“Guess what?” my father said, sounding like a little kid with a secret he couldn’t wait to tell me.
“What?” I asked, still half-asleep even though it was nearly 9AM.
“Larry set it up so you can log in to my computer! From anywhere! Isn’t that great?”
This, indeed, was news worth waking up for. I’m unofficially my father’s computer consultant. Every year, before his store opens for the season, I go to Mom and Dad’s house and sit at the computer with my father looking over my shoulder as he dictates to me the changes he wants made on the price lists for each store. When I set up the initial documents years ago, it took hours and my patience was gone by the end of the process. I left in a huff.
In subsequent years, another store owner gave him his take-out menu and Dad wanted me to create one just like it. Easier said than done, but I did it, again leaving in a huff after hours spent learning the mysteries of combining text and images in a Microsoft Word document. Why did the sundae flavors keep hiding behind the picture of the sundae? Why were the columns of Blizzard flavors not lining up correctly?
The bigger mystery to me was why I was the only one that could help my father with these tasks. I didn’t live at home. In fact, he had two other children living in his house that knew just as much about this stuff as I did – if not more. But they didn’t have the patience to sit with Dad. Dad doesn’t have that kind of patience himself. More likely, my siblings were just smart enough to not get themselves involved.
So I made trips home from Boston each year – a week or two before the stores opened – to edit price lists and menus with Dad. Five years ago, when I moved back to my hometown, the trip was only 15 minutes as opposed to three hours. My skills and patience increased and I created Cake Order Forms, Phone Lists, and Ice Cream Count documents. I rarely left upset with him.
But here I am in North Carolina. I won’t be home before the stores open. But have no fear! No, the sister that lives in the apartment over their garage is not taking my place (you’re welcome, Meg!). I’m coming to Dad – virtually.
Larry, Dad’s accountant, got the technology to log into my father’s computer to look at his Quickbooks. Dad’s brain got to thinking and he asked Larry if there was a way I could do the same thing.
So this morning, I spent a record one hour on the phone with Dad, editing price lists and menus for the 2012 season. My father told me the changes and watched on his computer as I opened the documents, did the changes, and even printed everything right to his computer. He was impressed. So was I.
Not 15 minutes after I hung up with Dad, my mother called. “You did price lists with Dad this morning I heard. How are you doing?” she asked.
“Fine,” I said. “We finished in record time. Did he tell you how well it went?”
“Yes, but I wanted to see how you were feeling,” said my mother, having witnessed my frustration of earlier years.
“I think it’s actually getting better each year,” I said.
“I still don’t understand why you have to do it,” she said.
“I don’t know either. But I’m fine with it now. And with this remote control thing, I don’t feel so bad that I’m thinking of moving to North Carolina after my travels.”
“You don’t have to feel bad,” she said. I know. But I’m the only one of the five of us kids that’s not living within two hours of Mom and Dad. I am blessed with a family that kind of likes being with each other. Technology isn’t the same as being there. But it sure helps.