It’s a rainy Sunday morning… I open my eyes and realise this is going to be one of the days I will have to enjoy church service from the comfort of my bed. I smile, wondering how I, this 74-year-old woman got comfortable with the modern idea of “online church”.
Abrewa (GrandMa) Adwoa will certainly be turning in her grave if she could see this! I shrug, reaching for the cell phone I have used for the last 2 years but only properly maximized in the last year and a half.
A year ago, I would not have been able to carry on any meaningful conversation, in any way or form, outside of WhatsApp chats, SMS and a regular telephone call. I turn over thinking over the last year and how my life drastically changed with the onset of a deadly virus that quickly escalated to pandemic status.
How do I connect via this cloud space called the internet? How does it even work?
As the nation watched on anxiously, the President called for a national lockdown on March 31st, 2020. The lockdown itself didn’t bother me much, I’d been through similar situations where one had to be hyper cautious – influenza, tuberculosis, ebola, bird flu etc. I understood in principle that the lockdown was necessary to contain the virus and protect lives. What I was greatly anxious about, was how to care for my 95-year-old mum without the regular support of a professional health care assistant. With the uncharacteristic nature of Covid19, my siblings and I had made a hard decision to limit our risk to exposure by letting the health aide go, for the moment. Thus, I would have to play nurse until the restrictions eased up, or a vaccine would be made available. How? I did not know! The health assistance company had suggested an online conversation a couple of times a week to do a wellness check, where they could talk to her and look her over, just to verify all was well.
“Certainly, they couldn’t be expecting me to set that up” I thought. I was too green, and totally disinterested in learning all the complex procedures that my children seem to do with such innate ease and ability. Two years prior I had innately accepted that technology was not my thing. My children wholeheartedly agreed. Infact, I think they actually said a prayer of thanksgiving that I had given up the dream of being a technologically dexterous septuagenarian.
Just last night, one of my granddaughters had been fussy and my daughter - her mother, had expressed her frustration that I couldn’t “talk” to this fussy child to cheer her up, but even more to diagnose what was wrong with her.
She said: “Mum, I need your help to figure out what might be wrong with this baby.’ “Nana” my other grandkids will say; “when are you coming home? We miss you, let’s see your face’’- they were more resilient and were just glad there was no school to enjoy TV all day.
This got old very fast though and the incessant ringing of my phone to report daily misbehaviours, threats and warnings was more than I could bear. I really did miss them, especially being able to see them, partake in their activities, be present in the “Grandma, see what I’m doing” moments. I had spoken to another of my daughters yesterday, but it almost fell like I was in a hole and hearing about her family’s experiences second hand. What further heightened my anxiety was the inability to connect with my bible study support group of like-minded women. It was impossible as physical meetings had been put on hold temporarily for a safer online version. This exasperated me! How do I connect via this cloud space called the internet? How does it even work?
A week of the lockdown went by painstakingly slow. My mother would ask about my siblings and her great grandchildren. She wanted real news, not the standard “they are fine.” They missed her in turn and asked for a video in real time. She loved to receive baked and savory sweets from my sister, relied on my brother for his calmness and witty comments that helped take away the tiredness, aches and pains she always complained of. My youngest sister incessantly tried to get me to connect via video so the doctor in her, could through the camera lenses, guarantee that my mother was truly fine and all protocols were being followed diligently.
A curious mind plays a vital role in any learning process
I could feel loneliness slowly creeping up on both of us. The growing restlessness made me think twice about the “technologically dexterous” dream. Without waiting to think it through, I decided to call my youngest – she was most patient with me, even though she had told me “Mom, you are the kind of person who needs step by step instructions to turn on the TV. And we must do this training at least twice a day for a whole month”. Smiling, I wondered if I could cajole her to try this once more. I really didn’t intend to be a difficult student…I just didn’t understand it all. I could start with a tutorial on accessing my bible study group meet-up on Zoom, (I believe they call it). I called my daughter and booked a phone-in technology date!
Its July 2021, and as I carry my new laptop to my mother’s room to enjoy her usual hymns before church service begins, I’m reminded of those 6 agonizing days when I literally had to learn a new language called “the internet”. My eyes move over the table mats I have just completed and which I had learnt to make via the Youtube channel I’d subscribed to ages ago. I’d gone through the process of signing up with Instagram yesterday, and expect to upload photos taken with my phone (and edited by my daughter) later today. Ask me in a few months, I may just make some sales to pay some bills and support in taking care of my mum, grandkids and home, selling my handmade mats, quilts and table runners.
I discovered that a curious mind plays a vital role in any learning process. A month earlier, in what has become my usual online searches, I’d come across an international Christian group with women of different ages. I had gone ahead to register to be part of weekly chats, prayer and bible study. I feet truly at peace and supported by this group.
I still use the regular call button, but I prefer a video chat via WhatsApp, or longer video chats on Zoom. This method now has become my preferred medium of communication to keep in touch. For me, being in touch means being able to talk to my children, friends, grandkids, and family locally and abroad regularly without using up all my savings, and to see with her my own eyes that they are in one piece. This is very important to me. I like to get a real feel of speaking to a person, seeing their facial responses, see the wheels turning in their head as I catch them unawares, their smile and laugh. It’s the connection that keeps me sane and satisfied.