My mother will turn 94 at the end of this year. Each year our family tradition is to gather at her retirement community in the bay area. Not everyone lives close enough to attend, but as many as can make it, do.
This year is different. Visitors are not allowed at the retirement community and the residents of the community are asked to remain in-house.
The last few months have been especially difficult for Mom. Her hearing loss is profound and she cannot understand staff or fellow residents who are speaking to her at six or more feet away. Social distancing for my mother has really meant social isolation.
Since we couldn’t all be together this year, we – my four siblings and I – decided to arrange a Mother’s Day Zoom meeting. We weren’t at all sure Mom would be able to hear anyone, or that she would have the patience to deal with the experience. Frankly, we thought she might not enjoy the experience at all. But we saw it as the next best thing and thought it was worth trying.
My brother has remote access to my mother’s computer, so if Mom was willing, he would get her computer set up to join a Zoom meeting. And Mom agreed to participate. She’s not tech savvy, but she is a trooper.
We figured that not everyone would be available that day. And maybe not everyone would want to participate in a video conference. We only hoped that as many as family members as possible would participate.
Everyone came. All of Mom’s five children and their spouses, all the grandkids (including my daughter who lives out of state) and their spouses, all the children (and spouses) of my mother’s now deceased sisters, and even both of her great grandchildren. Everyone came.
Mom was a little overwhelmed and struggled a bit at times to figure out who was speaking – there were, after all, 12 people-boxes on her computer screen – and to understand what was being said. But once we all settled into a volume and pace of speech that worked for her, she was able to really engage in the conversation. A little emotional at times, she hung in there for quite a while until she got tired. She expressed her appreciation and we all signed off — kids, cousins, spouses, grandkids and great-grandkids.
Later in the afternoon on Mother’s Day we received an email from my mother. She thanked everyone again for the Zoom visit and added, “This is the best Mother’s Day I have had.”
I was surprised by her words. I remember the days of not-too-long-ago when Mom would roll her eyes at the idea that technology would advance to where it is now. She often declared that she had no interest in computers or digital communication. Like many of her peers, she came to regard computers, cell phones and the like as necessary evils of modern life.
I think what touched Mom and moved her to happy tears during our Zoom meeting was that everyone cleared their plans for that day and made themselves available. There has not yet been a Mother’s Day when everyone was there in person with my mother, but on this Mother’s Day everyone could attend the celebration, thanks to modern technology. And everyone came.
One of our early Davis Enterprise columns was titled “How tech can connect us to loved ones.” This very special Mother’s Day was a lovely example of what we wrote about back then. Modern technology gave my 93 year old mother the best Mother’s Day she has ever had.
If you have not yet opened to the idea of connecting electronically with the people closest to your heart, we encourage you to give it a chance. Most folks are using Zoom technology but other options are FaceTime, Skype, Whatsapp, Google meet and a host of other software and apps. If you’re uncertain about how to get started, ask for help.
Perhaps you’re already taking advantage of video visits, but you have elderly parents or loved ones who are intimidated by these amazing technologies. How about setting up remote access to their computer and teaching them how to get started? Or show them how to make and answer video calls on their smartphone. Offer your support and help them to get virtually connected while physical proximity is still questionable and risky for the elderly and vulnerable.
Why write about how technology gave my mother the best Mother’s Day she’s ever had, when Mother’s Day is over?
Because Father’s Day is coming.