Mending the Family: A Kindle Odyssey
Technology brings people together. If it wasn’t for my grandfather’s Kindle Fire, we would have never spoken again that morning.
My grandparents live on a bumpy stretch of road in East Hampton. Long Lane, that is. For years I had been drawn to the sharp aroma of clover in the backyard, the vague attic-like smell that permeates the air in the house. The dusty potato fields in the summer. Despite all of that, I have been returning less and less, like Laurel, the fleeting granddaughter in Gloria Naylor’s Linden Hills. Unlike Laurel’s, however, my reasons why are void of tragedy. (Here’s one: college.)
One morning my mother and I visited them, which is a rare thing, to say the least, with ‘I’ in the equation. Grandmother took advantage of the incoming chauffeurs and humbly asked my mother for a ride to Citarella. Oh, Citarella, how I love thee. I stayed in the sunroom with my grandfather over bowls of cantaloupe and toast. The aloe vera in the corner was bright with life, and I could see the garden in the back tall with herbs. Well, I took it all in. Now what? I walked to my purse and rummaged through it for a few seconds, looking for just one little thing. Shockingly, as soon as I set my cellphone on the table, my grandfather retaliated the reclusive gesture with a device of his own: a Kindle. Wow, man, how I suffered as his trembling, plum-colored, liver-spotted fingers hovered over the screen. What on earth could he be mindlessly messing with just for the sake of looking occupied? The Kindle was a Christmas present from my mother only last year, but he seemed to have an idea of all that it offered. Finally he turned to me. “I’m having trouble opening up an attachment,” he mumbled, awkward to be asking for help. “My brother sent me a video from Colombia.” I took his touch-screen stylus (I am certain this was an accessory encouraged by my mother) and fumbled with the oddly-shaped gadget. I’m more used to Apple products. “Here’s your problem,” I said. “There’s no Wi-Fi in here.” This, of course, was a problem I normally encountered in the antiquated house. It didn’t take any of its charm away from it of course, but it made it difficult to check up on local news and social media. I was surprised they even had a router, but my mind suddenly thought back to the computer monitor in my grandfather’s study. Now that is a relic. “Ah, that’s always a problem…” he answered. Something we could agree on! Miraculously, a glimmer of Internet connection made its way into the e-mail some minutes later, finally pushing the video into recognition. My grandfather then took the Kindle back, very cautiously, only to hold it up like a camera to show it to me. “Look,” he exclaimed, “That horse is dancing with the girl!” Now, that’s only something someone would believe if they witness it. Or find it on the web. The video was shaky, but sure enough it was a horse on its hind legs, tapping along to the music with a young woman in traditional dress from somewhere in South America. My grandfather was full of surprises that day.
Soon my mother and grandmother returned with bags of scones and fruit. They shattered the peaceful, passive interaction between my grandfather and me without knowing. “Ay, how long the lines were,” my grandmother complained, sliding the screen door. “The entire visit actually inside was less than five minutes, but all that congestion…” And so normality resumed at the Rojas residence. I enjoyed a quick snack to settle the coolness in my stomach from the fruit and I did not have plans to stay long, so I that could arrive at the office in time. I voiced my intentions to leave soon, which were taken as an unalterable fact. My grandmother, however, rushed into the kitchen to pack a small sandwich bag with treats “for the road”, as always. I was again left alone in the sunroom. My grandfather didn’t seem moved in the least that his newest technology companion was on her way out. But he broke the silence at the very last minute.
“There’s also a video of some puppies, but I just can’t open it. Can you help?”