Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I did it and learned a lot along the way

Over the years computers and I have have had a very tumultuous and complicated relationship. I started out back in the day, dead set against them. They were always something I hated to love and loved to hate. I was a committed technophobe, even using a manual typewriter through out high school, though I finally did get an electric one for college. It was the early 90s and computers were mostly being used to store information, run specific programs, to analyze data, and such. However, they started to creep into my everyday life. By the time I graduated from college, even libraries were replacing their card catalogs with computers, (boo hoo) and there was this phenomenon called the world wide web, that my husband kept talking about.

I remember one late afternoon in 1996, when he decided to show me how it all worked. I listened dubiously as he explained to me the concept of web pages, and started typing in random addresses to see what popped up. There were no real search engines like google so it was just sort of hit or miss. We tried many different addresses but time and time again, after waiting minutes for the page to down load,(the joys of dial up) it would more often then not, say
page under construction. We kept at it for an hour or so, Peter getting more and more frustrated as my curiosity faded and my feelings confirmed regarding the limits of a computer's usefulness. Other than running certain software programs, creating word documents, and playing computer games like Doom, I thought that a computer amounted to a very large and expensive paper weight.

Peter remained committed to his technophillic nature and I got to reap the benefits of his ever expanding knowledge of all things computer. The computer became an essential part of my life. Running spread sheets, researching, shopping, paying bills, playing games, keeping in touch with those I care about and love are just a few of the ways computers became an integral part of my day. It would be hard to think of life without them.

Peter had always been the one to install the latest programs or hardware. He maintained it, kept it virus free, defragmented it, added memory, etc. I knew nothing of these things and was gratefully oblivious. If a window popped up while I was using it, asking me a question, I would call Peter at work to make sure it was OK to click on it. I certainly didn't want to cause a problem. I suppose I am starting to sound like a nit wit, but my computer illiteracy was merely a result of a devision of labor. I was completely in charge of our finances, running of the house, all things kids, most of the yard maintenance, etc. so I was perfectly happy to leave the area of computers to him.

But then he got sick. And dealing with the computer alone was not something I knew how to do. While Peter was receiving treatment in Texas, I had to transport our computer there and set it up with DSL. And when we got back home I became obsessed with getting the computer hooked back up and running. Amongst the chaos of my family's return home, the arrival of my husband's parents and siblings, and the setting up hospice care, I had to set up the computer and have it up and running. In my mind if I could do this one last thing without him, then the girls and I would somehow be OK. Over the 8 months he had been sick, I had run the entire show. The computer was the last thing I had depended on him for. On the 8th of August, we flew back from Houston on a private Jet loaned to us by the owner of the Sonics. Two friends of the family were driving back our car full of our belongings, including the computer, and weren't scheduled to arrive till the 10th.

I felt if I could just get the computer up and running without him, then maybe there was hope of a life after Peter. If I could just get it running, then maybe everything might eventually be OK. Late afternoon on the 10th, with my very confused in laws looking on, I spent what felt like 2 hours on the phone with a very patient rep from Adelphia helping me plug cords in the proper places and getting my computer back on line. After, I went into the bedroom where Peter lay.
I wanted for him to know that I would be OK. I whispered into his ear that I had done it. I had gotten the computer running.

I needed him to know that although it was NOT OK for him to be leaving us, that it would somehow be OK, even if I couldn't yet see how. I would not crumple up and die. Life would go on. I would go on....without him. He knew the significance of what I had accomplished and what I was really saying.

I was saying goodbye.

He died 8 hours later in my arms.

In these past 2 years, I have been delighted to discover that regarding computers, I wasn't as much of a dunce as I thought I was. I must have picked up a lot from Peter over the years without knowing it. And after getting over my fear of irreparably damaging the computer I've spent hours opening up tabs rooting around and becoming more and more familiar with my computer. It helps a lot that everything is SO menu driven and intuitive. And of course there is that wonderful world wide web of information at my fingertips, so I can usually find out what I don't know. Last year after my computer became infected with a virus I learned how to put it in safe mode and manually deleted the infected files. Is it something that would have taken Peter 20 minutes to do? Yes. Did it take me 8 hours? Absolutely. But I did it and learned a lot along the way.

Hopefully, when my time comes I will be able to say the same about my life.