Face Time Is Not a Wrinkle Cream

My husband and I, escorting our 11-year-old son to his first dance, were surprised when he stopped and said, "I'll go the rest of the way alone."

"Is there something we do that embarrasses you?" I asked. It wasn't as if I was wearing mom jeans.

"It's just embarrassing to have parents."

Twenty years later, he has reason to feel that way about me. At 73, I've been rendered dysfunctional by technology. My son fearlessly zooms around cyberspace while I worry I'll click the wrong thing and all my emails will get forwarded to Hillary Clinton and be picked up by WikiLeaks. "It's an age thing," I explained, as if he didn't know. "The computer is my frenemy. Younger people don't find it intimidating."

"There is a way you can look younger," he said.

Connections: A friendship between quiet types.

"I'm not having surgery."

"Leave AOL." He had a point. It was the online home for the aged. To give my screen name a face lift, I switched to Gmail. But the change was only cosmetic. Hampered by senioritis, I kept forgetting my passwords until I made them all "forgot my password." Each time an error message appears or a document disappears, I ask my son to stop by after work.

One evening, after rebooting my computer, he said, "I think you'll like Serial."

"Cereal? You know I'm trying to stay away from carbs."

He laughed. "It's a podcast, a spinoff from This American Life. It's a true story, trying to figure out if the guy in prison was actually guilty."

"How do I watch it?" I asked.

"You don't watch a podcast. You listen to it."

"Oh, it's on the radio."

He grabbed my phone, did some tapping, and minutes later I was hooked.

Without a smart son and smartphone I'd be in assisted living. My phone's calendar tells me where I'm supposed to be when, and the HopStop app shows me how to get there. Surprised to notice something called FaceTime on my screen, I assumed it was my son's playful dig about all the wrinkle creams I've amassed, until the phone rang. Seeing his face, I realized it's for video chatting. Totally flustered, I flailed around, calling out, "Do I put the phone to my ear, or am I supposed to look at it?" By the time I got organized, I was spared the indignity of seeing him laughing at me.

These days if I am on the road not taken, it's because I screwed up and am going the wrong way. Being fuzzy and making mistakes is upsetting. My son being aware of it raises it to the level of humiliating. The admiration he displayed when we were both younger has morphed into a mix of disdain and amusement. He's stopped coming to me with questions, now trusting someone he knows nothing about except that her name is Siri.

If we once spoke the same language, we no longer do. When I opened the refrigerator and asked if he wanted an apple, he reminded me he uses a PC. When he said "icon," he was referring to a tiny online image while I pictured Barbra Streisand.

My son has been gracious about making house calls. If he mocks me, it's not in my presence. But he may become less good-natured if this continues for several more decades. I hope he doesn't come across the New England Centenarian Study that showed women who had children after they turned 40 were four times more likely to live to 100 than those who did not. Even if I'm able to put up with that many more years of being dependent, I doubt that my son will be.

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