Of gadgets, grandkids, friendships and death verywellhealth.com

Of gadgets, grandkids, friendships and death Featured

THIS article is a departure from my usual fare of extracting political content behind the headlines for analysis and instead delves into my other concerns, which of late have been occupying my days: my grandchildren and the specter of death. Both are interrelated in some intimate way that only those grandparents with young grandkids with an age gap of almost 70 years between them can truly appreciate. The first instance was prompted by my grandson Oliver who just turned four years last month saying, “Lolo, when you die, I will have your watch” (an Apple smart electronic watch). Straightforward, articulate and refreshingly shocking that only a 48-month-old can dish out.

Electronic gadgets
In this age of the Internet and social media where half of people’s waking hours are occupied with electronic gadgets, computers, tablets and the ubiquitous smartphone, habits are drastically altered. From the time one wakes up, to the time one goes to bed to sleep, these gadgets are the first we reach for and the last we set aside. At my advanced age, I too am afflicted. Worse, I see my grandchildren so occupied with these gadgets that their parents (my own children) find it difficult to allocate the time between their usage and other childish endeavors. Still, because of peer pressure in school and their comparing notes on the latest in “Minecraft,” this has become problematic. It was cute years back when my own children began to learn to master simple plastic electronic devices from Fisher Price — spelling aids that “talk”; and cuter still when my three-year-old grandchild Claudia began to understand and tinker with her parents’ smartphones and tablets. And even take photos of brother Javier. Now, when I visit my five grandkids after a long flight from the province, I only merit a “Hi! Lolo” before going back to their gadgets. The children’s predilection for electronic gadgets is reaching epidemic proportions. Behavioral scientists, psychiatrists and clinical psychologists must be having a lucrative practice dealing with phenomenon — when they have time, of course, to look up from their own gadgets themselves.

Face-to-face relationships
But this is not an article about electronic gadgets and my grandchildren per se. They are now the problems of their parents. After a maximum of three hours of engagement with my five grandkids (ages 3 to 7 years), especially my American ones (Max, Sylvie and Oliver), their play, quarrels and demands, I undergo physical and emotional exhaustion myself. But I love them terribly still, while I repair to my refuge — my computer, my iPad and my smartphone.

These musings therefore are about the need for imparting to my grandkids real relationships — physical, psychological and, more importantly, face-to-face, flesh-upon-flesh encounters with friends and people. This is perhaps a nostalgic outreach to a time before Charles Babbage, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and a host of pioneers who fused software and hardware to create the computer, peripherals and the ubiquitous smartphone. We hanker for that period even beyond the creation of the “network of networks” that morphed into the Internet and the worldwide web, that have now reduced human interactions through the streaming of the cold data language of the 0s and 1s — although the trade-off in communications are instantaneous and global.

My dying friends
What impelled me on the second part of these reflections on my current four-score-less-five-years existence was last week’s terrible news from social media (Facebook) that a good and close friend had passed away; Cris Lanorias, my colleague in the NGO community for the better part of four decades, a taciturn fellow and a good man. What a way to learn of a man’s demise. Nelly, his wife, decided when my spouse Sylvia and I went to visit just a few days earlier that we should not see him in his state, bedridden and emaciated, and we respected that. I had this nagging feeling though that I might never see him again. It may have been a premonition. Looking back, I wish that I had said goodbye.

There was a sentimental reason why. Cris was part of a group of five friends who established a close bond long before the internet, before the smart phone, even before the laptop; idealists all, who met in the late 1960s and early 1970s, all “provincianos,” to help found various NGO groups — Konsumo Davao (Davao’s first Consumer Protection Organization) and TACDRUP (a multidisciplinary NGO dealing with farmers and the poor) — and the PDP-Laban (a political party with Sen. Nene Pimentel). Rey Teves was the first to go, of pneumonia. He never learned phone texting. Zafiro Respicio followed, of stroke and heart complications, he didn’t own a smartphone; Cesar Ledesma of cancer, had an ordinary cellphone; and Cris, who didn’t have any electronic gadget. I am the last of the five, conversant with all these gadgets and into FB, Messenger, Viber and What’s Up!

Reaching out
It dawned on me that I could be next. What a morbid thought! Will my passing be announced also in FB, Messenger, Viber or Twitter? I have other old friends from way back, from my professional life in business, from my stint in government. But none more intimate than the ones where I now find solace and warmth — the batch 1960 from the Ateneo de Davao high school, a motley group of individual egos now tamed by age. We meet every Wednesday afternoon with our wives and widows for coffee and conversation in aircon malls to update ourselves on the issues of the day. Classmates from out of town and abroad make it a point to visit and join this weekly coffee reunion when in town. These keep our minds active though the conversation keeps coming back to everyone’s current cocktail of maintenance medicines; the recounting of old incidents we keep repeating but we forget we are repeating and thus are presented as refreshingly new; and recurring old jokes whose punch lines keep escaping us. And thus, we make fun of our early onset of dementia, warding off Alzheimer’s that we assure ourselves we don’t have. We try to perish the thought of who among us will be left to share coffee and clubhouse sandwiches in the next 30 years or so – our target!

Until the next flight
But paradoxically, we oldies also use our smartphones, clicking photos and posts to our FB pages, Messengers and Vibers to announce such gatherings and photo records for those who are far away. But we are not enslaved by these machines. Now our attrition rate is accelerating that so many of us have gone ahead making widows of our love ones. The weekly Class ‘60 interaction has assumed a tinge of urgency compelling us to meet more often, traveling together locally while we are ambulant and can still remember and keep schedules; knowing full well that we may be in the cusp of eternity or in more mundane language, “magnificently kidding around in the waiting lounge at the departure area.” Until next Wednesday, but don’t use your boarding pass before then.000
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