Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

The Fun of Skyping with Old Folks

Getting connected has never been so complicated! (from

Partially exaggerated, but mostly true.

If you have about three hours to spare, try setting up a Skype account for your octogenarian grandmother from over 800 miles away.

When my phone rings after 8:30 PM, I’m a bit perturbed because everyone who knows me even semi intimately knows that I’m an early to bed, early to rise kind of girl. So when I get a phone call from my dad who is visiting my aunt and grandmother asking me to help set up “psyche” for them so that we can video chat, I knew that I was in for a roller coaster ride of an evening with people who don’t know a webcam from a mouse.

Yep, that’s the computer! (from

First of all, trying to get people who still have this (see image at the right) computer to download Skype is like trying to wring water from a stone. The mere act of downloading was so “complex” that we had to uninstall and reinstall twice before it would “take hold.” This computer was so darn slow, and to make matters worse, we were using their dial-up. It was an utterly ridiculous enterprise, and if it weren’t for the expectant cuteness my grandma possessed, I would have insisted that we use smoke signals, carrier pigeons, and the pony express to communicate for the rest of our lives!

Then, we went back and forth about usernames and passwords. “Should I use the dot in between my first and last name or not? What if I forget the dot? Will people know it’s me? Why do I need a password anyway? What would you suggest?” I could have jumped out of the window! Once we figured this all out, we were sent to a welcome screen. Let me just say that Skype (and any other technological advancement of any kind) needs to have a bypass-this-page-because-I’m-too-old-to-figure-this-out button. I realize that there are many grandparents using much more technology than I even hope to, but my grandma is convinced that microwaved food causes birth defects in unborn children, especially if the pregnant woman stands near it as it is actually warming the food (needless to say, I was strictly forbidden to microwave while pregnant–and I listened, too), and these are the old people for which the button should be created!

When I finally got my aunt to the actual beginning screen so that we could make a video call, we spent another 15 minutes just trying to get her to add me as a contact. “Now, what’s your name again?” Well, it’s been the same since birth, but that’s neither here nor there. Let’s just go with my username.

Then, the call: I sent out a video call and said, “When you see the answer call button pop up, push it!” Three calls later my aunt was successfully able to answer. She could see me, but obviously, I couldn’t see her. It took another thirty minutes before she could turn off her webcam manually so that Skype could pick it up to use it to display her picture for me. Have you ever gone to a sporting event for a child much too young to actually be any good at the sport in which he was playing? Well, when I was finally able to see their faces, it was like a three-year old actually making a basket in the basketball game. We were cheering and waving like maniacs at the screen because we had struck gold. Almost…I could hear them, but they couldn’t hear me. I spent the better part of a half hour realizing that, of course, nothing was wrong with my microphone, it must be something on their end. The simple truth was that their speakers weren’t actually plugged in.

The old-folks lean (from

Now that we could see and hear each other, we decided to hang up and continue our video call using Skype only. My father, who has used Skype numerous times  in the past, still doesn’t understand that you neither have to scream into the computer nor lean your entire face into the screen giving only forehead and hairline shots to the recipient. “Sit back, dad. In a chair! Why are you sitting like that? Relax. I can hear you, stop screaming. Again, there’s no need to scream; I hear you loud and clear. Remember, you couldn’t hear me because the speakers on your end weren’t plugged in. I can hear you just fine.”

Now, it’s grandma’s turn, and it’s 11:15 PM.  She’s smoothing her hair back trying to look presentable, as if she’s a guest on Oprah. “You look beautiful, sweetie,” I say, “and you’re wearing that pink duster, girlfriend.” She smiles and laughs coyly, and I realize that this was all worth it. I walk through the house in semi-Blair Witch style holding the laptop so that I can show her live video of the girls. This whole process has been crazy frustrating, but few things have brought me more joy than seeing my grandma’s face light up when she sees the sleeping faces of my daughters.

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2 thoughts on “The Fun of Skyping with Old Folks

  1. We could absolutely be related….lol

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