Friday, July 17, 2009


There is a saying that water, flowing drop by drop, can eventually wear away the most adamantine of mountains. That this has some small basis in reality is attested by an astonishing statement Eli (hizzownself) made several months ago at my retirement party: He was considering getting a computer.

Only if you know Eli do you know how jaw-droppingly unexpected this pronunciamento was. He, aided and abetted by his bride Toni, is a technological Luddite of the first water.

Getting the two of them to use modestly innovative devices such as cell phones (for safety if for no other reason) and answering machines took years of gentle persuasion. I’m sure they still harbor private doubts about electricity and indoor plumbing.

Years ago, in the workplace, even as the day-to-day functioning of his business became more computer-dependent, Eli continued to do things the way he had learned as a youth: by writing things out longhand. It was left to others to transcribe and handle the word processing tasks, a way of doing things common to men of his generation. Any pressure to become computer-literate that his work may have imposed evaporated, of course, as soon as he retired.

For years, Eli was proud - even a bit defiant - concerning his computerless status. Didn’t want one. Not interested. E-mail? Fuhgeddaboudit.

I’m not sure when the first cracks in the armor started to appear. Was it the Garmin, that semi-magickal GPS device - a device that actually proved useful? Was it the monthly grind of paying bills by the labor-intensive process of hand-writing chack after check, addressing and stamping envelope after envelope? Was it a gradual feeling of being disconnected from the rest of the Internet-savvy, e-mailing, Facebooking, Twittering world?

Who knows?

But She Who Must Be Obeyed actually heard Eli utter those unexpected words back in March, and so she came up with the Brilliant Suggestion that my brother (the Other Elisson) and I buy Eli a computer for his 84th birthday.

We discussed the matter at length, my brother and I, and when the Missus and I were in New York at the end of May we floated the trial balloon before the Old Man himself. And, shockingly, he did not demur.

Eli gets a computer
Eli, flanked by his two Elissons, checks out an H-P laptop. Note the look of sheer horror and/or consternation on the Other Elisson’s face.

The first of June found us at Costco, checking out the offerings. We settled on an H-P laptop, adding a Canon printer, a wireless mouse, and a few other minor (but necessary) gewgaws and doodads. And home with Eli went all the Electronic Swag.

Eli and Toni are now in the process of negotiating a steep Learning Curve. They’re taking Computer Kindergarten courses, dipping their toes gingerly into the Aqua Electronica. Those are deep waters, as we all know, and there is much, much to learn.

So far, they’ve mastered the art of Computer Solitaire... and they’re using the wireless mouse. Baby steps... baby steps.

But the mere fact that, at the age of eighty-four, Eli is willing to give it a shot - why, that is simply one more reason (in a long list of reasons) to admire the guy.

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