Once dad became interested in computers, we had a lot to talk about. Before that, he was pretty much into fixing things and that was kind of “man stuff”. But after dad became interested in computers, he often asked me to help him do something on his computer.
Once about 10 years ago dad left me a short urgent message on my telephone answer machine. “Hi, it is dad. Call me as soon as you get home”. I worried right away that something had happened to mom. I phoned right away and dad answered the telephone. “Dad, what is happening?”
“Oh, he said, I can’t get this computer to work. It keeps freezing up on me. What should I do when …” My heart dropped back from my throat to my chest as I told him how to fix his computer. I was so thankful mom was OK.
Dad was interested in all kinds of mechanical things. I had asked him if he knew where the old home movies were as I wanted to have them for my family history research. Once I got all those old movies, I wanted to watch them and convert them to video. Dad found an old 8 mm projector at a garage sale and we watched the old movies. Mom and dad told me who the people were who were in the very old movies from the 1940’s and 50’s especially those taken by my uncles. I tried to write everything down or make an audio recording, but I’m afraid I didn’t get it all.
Dad got a strange apparatus from my cousin which was supposed to allow us to copy right from the movie pictures to the video camera. It was cheap plastic and didn’t work very well. Instead we just projected the movies onto the wall and recorded them with my VHS movie camera. It was a project that took us the entire 4 day weekend when mom and dad were visiting. I was amazed at how well the pictures came out.
It was interesting to me to see how much more common interests I had with dad once my children were grown than I ever had as a child or young mother. Sometimes I felt mom was jealous of the time we spent together as she also had things she wanted to do with me. Some days I tried to split my time between mom and dad. Mom wanted to take long walks and tell me about the things that kept her up at night. She also liked to walk on the boardwalk at the beach. Dad wanted to play with the computer and the camcorder.
Over the past 20 years or so I grew much closer to mom and dad as my children were no longer there to compete for our time. Now when mom and dad and I were together, we had time for adult activities. I am so thankful that mom and dad lived long enough for me to spend that time with them, especially after I retired. Now that mom is gone, I spend more time than ever with dad. He isn’t able to keep up with the computer or videos any more. But I still cherish the time we have together.
I am hoping to try to draw him out more with old stories when I get home. The companions I contracted with have told me they got him talking about going fishing and other stories I never heard. I also have many more old pictures I will bring when I visit him. I tried this last year and he sometimes only answered in one or two words while other times I got more conversation from him. Now that I have had several months respite from the constant caregiving, I want to put renewed energy into sharing the time we have left together.