"We may pick on each other, get into little scrapes, call each other names and occasionally steal from each other, but that’s because we are family."
— Lucille Bluth, "Arrested Development"
You really have to know my family in order to have any appreciation towards them whatsoever. Their idea of a good Thanksgiving is seeing how many of those around the table they can insult and/or stab in the back while using a speaking volume so loud, impactful, and ferocious you'd think they were trying to force blood clots through the carotid artery in their necks until one-by-one they storm out of the house. The only person remaining at the now-vacant dinner table with a turkey leg in hand is declared the victor! Anyone audacious enough to come back for Christmas would again face the same gauntlet until holiday after holiday there are none left. Kind of like WWE's "King of the Ring" tournament, but with a lot more cursing and blood. Even Jerry Springer would classify us as "too unbelievable" to appear on his show. "The Real Housewives" would shake their heads in disgust and exclaim that we need better table manners.
In my opinion, out of all these family members, my grandfather is the most rational and normal despite the fact that his mom was a raving lunatic who constantly screamed and threw glass milk bottles at his father's head. Born in September 1935, coming off the heels of the Great Depression, his family was poor; like something out of a Charles Dickens novel. Stickball, as he would tell stories about, was played in garbage-ridden streets below his Bronx apartment using a half-rotten two-by-four for the bat and a rock as their ball. A fucking ROCK.
As the old saying goes, "Boys marry women like their mothers," he would eventually meet and marry my grandmother. She was also born into impoverished conditions in 1937 and is a straight-up German from the 1940s with a very heavy German influence from her very German heritage. Case in point: her maiden name is Gass (pronounced "GAHz" in a loud, booming German accent; not like "gas"). During our holiday scuffles, she would usual come out on top since she can be as manipulative as a marionette's puppeteer. Imagine Robin Williams being cast as Walter White for "Breaking Bad," except dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire the whole time.
Minus the methamphetamine
Her mother — my great-grandmother — was even worse, claiming that she "didn't care much for blacks," thought the Holocaust was "blown out of proportion by the media," and once remarked to my mom, "Look at Donny. What a happy blonde haired, blue eyed baby. The Aryan blood is strong in this one," like I was some fucked up Anakin Skywalker. Imagine the apprehension I felt when she would order me to go shower. At least my grandmother didn't inherit the same racist beliefs great-grandma had.
Why am I telling you this? Well, even though grandma encompasses many flaws, the true bane of my grandfather's existence is still his disdain towards electronics. As a result of his meager upbringing, he quickly learned to appreciate the things he had and has never been ostentatious or a man of flash. He never cared about "the Jones's" or having the best TV or the loudest stereo or the most up-to-date cell phone or even a fully functioning automobile. Being as clueless as Ariel from "The Little Mermaid," he refers to any and all electronics as "gizhockeys", "dohickeys", "doodads", "what-cha-ma-call-its" and "new-fangled machines."
His varying success with TV remote controls is solely and totally dependent on the number of buttons it has. Homer Simpson is to a nuclear reactor what my grandfather is to a desktop computer: something is eventually going to explode. He received a computer as a Christmas gift one year, figuring the time had come for my grandparents to be thrown cane-first into the 20th century. This didn't go well. His typing skills were so horrendous a two-toed sloth could have mustered up more dexterity and speed to accomplish a simple email. An error message popup once displayed onscreen, simply instructing him to, "Click OKAY to Continue. For additional help, Press F1." Instead of easily pressing the F1 key like any other non-geriatric, he proceeded to type "F" and the number "1" in succession. Baffled as to why his actions didn't immediately rectify the popup situation, he unplugged the computer in an act of frustration. Literally pulled the plug out of the wall, and the computer never booted up again.
Why? Because FUCK YOU! That's why.
Neither the computer nor email were a big loss to him, mostly because he could write letters — his preferred method of communication — much faster than he could type anyway. He avoids cell phones because the government is listening in; avoids telephones because he would need to wear his hearing aids to hear the person though the receiver (and because the government is listening in); and avoids wearing his hearing aids because the government is wirelessly using them to listen in. Before the NSA scandal, I would have dismissed his paranoid beliefs as poppycock that the government would even want to listen in on his latest colonoscopy results or a conversation about the fact that he had soup for lunch.
The man has spent more time avoiding electronics than I have spent trying to acquire more and more electronics. He claims that's why he's never had cancer. With that type of mentality, I figured he would be the expert to consult since I, myself, have given up electronics this month. And to further flatter the man, why not come down to his level and actually WRITE a letter instead of typing? Here's why:
Initial viewing of the letter might lead you to believe, "Awww, Don found a letter that he wrote to his grandpa from when he was a kid." False. That is how much degradation my handwriting has suffered since only utilizing a keyboard all these years. I could have produced better results using my non-dominate hand during a seizure. I never write anymore; I don't need to. Cramps even rendered my hand useless twice while scrawling out that letter. I've seen an armless man produce perfect calligraphy using only his mouth and feet. Everything and anything worth communicating can be typed on a keyboard or dictated verbally. The only time a pen graces my hand and has any interaction with a piece of paper is to scribble in a tip and sign the bar tab at the end of the night, assuming I don't pay in cash. I've transcribed everything below (in half the time it took me to write, I might add):
You're old; that we can both agree on. But what you may lack in youthful vigor you definitely make up for in intellegence through years of experience. More importantly, years without dependency on electronics such as a phone, internet, television, computers, and probably even calculators have forced you to look to other sources for both entertainment and educational value. That's where I need your advice now. Because of powers beyond my control, I have given up TV, a smartphone, and internet for 30 days. This was caused when I asked for 30 day challenges from my friends on Facebook. Let me explain, Facebook is a vast social network..... you know what, screw it. You won't get it. How you've lived without modern technology for so long is nothing short of an Amish miracle. Please share your tips on how to impede boredom. I've almost reverted to seeking solace in paddle ball.
P.S. — Hopefully you can read this as I do realize my penmanship closely resembles hieroglyphics and cuneiform writings.