on my parents and technology and death

My dad has been getting added to group texts comprising people from his high school graduating class (1974), which I discussed with him on the phone last night: "My phone is blowing up with these people saying shit like, I'm headed into surgery now, and I really need your PRAYERS!!! and I'm like what the fuck, I don't know any of you people, I don't like any of you people, why are you texting me? And I got real mad and I started deleting all of those messages, and then I accidentally deleted all of my text messages. So all of the cute things you sent me, and the pictures, and the links, they're all gone! And I am PISSED!"

My dad rants at me a lot on the phone because I don't think he has anyone else to talk to. He loves his friends but between their conservatism and apparent tolerance for loud drums in classic rock cover bands, I think he's losing patience.

My dad has an Android phone, so as far as I know he can't just start blocking numbers; he'd have to do it through his carrier. But: my mom signed up with some minor wireless provider and she and my dad and her partner are all on a family plan together (even though my parents aren't together romantically and haven't been since 1993; they have remained very close friends).

Before speaking to my father, my mom had called because said wireless provider was giving her the runaround. When you call my mom's cell phone number, it kind of half-rings once and then makes a beeping alarm noise. The call never connects. Minor Wireless Provider Tier 1 Tech Support Person told her it was a problem with her phone and made her factory reset it. I explained to her that this was bullshit and it was likely a problem on their end or a problem with the SIM, but because they're contracting on Verizon's network, they probably don't even know how to figure something like this out, which seemed to upset her even more. At any rate, Minor Wireless Provider is on my shit list.

My parents' struggles with modern technology perplex me sometimes, since they're the ones who taught me how to use a computer. But now I'm in IT and they're in their 60's and have really only learned how to do what they need to do to get by. It's much harder to provide IT support for your parents than it is for your company. It's also very hard to miss your parents from several hundred miles away when you wish you could help them more. So: the hardest thing is to provide IT support to your parents from hundreds of miles away. I don’t recommend it.

This is a sort of genetic/experiential guilt that I've carried because my dad's dysfunctional relationship with his mother, who died almost four years ago this year. My greatest regret has become not spending more time with her but also not making recordings of her talking, because I'm worried I'm going to forget her voice and personality, and also that I didn't learn enough of her history. She was born in 1916 in a coal patch and she was a remarkable person, with a childlike curiosity and also severe untreated ADHD.

My mom and dad and I are constantly doing impressions of her. I told my dad last night that my apartment was chilly and that I needed to check on the old t-shirts I'd stuffed in the window frame to help with the draft. "Go ahead, Juge," he said. (Juge was her nickname, short for Juju, because her first name was Julia.) "Got any blue plastic bags to stuff in there too? Or what about some good tape?" She had this expensive aluminum industrial tape, and she used it to do things like repair broken broom handles.

"Oh I fixed that broom," I said, trying to imitate her higher voice, and that tone that everyone from Fayette County, PA has in their accent which is vaguely admonishing. "And then I used it to beat out the fire a bit!" Juge would have then, of course, held up the broom to show the charred bristles on the end. She would have been burning garbage on Saturday which is the legal burn day in South Union Township. She liked to enhance her Saturday bonfires with kerosene.

You’d think that strange uncomfortable behavior surrounding things like mass texting your high school friends for prayers is like an "old people Facebook” thing, but it’s not. I was reminded of this when I saw a Twitter thread today about people my age (like, almost 30) posting dramatic videos on TikTok about their divorces. I definitely don’t think that uncomfortable, unhealthy relationships with social media and cell phones are a generational thing. People who grew up with it are just as likely to be confused about how to apply it in their lives constructively as older people. We just get to see everybody’s personal dysfunction a lot more clearly and aggressively nowadays. SMS is one thing, setting your marriage certificate on fire and setting it to music is quite another.

Generations in general are basically a fake idea, dispensed for the convenience it affords when talking about the passage of time; a terrifying topic especially as we confront the realities of what we’ve done to the planet and discuss ad nauseam how to place blame. Human history isn’t, in reality, segmented; it’s ongoing and continuous and continuously self-referential. We teach it as segmented so that we can stand a chance of digesting and contextualizing significant events. There’s no such thing as too much context, but there is such a thing as more context than is realistic for your brain to process. So take it in chunks, but don’t generalize. And please reconsider before sending any mass texts.

Recommended listening for the week:

Mclusky - Forget About Him I’m Mint (Thorazine given in your food will stop the headaches, but don't be fooled by what you leave behind)

From my dad: “I like ‘Say a Little Prayer’ by Dionne Warwick. It’s a Bacharach/David tune. Really good, actually. Melodically and rhythmically complex with pop sensibilities.”

Self Esteem - The Best - Rebecca makes the most relatable music I’ve ever heard in my life and I think most bisexuals will feel similarly

If you have any life advice questions or general concerns, you can contact me at