“Have you seen those insurance commercials where the doctor talks about how he can’t stop you from becoming your parents?” my friend Lois asked me.
I googled them. And realized I had seen them. Because I’ve spent the last two weeks at my parents house and they actually still watch television with commercials.
Two nights earlier, my mother had said, “It’s time for our shows. Thursdays we watch the funny ones.”
“Uh. . . you know you can watch your shows whenever you want, right?”
“We can?” Dad asked. Then he paused, probably remembering that he used to do this. “But we don’t remember how. How do we do that?”
I was saved by the start of their first show. I watched what felt like three scenes in thirty seconds before a commercial came on.
“Okay, everybody. Let’s do a ticket check,” says a man standing over a group of adults at an airport boarding gate. The adults all hold up paper boarding passes.
“Paper tickets. We’re off to a horrible start.”
I laughed as I recalled a similar scenario with my father recently. I was explaining how I just use my phone for my boarding pass these days.
“I could never do that. What if I lose my phone?”
“Seriously? When is the last time you lost your phone at the airport?”
“But what if my battery dies? Then I have no boarding pass!”
“And how often do you show up at the airport with a low battery on your phone? And besides, if any of this happened, you’d just go to customer service and they’d print you a boarding pass.”
“Exactly! So why not just carry a paper boarding pass to begin with?”
At nearly 75, my father is fond of saying, “At my age, I can do whatever I want.” Which is funny to me as this is how my father has lived his entire life—doing whatever he wants. Age is now just a convenient excuse for it. . .
And so it is that I gave up on convincing my father the merits of electronic boarding passes.
So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when, in preparation for their 50th wedding anniversary, my mother pulled out her legal pad on which she had hand-written her guest list. “Now I just need to get everyone’s addresses,” she told me.
“You’re going to send paper invitations?” She could hear the suggestion in my voice that this was, perhaps, a crazy idea.
“What else would we do?”
I showed her how my friend Dawn had recently done electronic invitations for her engagement party. “Remember Evites?” I asked. “It’s like that, but over text message.”
“So we have to keep track of everyone texting us back?”
“No, no. We text them a link. They click on the link and RSVP.”
“And how do I see the RSVPs?”
“In the app.”
“So I have to download an app?”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll do that part,” I said. “We just need to get everyone’s cell phone number.”
“So every person has to respond for themselves?”
“No—they can respond and say how many guests they’re bringing.”
My mother was coming around to this. Begrudgingly. With the guest list looking to be in the multiple hundreds, I suggested we create a spreadsheet of everyone by family, then Mom and I–and any other sibling that wanted to help–could split up the list and fill in whose cell numbers we had and call people to get the ones we were missing.
So Mom and I sat across from each other as she read her list to me and I typed it into a Google doc. She then pulled out her hand-written address book and started reading out cell phone numbers she had in there. Finally, she cross-checked those with the numbers she had in her cell phone.
I shared the Google doc with my siblings, then called them to explain the plan. Mom was eager to get started filling in the missing pieces. “So can you print me the list?” she asked.
I paused. “The point is that you fill in the Google doc and that way everyone can see what everyone else did.”
“But if you print the list, I can make the calls, and then fill in the Google doc later.”
“So. . . “ I said to my mother, “have you seen those insurance commercials about not turning into your parents? Do you remember the one that says, ‘We don’t need to print the internet’?”
My mother and I laughed. She looked at me lovingly. I printed the list.
Over the next few days Mom and I worked on the guest list for my parents 50th wedding anniversary party. I worked from the spreadsheet on my computer, my mother worked from the printed version of that document, as people of a certain age are wont to do.
Every once in a while my mother would take the notes and numbers she’d gathered from friends and relatives and enter them into the spreadsheet.
One relative, who shall rename nameless to protect her reputation and that of her children, said to me, “I have trouble looking everything up on my phone when I’m on it.”
I laughed. “I get it,” I said. “I know what generation I’m dealing with.” She managed to get me her children’s phone numbers but when I called back later for the numbers of her cousins, she said, “I’m not at home right now and those numbers are in my address book. Text me tomorrow with who you need and I’ll send them back to you.”
The next day, my mother texted this relative with a list of names. My mother showed me the response and we both burst out laughing. The relative had sent a picture of a post-it note with the names and numbers hand-written on it.
Dad arrived home at that point. “What’s so funny?” he said. We explained what we’d asked and what we’d gotten. “What else was she supposed to do?” he asked.
“Text me the numbers so I could copy and paste them into the spreadsheet!” Dad laughed uneasily. Probably because he would have done the same thing.
“So how are the calls going?” Dad asked me and Mom.
“Great!” I said. “We’re almost done.” I showed him the spreadsheet with all the numbers in it, the box with notes on who had what kids and grandkids, the column where we marked the people we already knew wouldn’t be coming.
“Great!” Dad said. “Can you print this for us?”