Computer communicates Alida’s story to you all

Computer provides additional information

Computer search time Sophie thought, then turned on her tablet computer and found the town where Alida had died. The picture expanded to show the parks and the motorway.

‘There it is. That’s where my granddaughter lives now.’ Bea announced.

‘Oh, my goodness!’ Sophie laughed. ‘Of all the towns for Flavia to live in, it turns out to be the same place where her great oma lived in the last year of her life.’

Bea indicated out how to walk from the train station, and along the smaller road parallel to the motorway as Sophie expanded and moved the screen map. Bea seemed just as comfortable using the dynamic map as she was with her numerous paper maps.

‘The road you mentioned was from Nijmegen to Den Bosch, I think.’

‘Yes, Nijmegen is about here.’ Bea pointed to a place on the tablecloth roughly the right distance in the scale shown on the small tablet screen.’

‘Tante Bea, for somebody who hates computers and other electronic devices, you use this tablet as though it were your left hand.’

‘You learn even when you don’t want to learn. I don’t want to understand electronic devices, but when you open something, I can see what you need me to see. But there is too much stress. Look at everyone these days.’

Sophie nodded, ‘You’re so right. It takes ages to learn each of these new things. After two months, I’m still struggling with this tablet, because it has a completely different operating system to the new laptop computer I had to buy a year ago.’

‘I watch you fighting with it just to do a simple thing which you clearly do without thinking on your other computer. Although you treat it like a play fight, I can see your face tighten.’ Bea folded her arms and sat back. ‘And that’s the reason why I refuse to start to learn.  Change is just so quick and so big these days.’

‘So true, I only update a device when the old one is broken, so I had the last video camera for nine years. It used reel to reel tape, and you remember I got my friends at the photo shop here in Maastricht to copy them all onto DVD. But you know, you can hardly get a machine to play DVDs anymore.’

‘Look at all my CDs I never use because my hearing is so bad; I gave up listening to music years ago.’ Bea had a faraway look in her eyes.

‘It’s lucky you still sing so then you can hear your own voice melody.’

‘Huh! how out of tune I am. That’s why I’m going to stop singing in the church choir.’

‘An example of rapid change is how in nine years, we have gone from tapes to DVD, to a USB and now many people just download from the internet cloud. I wish I had brought all my typed documents saved in 2003XP so you could read them on that old 1995 laptop that your dear daughter kindly left here for you to play with.’

Bea snorted. ‘The stupid thing turns itself off while waiting to get itself warmed up.’

Sophie laughed, ‘Oh, yes I remember it doing that last year.’

‘It’s getting old and tired like me.’

‘Another change in just the last year is how I started using these big SD discs in my new video camera. They go directly into my one-year-old computer, but now I’ve got this tablet and find it only takes this tiny disc.’

‘And look how tiny it is. I could never pick it up in my stiff old fingers. It makes me tired to see how many changes you’ve done in the last couple of years.’

‘Isn’t the contrast of our life experiences amazing? Alida’s story relies on your 93-year-old memory and word of mouth, but it is captured, stored and told through computers and the internet.

They spent over half an hour trying to identify the buildings where Bea had visited Alida but failed to find them. Eventually Sophie closed the map, together with any more ideas of trying to visit the aged care home where her oma was buried. ‘Well it was nice to see where it was situated. It is marvellous that you could find the street so quickly, considering it is now thirty-five years ago since she was buried.’

‘But I used to visit the grave there often when I travelled to stay with my sisters near Den Bosch, or stay with my children to care for grandchildren, while my children worked or went out.’

‘Well, I’d better get started with preparing some dinner.’ And with that Sophie began to clear her things off the dining table.

Bea jumped up, ‘I will peel the potatoes, and pick some beans from my garden.’

‘That leaves me nothing to do. Shall I pick the beans?’ Sophie smiled gently, ‘It’s quite difficult to get to the bean plants, and anyway, I know which plant I’m up to.’

Bea nodded, ‘Yes, my deteriorating balance may result in my standing on my head and ruining all the plants!’

Sophie paused before getting up to turn off the video. ‘I wonder if poor Oma Alida also had to work cleaning houses or workplaces in Canada, to provide for the family?’

Bea shrugged. ‘I’m sorry; I cannot give you an accurate answer about that. Really, there was not a lot that she would tell me. I think it’s because I was always an outsider. Your oma never called me Bea, just Mevrouw. But, as you’ve already said before, it also seemed to be a way of coping, like a number of her children also demonstrated.’

‘So, at this stage, we seem to have gathered together as much as we can remember.’ Sophie sighed. ‘Sadly, it is so little. It’s rather symbolic of her life, really.’ Sophie’s shoulders drooped as she stared at the distant hill. ‘To have lived on this planet for eighty-five years, but really never having lived after the age of thirty-nine, is tragic.’ She turned to Bea,’ The eulogy I’ve just written for Mum is also sad, but, unlike Alida, fortunately she was free, and she led quite an interesting life. However, my mother never achieved her potential, due to being taken from school at age thirteen to work in the family factory sewing leather products, and I couldn’t convince her to pick up study at college once her youngest daughter left home.

Computer enlarges 1940’s photo of old stables conversion to factory here Alida’s children worked making leather equipment

‘Yes, when we are free, life finds us, and we have to respond as best we can.’ Bea concluded. ‘But when Alida was locked up, it was as though the key was thrown away, and any courage that she might have had in her youth was extinguished.’

‘Like a bird with its wings clipped. Even if they grow back, the bird has forgotten what to do and the muscles have wasted away.’ Tears welled in Sophie’s eyes.

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