Monday, August 18, 2008

Surfing with my 90 year old grandfather

Surfing the web with my grandfather

Imagine the things a 90 year old person has seen in his or her lifetime – wars, the great depression, more wars, invention of the TV, presidential assassinations, economic booms and busts, the Internet! Of course I’m oversimplifying all that one can experience. I haven’t even mentioned the lifetime of family and friends one loves and loses in the span of ninety years.

This July my grandfather Louis turned 90 years old. I can’t begin to tell you what he’s seen and done in his lifetime, but the cliff notes version would include a few items in addition to everything mentioned above. He was born in Brooklyn to Italian immigrant parents, became a soldier during WWII, is the sole survivor of a wartime plane crash, worked as a coat maker, cheered the Yankees through several world series, raised a family (he’s a great grandpa twice), goes to the gym nearly everyday, and has stories galore that never tire no matter how many times you hear them. Again, oversimplified.

On a recent trip back home, I had what will be one of my lifetime’s most cherished moments… I sat on the stoop of grandpa Louis’ house and showed him the Internet. Mind you, the fact that we were using a laptop – no wires, no power, yet connected to some phantom source of amazing information, was in itself incomprehensible. It wasn’t hard to see that he had the same sheer fascination a child experiences during a magic show.

Click to see the ship manifestSo there we sat that humid Brooklyn afternoon surfing the web while the el train rumbled on its tracks a half block away. The first stop on our Internet voyage was the Ellis Island website to look up our relatives that passed through before 1924. Louis has a fascination with the genealogy of our fam so I knew he’d appreciate this. Imagine the amazement as he viewed a copy of the passenger manifest of the ship his father sailed upon, showing information like his dad's occupation (listed as peasant), who he was staying with, and how much money he had in his pocket on the day he landed in the United States in 1903. Add to that the names and photos of the ship he and other relatives sailed upon, and you have one flabbergasted gramps.

To round out our day of surfing, I showed him Google Earth’s aerial view of the very porch we were sitting on, followed by several towns of our Italian ancestors. His speechlessness spoke volumes about what he had seen over ninety years and about the world and today.

When the batteries on the laptop had run down, we sat watching the world pass by our stoop, and I couldn’t help think how it would have been more believable had I pulled a rabbit out of a hat.

Thanks, grandpa.

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1 comment:

tony said...

I agree with grandpa, the interweb is amazing.