Technology and Family Story
We’re Not Neanderthals
In this Technology and Family Story, an adult son tries his best to drag unwilling parents into the modern world, only to find that he has a lot to learn.
Sydney knew he faced mission impossible, but he had to try. She’d never be a fully functioning human being until she joined the ranks of millions—no billions—who had gone before her and embraced the brave new world.
He felt the gravel crunch under his tires as he turned into the driveway. The back gate was closed, which meant that the goat was probably in the barn, safe and sound, thank God. He’d spent the entire weekend either catching up on house repairs, work reports, or alternating with his wife at one of the kid’s weekend games. What idiot scheduled soccer practice twice a week and games on Sunday?
He took the key out of the ignition. Four o’clock. He might as well get this over with. Mom and dad ate a formal dinner at noon and a light supper at six. Promptly. He hardly wanted to try squeezing the whole technological world in between the early news and grilled cheese & tuna sandwiches.
But try he must. He grabbed the Kindle from the passenger seat and lumbered from the car, huffing with the exertion. Darn, but he should’ve had another cup of coffee before coming. He felt in his pockets. A handful of chocolate-covered coffee beans ought to do the trick.
Munching, he climbed the steps up to the porch and pressed open the door with a “Hey, anyone home?”
As if she didn’t expect to see me. Hah! Sydney felt a rush of guilt. For what, he wasn’t sure and wouldn’t stop to think about it. Roll away, guilt. Just roll away.
“Hey, mom.” The hug. The warm kitchen. The sense that nothing ever changed. Though she was a bit older. Moved slower as she crossed the room. “Dad here?”
“Oh, he’s out back with the dogs. Taking care of one of the Kerns’ pups. It got injured, and he’s nursing it back to health.”
“Nice of him. Never could say no.”
His mom shook her head, smiling the way she always did. “Why would he? He likes dogs. You know that.” She peered at her son.
Sydney felt like he time-warped back to yesterday’s airport security. What a horrible flight. The baby crying, the guy snoring, the storm clouds looming.
“You okay, son?”
Sydney shook himself. “Sure.” He laid the Kindle on the counter. I brought it like I said I would.
A combination of fear and distaste flickered over his mom’s seventy-year-old face. “That was nice of you. But I don’t really need it. I’ve got two library cards and that flip phone you gave me last year.”
“But, mom, this is so much easier. You won’t have to get out in the weather to go to the library. Books come to you. Right here. In your hands.” He lifted the Kindle like a car salesman showing off his latest option. He shrugged the image away.
With a long sigh, his mom picked up a long-handled spoon and stirred a pot bubbling on the stove. “I made chili—used up the last of the frozen, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. I even tossed in a can of homemade salsa for zest. We’ve got enough hamburger to last into May, but dad says he’s gonna butcher that old cow. She’s never recovered since the fall she had, and he figures she’d be enough to give you and Heidi some and still last us until next year.”
Sydney pictured the last package of hamburgers he bought at the store—unnaturally red and outrageously priced. Had a strange taste too. “Well, I never say no to your food. The kids love your cooking more than me, I think.”
“Oh, honey. Don’t be silly. It’s just that we spent so much time with them when they were little.” A wistful expression spread over her eyes. “It’s good that they’re involved in so many activities now, but I hope they won’t forget grandma and grandpa…”
As if he could stop a knife twisting his innards, Sydney clutched the Kindle harder. “Well, let’s get down to business, shall we?”
A defeated damsel, his mom laid the spoon aside, pulled out a wooden kitchen chair, and sat down. “You can show me, but I can’t promise I’ll remember…”
“Just try, ma. It’s all I ask. Do it for me. This way I don’t have to worry about you going out in all kinds of weather just to get to the library. Or doing so many things you don’t have to do. There are more than books on here. You can get music and movies. You can look up—”
Like a zealot cajoling a wayward member of the flock back into the fold, Sydney showed off the cyber universe with finesse and confidence.
The back door slammed. Dad strode in, slightly bent, but grinning from ear to ear. “Got that pup fed, its leg splintered, and now she’s sprawled out with the hounds like she’s never known any different.”
Looking up like a drowning woman begging for a lifeline, his mom stared at her husband through a plastered smile. “Look what Sydney brought us.”
Discomfort sent prickles over Sydney’s spine. “Oh, dad don’t care about this stuff. He’s told me so a hundred times.”
With a snort, his dad splashed his hands under the tap, scrubbed vigorously with soap, then rinsed and dried like a professional hand washer. He sniffed the chili, hobbled to his chair, and plunked down with a happy sigh. “You make it sound like I hate what you do, son. I don’t hate it.”
“You’ve never taken any interest in it, that’s for sure. Every time I try to show you what I do for a living, you turn away. Or say you don’t understand. When I know you could—if you wanted to.”
Dad and mom exchanged a quick glance, understanding each other in a way that strangled Sydney’s heart.
Sydney closed the Kindle. Defeat weighed a couple of tons at least. Mission impossible. I knew it.
Nudging him in the shoulder, his dad offered an encouraging smile. “You’re not listening, son. I appreciate what you do. Your technology skills amaze me. Your mom and I are very proud of you. We just have better things to do than join in on everything.”
“Join in? What are you talking about? I’m just offering a Kindle devise so she can get—”
Mom placed her hand over Sydney’s and patted with maternal tenderness. “I like to go to the library. My friends are there. We chat and share what we’re reading, tell about things going on in town, the latest news. Last week when I wanted a new way to fix venison, Jan found a great recipe online. She even identified that weird bug your dad found in the woodpile the other day from some etymologist in India.”
She gazed into her memory. “Interesting man. Wish India were’ so darn far away.” She glanced at her husband and once again they agreed in a silent conversation. “Your dad got his email address and is thinking of writing and asking how the bug managed to find its way into our backyard.”
Sydney swallowed. “You’ve been on the web?”
Bernie grinned, leaning back against the sink, one brown gnarled hand propped on the counter. “Of course. We’re not Neanderthals. We just don’t want to get all caught up in that stuff. It’s fine now and again. But when Jill and the kids come over, they spend more time looking at their phones than talking with us. It’s like they can’t put the things down for even a minute.” He shrugged. “Your mom and I have other things we like to do with our time.” A twinkle entered his eyes as he met his wife’s gaze.
A shocking, mischievous spark danced from husband to wife. Thankfully, Mom recovered quickly and swung her full attention to her son.
“You understand?” Mom’s eyes pleaded.
Sydney heaved his body from the table. “So you don’t want this?”
“It’s just—we’d rather not be tempted.” Dad clapped his hands together. “Now when are we going to have that chili? I’m as hungry as a bear after a long winter.”
Mom hopped up and flipped open the cabinet. She grabbed bowls and charged into the utensil drawer, gunning for action, “Can you stay and have some, Sweetheart? I’ve got garlic bread warming in the oven.”
Sydney pictured the scene at his home. His kids would each be in their room staring at their computers…or Kindles. Jill would be slouched on the couch—maybe playing a game or binge-watching her latest TV obsession. He’d walk in, and say hi; no one would respond. He’d go to his room and turn on his computer.
He peered down at the eager, alive faces of his parents and sat back down.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 17 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
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