Send help! 12-16: Family news hits fast forward in the information age

By JOHN LORSON Columnist Published:

She was indignant. The woman who had forever served as the hub of family communications, the clearing house of the kin's comings and goings and the single most reliable source of all things Lorson had finally reached the boiling point!

"Why would you need to ask ME when your nephew's new baby is due?" she sniped. "It's probably all right there on your fancy Facebook phone!"

She brushed a backhand wave at the iPhone in my hand and pouted off into the living room.

"Aw, come on, Mom," I said dragging after her. "It's not our fault that technology has given us such a great way to keep track of each other. It's just a sign of the times. It's not like you're being replaced by a machine or anything."

She gave me one of those big doe-eyed blinks that says, "Thanks for making me try to feel good about this, Son, but you're going to need to do better."

"And it's not like we all went out looking for the latest on the new baby," I continued. "It's just that when we checked our news feeds, right there was the ultrasound photo and well, it was pretty obvious he was a he and ..."

"You saw a PICTURE of him?" she growled.

"Well, um, yeah, but it was small and a little blurry and ..."

"I want one of those Facebooks!" she said. "I'm sick and tired of being the last one to know about things in this family!"

"Mom, you can't actually have Facebook unless you have a computer."

"Then I want one of those, too," she said.

"And you can't really have a computer without Internet service," I continued.

"I want that too! Are you going to do all that for me or should I get someone who really cares?"

"Oh, for goodness sake, Mother!" I squirmed. "Yes, yes I will get you one of those fancy Facebooks."

I never intended to follow through on this, of course. Even though I am a generally patient teacher and I figure myself to be fairly adept at the lower end of this Internet stuff, I knew that if I was the one to carry a computer into Mom's house I would instantly be labeled her "computer guy." I had watched my brother-in-law, Larry, make a similar mistake years before by arriving on Mom's doorstep with a new TV. Larry has been on-call 24-hours a day, 365 days a year since that moment. If there's a thunderstorm and the cable goes out all around the neighborhood, it's time to call Larry. If someone else wanders into Mom's living room and switches the unit from TV to DVD, it's time to call Larry. If the cat steps on the remote and changes the channel, it's time to call Larry. I was not about to become my mother's Internet "Larry." Furthermore, I figured that hers was just a passing fancy and she'd soon forget about the whole notion of getting herself "one of those Facebooks."

One day, when I am 85 years old and my kids decide to hedge on a promise that they've made to me I'm going to remember my own mother's strategy for getting things done. I'm going to shame them into doing it by telling all of my friends about it.

"My son, John, was supposed to get me one of those Facebooks, but I guess he doesn't love me anymore because I've been waiting for MONTHS!" This line was quoted back to me from one of Mom's dozens of little old lady friends at the YMCA.

Sometimes if you want to get a mule to move you've got to give him a good hard kick. I ordered Mom's computer that evening. (Come back next week for the next chapter of "Facebook Granny.")

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