Grandma Learns Gmail

Grandma, the Laptop Queen (Image: Cafepress)

GRANDMA is adorable even in her forgetfulness.

Lately, since February, she has taken on cyberspace and made the laptop her friend. Her Toshiba has a pink-eared rabbit sticker on the right of the trackpad to cover up the Intel chip and Energy Star stickers—both of which, she complained, are “so ugly!” And that sticker was compliments of me. Grandma is fond of rabbits, being a rabbit herself on the Chinese zodiac.

It’s important to indulge Grandma. She’s not a young lady anymore. Besides, she has a touch of dementia. And so, when Mommy decided to get her a laptop to get her mind buzzing, I offered to be her default coach.

For nearly six months now, I have spent about half an hour each Saturday afternoon walking her through all kinds of things: how to Google for anything and everything, how to send a discreet blast email using bcc, how to create photo albums to sort all her shopping by category (clothes, home furnishing) and lunch outings by restaurants.

For a soon-to-be 80-year-old grande dame of the family, Grandma gets 7½ out of 10 for her you-go-girl attitude and her efforts at navigating all things tech. Her one great challenge is Gmail. Every week for the past two months, she likes to ask, in Mandarin, at the start of our class: “Oh, Yiwen, I can’t remember if I asked you this, but I want to forward a group email to another group of my friends. How do I do it?” At first, I really couldn’t get what she meant. Soon, I did.

Basically, her church friend, Ellie, likes to share advice, trivia, and how to’s with Grandma and her other church friends. How to brew turmeric tea, for instance. Grandma can’t bear that such great advice sits in her inbox, dormant and unshared. Get it out, forward it to as many friends as possible—her lunch kakis, her Tai-chi friends, and even me and my grandfather, who have no interest whatsoever in brewing turmeric tea, or making sour plum.

Her one pet peeve about forwarding emails is that she doesn’t like her recipients to know who else gets it. My solution: send them all under bcc. Her other requirement is that no one should see the list of folks that Ellie has sent to. My solution: after hitting forward, delete all of Ellie’s friends manually.

“But Yiwen, there are names everywhere! How to delete?” she’d work herself up into a fussy fit. “Delete for me!”

It’s hard to say “no” to her. Sharing with her that lesson on learning to fish rather than merely asking for fish isn’t going to work, not when she spews forth all her Grandma threats: “If you don’t, Por Por don’t like you.” “If you don’t, I won’t fry you an omelette.” “If you don’t, I won’t take you out to eat sushi.”

So, what do you expect? As we like to say: No choice! So there I go, delete, delete, delete. But I always make it a point to work in a little sweet talk: “So, you see here, Por Por, the fastest way is to select all the names and hit this button.”

I have been performing deleting services for two months or so now. I think she may be getting the drift of this deleting process, but she would do it her way. She enjoys holding down the delete button and watching the cursor chew the names away, backwards. Grandma’s only problem now is she over-deletes, and then Yiwen would have to come to her rescue, as always.

It just breaks my heart to see her whining and whimpering. Besides, I do want that omelette.

(624 words)


Euan Koh, Primary Five
August 2017

For more essays by Euan, visit Euan Writes.

This essay was written in response to the theme, “A Difficult Task” and two boxed pictures: (1) an old woman, and (2) a laptop