“You can make me cry, you can break my heart, but I’ll never say we’re through. Even when I try, I can’t stay mad at you.”
I, too, was an “onlooker”, watching them like a hawk when they were using the computer, but I couldn’t be there every single second. Our first computer “on-line incident” was with Jeff. He was in the seventh grade, and we had just gotten Internet service. One night the phone rang. It was a parent from the boys’ school saying that Jeff had created a horrific and offensive website that was frightening some of the girls at school. She went on to say that this website said Jeff hated horses! Go figure … I looked at his creation, it consisted of cartoon horses, and it wasn’t particularly offensive. Apparently, though, it was to some of the girls in the school, and consequently the parents. The girls seemed to think that a 12 year old was going to somehow manage to travel alone to the stable where the girls’ horses were kept and then somehow manage to do harm to their horses. Hmmm …. I told Jeff to take it down, immediately. He did, and we moved on. Still, it amazes me how the boys could do all of these Internet things. Creating and maintaining a website is still something I can’t do!
Shortly after the horse website event, Brian sent a prank email to his teacher. It was an e-card that implied, no stated, that this particular teacher was “fat”. That was much more serious. The school took a dim view of his little “joke”, as did his parents. Appropriate punishment was meted out, and Brian was off the computer for quite a while.
Next came Jeff’s “My Space” incident. I was at work one day when I received an “anonymous” email. It said I should check out Jeff’s My Space page and gave me the link. Well, I clicked that link, and I was appalled, shocked and angry! The language was horrific. I checked his friends’ pages, and they were equally as bad. I wondered, “How should we handle this one???” It came to me in a flash … I signed up for My Space with the screen name “Your Loving Mother”. Then I sent Jeff a one word message –“BUSTED”! When I arrived home, Jeff was sitting there in front of his computer just staring at the screen. I said, “So, you got my message,” to which he replied, “Yes.” “And, you are going to do what ….???” His beautiful blue eyes were terror-filled, but he held his head high and said, “I’m sorry, Mom. I’m taking it down. You can watch me.” I watched while he deleted all the posts and closed out his My Space account. We had a lengthy discussion about the use of foul language. How it is mostly used by people who aren’t smart enough to think of the proper words, so they resort to mindless garbage. We talked about how things posted on the Internet can be harmful to him and to others. He seemed to listen intently … he never had another My Space account. Facebook, well that’s another story for another day.
These incidents, though upsetting, disappointing and awful at the time, were really only blips in the screen in the boys’ race to become wizards of all things electronic! When we wearied over the constant bickering about computer usage, I brought an old one home from the office and gave it to Brian. Within the week, we had a “home network”, long before most of us even knew what a home network was! It was pretty crude, consisting of an ethernet cord strung across the upstairs hall from Jeffrey’s room to Brian’s and connecting their computers. Now, they shared the Internet connection and could compete against one another with video games. They worked very hard on their “network” and were so proud of their accomplishment! Several years later, they decided to go wireless with their network, and purchased a wireless router. That was great, because now I could share the Internet, too! We had a “whole house” network …. That little wireless router lasted for years, and was still going strong when Mr. Horne and I moved from Atlanta to Florida last year. Occasionally, it would need rebooting, but before Brian left for college, he showed me how to do that.
Both boys, with very little formal training, became experts on windows and related programs. By the time they were 16 and 17, they started working for me, putting together my business Power Point presentations, slide shows and music videos. I would send them copy for the slides, and they would add graphics, music and finishing touches. If a presentation fell during out-of-school times for them, one or the other of them (sometimes both) would dutifully accompany me, checking out the presentation, making sure we had a back-up disc, connecting my lap top to the projector, and any other things necessary, all of which I had absolutely no clue about. And, yes … I paid them for their efforts. They really were amazingly good! They were also my IT guys for the office. They knew how to fix just about anything that went wrong, so they were always my first call when we had a problem.
But, their fascination with electronics wasn’t limited to just computers. They had just about everything you can imagine … Nintendo, Gameboys, PlayStation, XBox, Wii, GPS devices, cell phones, iPods, iPhones, Mac Books, Satellite Radio …. you name it, they had it, and they were usually the first of their friends to get the latest version! Oh wait, lest you think we were overindulging parents, let me tell you that we weren’t. You see, in addition to working for me every now and then, both boys had jobs …. Brian at McDonald’s and Jeffrey at Dominoes. They would save their earnings to buy these gadgets. Sometimes they would pool their resources and share the games and game boxes. The amazing thing was that they seemed to require no learning curve for any of them. They simply picked them up and started using them!
Of course, when they had a combined cell phone bill of over $2,000 one month from their over use of the “texting” feature, we had to have a heart-to-heart. Needless to say, I was furious, so I marched them to the Verizon store, where they had to pay a hefty portion of that bill, as well as agree to a new plan with limited texts. They were cured from that point forward and soon learned how to keep track of their usage online to make sure they didn’t go over. They weren’t afraid of much of anything, but the fear of having to pay for over-usage again, kept them in line!
I could never stay mad at the boys for very long, even when they did things that causes a parent’s heart to sink. They always had a way of getting back in my good graces with just a smile, a funny saying or doing something incredibly thoughtful without being asked. I miss them terribly. I miss not being able to call them when I have a computer problem, when my Blackberry isn’t working properly, when my wireless connection goes out, when the cable is acting up. I miss not having them here to tell me how to fix these things.
But, here’s the thing … there is something that I will be angry about forever, and that’s Leukemia. You see, if not for Leukemia, they would be here with me today. Leukemia is a wretched disease that impacts not only the patient, but everyone whose life is touched by the patient. Though I know that everything medically possible was done for Jeffrey, still we all, including Brian, had to sit helplessly by while he wasted away. Brian, who tried so hard to save his brother … his lifelong companion and very best friend … with his donation of stem cells for Jeffrey’s transplant, was hit particularly hard by the devastating effects of Leukemia.
Leukemia was the enemy of our boys … now it is mine. I hope to make it yours. You can help in the fight … learn more about our mission to find a cure. Together, we can reach the day when no more are lost, when all remissions are permanent, and when finally there is a cure for all.