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At a loss for words

Published: Thursday, April 10, 2014 3:30 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 21, 2014 9:53 a.m. CDT

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As I waited for my meal to be delivered in a local restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice the older gentleman sitting across from me. Though his face was weathered, it was remarkably kind — I tend to notice kind faces.

Sitting across from this older fellow was his teenage granddaughter — I heard her call him “Gramps” a couple of times. She was busy working/playing on her iPad, as they also waited for their meals.

The restaurant was busy, and I don’t mind telling you the wait was considerably long for our meals, which was OK with me, since I was enjoying the casual atmosphere and the much-needed relaxation. I found myself glancing now and then toward Gramps and his granddaughter throughout the evening, and something very troubling kept gnawing at me.

You see, during the entire meal and the time it took to get it, the granddaughter kept her eyes on her iPad, while Gramps just stared off into the distance. Only a few words of conversation were exchanged, and even after the meal was delivered, the young lady still had her eyes on her iPad, while the two ate in silence. The teenager was still looking at her iPad when the two left the restaurant, while Gramps paid for the meal. If 100 words were spoken between the two during the entire meal, I’d be surprised.

I’ve thought about that evening a lot — the young lady on her iPad, while Gramps sat quietly at the table. The lack of conversation bothers me. While the young lady’s disrespect of her grandfather is paramount to this discussion, I have to remember someone (perhaps her parents) has allowed this teenager to bring her electronics to the table — in essence to ignore the person(s) at the table and remain in her own world. That alone is tragic.

But to me, what is more troubling is what this teenager is missing, and that was a conversation with her grandfather. The two had about 90 minutes to chat, listen to each other and talk about anything and everything, yet the girl didn’t give Grandpa any time at all. When I think about it, I find the scenario very sad.

What I wouldn’t give to have 90 minutes with my grandparents today. I can almost picture us sitting together, chatting non-stop — me hanging onto every word they said, while I allowed them the opportunity to talk and talk and talk ... I’d ask a million questions, and I’d get just as many answers. We’d laugh until our sides ached, and inevitably a few tears might fall too. We’d cram as much as we could into those 90 minutes. The idea of an iPad or a cell phone or any other electronic gadget wouldn’t even enter my mind.

But I’m considerably older than that teenager who sat across the aisle from me, and I, too, remember a time when life seemed long and loved ones always seemed available. Everyone was invincible back then, and the idea of never having a loved one there didn’t seem to enter our minds.

But what I really wanted to do was shake that young teenager, snatch away her iPad and shout, “TALK TO YOUR GRANDPA! THERE WILL COME A TIME WHEN YOU WON”T BE ABLE TO DO SO. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EVERY MINUTE YOU’RE GIVEN BECAUSE BEFORE LONG — IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE — THAT OPPORTUNITY WILL BE TAKEN AWAY.”

Electronic devices can be somewhat addicting. I’ve known couples who have parted ways because the computer got in the way of their time together. While I wouldn’t want to give up these electronic devices, we must set some guidelines. When these devices get in the way of our communication with each other — that one-on-one time that is so very valuable, we’ve lost so very much.

Rules need to be made: Don’t bring your phones, your iPads, etc., to the table. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, and who knows what we might learn from a simple conversation.

Putnam County Record Editor Terri Simon can be reached at tsimon@putnamcountyrecord.com.

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