Friday, August 3, 2018

A Gift I Had to Learn to Love

This article is scheduled to be published in the Summer, 2018 issue of Dialogue Magazine. I posted the first part of the story on my birthday back in February.


My 57th birthday was on February 23, but my husband Murray couldn’t wait and gave me my gift a week early. Our phone company had a great deal on an IPhone. Murray was so excited when he handed me the box to open.

I think my first words were, “I wanted an IPad.”

My mother taught me better manners than that.

I said an IPad would be good, to help me to read e-books. But for now, I could do everything I needed to do with my cheap flip-phone, even text.

Not a very grateful response to an expensive gift.

For weeks I had trouble learning to use the IPhone. People told me to give it time; I would learn. “I doubt it.” Grumble, grumble.

At first I could, usually, answer calls, as well as make calls and send texts by using the speech feature. But reading texts, listening to voice mails, using any function listed on the screen? Those attempts made me want to cry.

And sure, I could make a call, but what about when the recording on the other end said to push one or six or two, or to press the star or pound key? Grumble, grumble.

My sons Benjamin and Caleb, both blind, use an IPhone. Caleb said almost every blind person he knows has one.

Well, that stiffened my spine a little. I refused to let myself be one of the only blind people who couldn’t use something, a former rehab teacher, who liked to feel capable of learning new technology.

Of course, the people Caleb knows are younger than I am, with far more flexible brains and fingers. Caleb worked with me from the beginning. He is an encouraging and patient teacher. Yet we must remember the rough, raw student-material he has to work with.

On one web site I found while looking for IPhone manuals, it said that people who’d never used an Apple product, or even a smart phone, would find learning to use an IPhone a difficult and frustrating process. It might take them several months.

That made me feel a little better. I wasn’t the only dunce.

And it’s true. I’m used to using computers and devices with definite, clear buttons to push. Here we had flicks and slides and drags, and finding the correct place on the screen. How was that supposed to be more accessible to blind people?

And not only did I not show Murray the proper thanks for his gift, but I was constantly irritable about it. Sometimes I wanted to yell, “If you didn’t give me this dumb thing, I wouldn’t be having all this trouble!”

My mother definitely taught me better manners than that.

I was complaining and asking Benjamin a question about the phone one day, and he asked if I’d like him to sit with me sometime and work on it. As we did that, and he was showing me which gestures to do for what, he figured out that I wasn’t positioning my fingers correctly. He explained how I should be doing it, using the whole first pad of the finger, not just the nail tip. I said, “You mean the part I read braille with?”

It started working so much better for me. I was able to use the number keypad on the screen. Most of the time. I found some functions on the screen and was able to do the actions.

I was bubbly. I had successes. I wanted to share how excited I was with Murray.

And I felt so silly about how I’d been acting.

For a time, I discovered so many things I could do—listen to voicemails; read texts; hear the news; listen to YouTube; read books; check the weather.

I’ve slowed down some now, no new things in a while. I can’t do emails or use the internet. But I’m satisfied, and I believe I can learn to do more if I work at it.

When I think back on how I said the IPhone was too hard because it wasn’t like my easy, push-button keyboard, I laugh at myself. Was I referring to my computer that shuts itself down in the middle of my work? The one where just hovering my hand above the mousepad changes what window I’m working in? The internet which skitters all over the place, and I can’t figure out what to do. The desk-top that adds new programs I never asked for, or deletes the ones I use every day without asking me. Right. That simple keyboard.

Do I still have trouble with my IPhone? Sure, and I still complain about it sometimes. Caleb is so lucky. He lives with me, so he gets to help me with problems every time he’s around and a new difficulty arises.

But I laugh more often than I want to cry. When a problem comes up, I believe we’ll figure it out. And yes, I love my IPhone. Who would ever want a silly flip-phone?


  1. New technology is beyond me sometimes, too. Just switching from my android phone to using one of my sibling's iPhones throws me off, and I don't have to do much on them. Congrats on battling through. I'm glad your son is able to help!

  2. Again, thank you for your encouraging perspective. I feel better knowing that others have difficulties and have to work through feelings of grumpiness to get to the other side. This is nicely written.