'Great-Grandma is on Skype' and Other Signs That the Rapture is Near

When my oldest son first started making noise about moving to a foreign country and traipsing around Asia to teach English, learn Mandarin Chinese, and eat things with feelers and tentacles, Jim, a high school friend of mine said, “You’ve got to get Skype.”

He has lived in Czech Republic for many years and as his children graduated from high school, he sent them to college in the States. He said the only way he was able to do Olympic feat of heart-wrenching parenting is because we now have things from The Jetsons.

Skype, if you live in a cave and don’t know, is like a video phone call that you see on sci-fi movies and a couple of Twilight Zone episodes. I think George had a couple of video conferences with Mr. Spacely using a crude version of Skype. The person you’re talking to shows up on your computer screen, sitting at his computer, and he can see you sitting at your computer.

So now, when I call my son in China and my other son in Arizona, I have to go put on makeup. Hey, Future Man, thanks a heap.

I had to issue a warning to my mother-in-law when she was setting up Skype on her new laptop. “Be really careful,” I told her. “When you first click on this, a camera view will pop up on your screen and you’ll see yourself. If the screen is tilted funny, you’ll look like you’re peering down into your own grave.”

It’s always a shock to me to see myself on the screen when it first pops up at the start of Skype. Of course I’ve seen myself on my computer. I have Photo Booth and I’ve spent many, many, many minutes posing for potential Facebook photos (oh, you’ve done it, too) and experimenting with the effects (Stretch, Bulge, Dent, Squeeze, Glow, Twirl and X-Ray - sounds like a new Seven Dwarves). For some reason the 'Skype me' is older, saggier and my hair is downright lackluster.

But back to my mother-in-law getting Skype. How cool is that? Not as cool, when you find out that she has been on Facebook for more than a year and also has Twitter. She has a sweet little Macbook Air that she carries around in her Paris bag. 

I won’t tell you how old she is (other people are always telling her age, bragging about her because she won’t do it herself) but let’s just say she is the only one at her class reunions who goes to the gym every day, swims laps for 30 minutes straight, walked all over Paris and Rome last summer, and keeps getting hired back to her job. She’s retired four times now. Also, I suspect she has a secret life in espionage, since she doesn’t have fingerprints and has no explanation for it. She just laughs and says, “Maybe they just wore off!”

She was pretty excited about getting Skype. Now she can talk face-to-face with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who live all over the country. While the other great-grandmothers are knitting afghans and sending Hallmark cards, she is firing up her Air on her wireless network and video-chatting with people a fraction of her age.

As my sister Kathy says: “I love living in the future.”

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