My mother had been asking me to teach her how to use the Internet and email for a long time. She had been sitting down with her daughters and son-in-laws as we talked back and forth using words like “www”, “site”, “email” and “chatroom”.
She had seen her grandson using the computer since he was two-years old, sucking his thumb and guiding the mouse with his free hand. Being a very active woman, I think she felt left out.
I would print her email messages and pictures sent by nephews and nieces from Iran, Turkey, Washington DC and LA. But she wanted to know how to receive the messages by herself. At last about a month ago I got a chance to show her the basics and open an email account for her.
It was a frustrating experience.
My mother has a degree from Tehran University. She worked for many years before following her two children to the U.S. She lives by herself, travels a lot with her friends, and has taken care of my son for the last eight years. She also drives the car faster than I do.
But she cannot use a mouse.
She cannot understand the difference between her email address and the Internet as a whole. She cannot remember how to access her email and what to do when she gets it. She has written all the steps down one by one, but once she sits in front of the computer she freezes.
She asks the same questions over and over. I told her I would only answer the same question 10 times, no more. She calls me at work several times a day with questions such as: “I am at Yahoo now and I want to send an email to your sister. What do I do?”
“You have to get into your mail.”
“But I don't want to read email. I want to send one. Don't I go to her www first?!”
“Mano hol mikoni.”
“Sorry mom. Okay. Let's take it from the start.”
Two nights ago my husband wanted to get online when he noticed our DSL connection ID number and password had been changed. It took him a while to set them up again.
“Mom did you type anything here yesterday?”
“Yes. M Yahoo ID number and password.”
“But do you see Yahoo anywhere? This is not Yahoo. You have to GO to Yahoo first and then type your information”
Looking like a little girl caught cheating at school, she thought of an excuse fast.
“Well it didn't say it wasn't Yahoo!”
She knew full well how funny this excuse was. I felt like laughing and crying at the same time. I sat her down, got her in her email and she started typing a message to her niece. As I was leaving the room I looked at her: Bending over the computer, fishing for letters on the keyboard one by one, checking her words, trying to use her mouse and succeeding more or less.
Why had I been hard on her? Maybe her helplessness unsettled me. For the first time she had turned into my child . It was a little scary. Then I looked again. She was a woman who had left her country, where she was somebody, leaving behind all her sisters and brothers, coming to a foreign country when she was well past middle-age and starting all over again.
In using the Internet, not only has she gotten over the problem older people usually have using new technology, she has also used it in a foreign language and a in foreign environment. Yet there she was sitting there typing away, calling me over and over for help and not giving up.
I know she will learn this too. She is a survivor.