out of date. How out of date you ask? The expiration was October…1981!!

But with three of us moving in with all of our stuff, the real problem is in the basement. My friends can tell you the horror stories about the basement. We cleaned it out about 15 years ago. It took a dozen people a full weekend and we filled up two industrial sized dumpsters. There was that much crap down there. But the hard part isn’t the work itself, its the differing manners in which the members of my family feel it should be dealt with.

My dad and I are eager to clean it out. And just so we’re clear, our version of “clean it out” translates into “throw EVERYTHING away.” But the mere thought of filling up a dumpster with bags of stuff that have been collecting dust for 20 years is just too much to bear for my mom.

Fifteen years ago it was hell. Each person who came up the stairs with a bag of trash had to let my mom inspect it before it was thrown away. And what looked like a bag of shit to me was anything but to my mom. She somehow found sentimental meaning in every single piece of crap we lugged out of that basement. That was my first backpack on my first day of school, that’s the blanket my brother threw up on in first grade, that’s my first-grade report card. My poor mother was in tears trying to catch everything while we attempted to find ways to sneak it past her so we could finish the job.

Fast forward 15 years and not much had changed. The basement is still a mess, my dad and I still want to throw everything away and my mom wants to hold onto everything. Case in point:

I saw an old headboard that doesn’t fit on any bed, so I had the crazy notion it was trash. Not so said my mom. When I asked her why she would possibly want to keep it, she inexplicably started crying and said “Don’t you realize there are children with no place to sleep??” I not-so-calmly pointed out that it was a headboard, not a bed, and the children would be mighty uncomfortable sleeping on it.

Then we found some really old textbooks and I went to throw those out. But my mom’s Spidey senses started tingling and she came over to stop me in my tracks. When I told her they were headed for the trash bin, she turned on the tears again.

“Why not donate them to a library? You should never throw away a book!”

These books were more than 10 years old. One was a marketing book which referred to the Internet as “an upcoming and exciting technological advancement.” They eventually got thrown out, but not without some hurt feelings. And of course, more tears.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s tears over a headboard and antiquated textbooks. Not a good start.

But the kicker was my mom’s “donation pile.” She had us put a bunch of things in a pile at the end of the driveway. An old kitchen table, chairs, a desk, two bags of clothes and some other odds and ends. First my mom said the Boys & Girls Club was coming to get it. Then, halfway through Sunday, that was switched to the Epilepsy Foundation. My father expressed his concern that my mom hadn’t properly checked with them to make sure they would take everything, and we’d end up with a pile of shit that sits there for months. My mom said she had it taken care of. They were due to pick everything up Monday, and for all of our sanity I hoped it would go smoothly because my parents fight and bicker like—well, an old married couple.

When I got home from work it was still there. Or so we thought. Upon closer inspection, they actually did come. But they only took two bags of clothes and, just as my dad said, left the rest. A spirited discussion ensued. My dad saying he was right, my mom refusing to admit she was wrong and me feeling like nothing has changed since I was a kid.

In a weird way, it was the perfect welcome home.

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Will’s 1st Red Sox Game: A Tradition Passed to the Next Generation

The grass and the Monster.

I’m not sure exactly when I went to my first Red Sox game, but I was probably 6 or 7. Roger Clemens was pitching, although I had no idea what that meant at the time. All the other memories are fuzzy, except for one that’s crystal clear. Walking with my dad in Fenway Park, through the crowded concourse, up a ramp until suddenly my vision was flooded with the greenest grass I’d ever seen, and the Green Monster (Fenway’s signature 37.5-foot wall in left field) looming larger than life.

I was blown away. I remember thinking how all this green space could exist in the city. Wondering how ANYONE could ever muscle a ball over the Monster. And feeling the whole thing was surreal because I had seen Fenway on TV so many times, it felt like it was this faraway fantasy land that didn’t really exist. For 10 seconds I just stared, lost in the enormity of it all.

I was only a little kid, so I didn’t understand the intricacies of the game yet. All I knew was how important the team was to my dad. I watched him more than I watched the game. He lived and died on every pitch so dammit I was gonna do the same thing. Just like he learned from his grandfather. I remember him telling me the Red Sox would eventually break my heart, but it’s our job to root for them no matter what. For life. And so I did, no questions asked.

The only thing I remember from that day 25 years ago was my dad putting his hand on my shoulder and giving a squeeze. I didn’t know it at the time, but that squeeze was his way of saying “Welcome to the club little man.”

Fast forward to last weekend.

I had been going back and forth on whether or not I could bring Will to a Red Sox game this season. Ultimately I decided against it for several reasons. First of all I thought he was too young. But mostly, it’s because the Red Sox have the most expensive tickets in baseball. Bleacher seats are $25 face value. Except everything is sold out so you can’t get face value. Usually you have to pay $50 per ticket for small seats so far away you can barely see the action. And the concession prices are so disgustingly inflated you need to take out a bank loan before you buy a couple of hotdogs. Combine all of this with the fact that 3-year-olds have the attention span of a gnat and you’re traveling an hour and spending a shit ton of money for a couple of innings until the whining & temper-tantrum kicks in.

But my parents, who are awesome, decided to get Will and I tickets as a birthday present to me. So with the financial impediments cleared, I was THRILLED to take Will to his first game. And formally induct him into a club populated by the men in my family for many, many years.

I had grand plans for last Saturday. Will and I were going to take the train in because he loves riding the subway. The Red Sox were playing the Oakland A’s. Jon Lester was pitching. Our seats were along third base way up high in the State Street Pavilion. I had it all planned out and—because I blog everything—I was going to find a way to record it all for posterity, as I do with most everything that happens in my life. And the crowning jewel would be the look on his face when I walked the next generation up the ramp to worship in baseball’s most glorious cathedral.

As you can see, we got plenty of pictures.

Not only that, but Will had a truly great day. He got to ride two trains into Boston which may or may not have been the highlight of his day. He had his first Fenway Frank (picture on the right). He ate ice cream from a plastic mini Red Sox helmet. We bought a game program as a keepsake. Wally the Green Monster (who I hate because he’s the worst mascot in sports) patted Will on the head. Will danced with a beautiful woman between innings (video is at the bottom of this post). Jason Varitek—the aging Captain—hit a homerun, which Will shockingly called just before he hit it. All in all he lasted six spectacular innings.

Oh yeah, the Red Sox won the game too.

I share so much of my life on this blog. I detail the good, the bad and the just plain silly. So it makes sense that I’m sharing this experience. This wonderful, memorable day for which I’ll be forever thankful. The day I officially passed on a love of Red Sox baseball to my son. Just like my dad did for me.

But as for capturing Will’s expression when he came upon the beauty that is Fenway Park for the very first time and started a lifelong love affair with baseball and Boston?

Sorry folks. I’m keeping that one for myself.

 

 

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Dads Are Always There When You Need Them

It’s a little belated, but here’s my Father’s Day post which first ran at the Good Men Project.

My 3-year-old son stands on our bed smiling nervously. Squeaking with excitement as he creeps closer and closer to the edge, he peers down at the ground and then at my outstretched arms. No doubt assessing the situation and calculating toddler physics in his head.

I’m daring him to jump to me. He’s not so sure.

For several minutes he looked like he had OCD. Back and forth. Confident then scared. He’d walk to the edge of the bed—in a hilarious looking half-crouch ready to pounce—and then lose his nerve and retreat in a fit of anxious giggles. I just watched with great amusement, held my arms out for him, and smiled. Then I simply uttered “I gotcha.”

Suddenly he left his fears on the bed and flew at me with reckless abandon. I caught him under his arms, held him up, and spun him around while laughing. But after exchanging a hearty high-five, the kid dropped a bombshell on me.

“You always catch me dad.”

I know he meant that I physically catch him every time he jumps off the bed. But to me, at this point in my life, it meant so much more. And it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Two weeks ago I left the comforts of journalism and took a new job. While the paycheck is better, the commute is not. It’s usually around two hours. Each way. Sometimes more. Gone is the flexible scheduling, getting Will dressed in the morning and dropping him off at preschool. No more making dinner together and taking the dog for a walk. With my commute, I’m gone before he’s awake and home an hour before he’s in bed.

I’m officially a part-time parent. And I’m having a hard time adjusting.

♦◊♦

My father is my hero. I’ve tried to be like him at every turn. Unfortunately he was seldom around when I was a kid. Although plenty smart enough, he missed the chance to go to college. But he lucked out and got an opportunity to help start a business from the ground up. It required long hours, and that was on top of being a town official.

He was at a selectman’s meeting when I hit my first out of the park home run. My mom was there (because she was SuperMom and there for everything), but the first Little League homer is a uniquely father-son moment.

I had to wait until after the game and we made our way over to Town Hall, where his meeting was in progress. When he noticed us he raised his eyebrows wondering why we were there. I held up the baseball the team had given me, swung an imaginary bat and made the home run signal. His eyes went wide and his face lit up as he smiled. I knew he was proud. But the next face he made had regret and disappointment written all over it. If he was a cartoon, the bubble above his head would’ve read “I can’t believe I missed it.”

Fast forward to the present.

I’ve been a parent for three years, but now everything is different. My wife is temporarily out of work and I’m the breadwinner now. For the first time our family’s survival depends on my paycheck, but my paycheck requires a hellish commute that has me spending more hours in the car on a daily basis than with my son. I’m going to miss things. Things like talking to the preschool teacher everyday and being the “go-to” parent. Little things, but those are always the most important.

When I talked about my feelings recently, my dad chimed in and said “This is the real test of parenting. It’s very tough, and the guilt can be awful. This is where you learn just how tough parenting really is, and just how valuable the years and the moments really are.”

My dad more than made up for the things he missed early on. He’s always been there no matter what. He’s still running a business and he’s still a town official. But whenever I needed something he always found a way. Without fail. He was always there to catch me. Still is.

Happy Father’s Day to all the catchers.

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