You can’t go home again (unless you promise to fix the computer)

Image by Danial*1977 via Flickr

We’re going to visit my parents in a couple weeks, and I already know what’s going to happen:

While Thing 1 is off reading and Thing 2 is wrestling Papaw, I’ll be fixing my parents’ computer.

I used to fix my in-laws computer, too, but they found “a guy.”

My parents don’t have “a guy.” They’ve got me, and I’m 7 hours away.

When something goes wrong, they’ll get by as best they can until we get there and I can take a look at it.

I try to offer them tech support over the phone, and Dad tries to follow, he really does, but it’s hopeless.

ME: OK, click “Start,” and then click “All Programs.”


ME: OK, now look for….

DAD: Wait. Where’s “Start”?

ME: It’s on your screen, bottom left. It’s not on the keyboard. It’s on your screen. It’s a big button that says, “Start.”

DAD: I don’t have that.

ME: You don’t have it?

DAD: No. Where is it?

In all fairness, my parents do a pretty good job of maintaining their machine — at least they have since I fixed it a couple years ago.

The problem then was malware. They’d let their anti-virus subscription lapse, and they were clicking every link their friends forwarded to them. That PC had more viruses than a kindergarten class in the middle of winter.

I spent several hours removing viruses and installing anti-virus updates, and when I’d finished, I called my parents into their home office (my old bedroom) and explained what I’d done and warned them against clicking strange links.

“Oh,” Mom said. “Well, we didn’t know. (Pause.) Hey, let me show you this website Polly sent me where you can play old songs from the ’50’s!”


I explained that was exactly the kind of no-name website I’d just warned them about, and I have to say, they listened. They’re getting their oldies these days from Pandora and their classic country from WSM in Nashville. That was 2 years ago, and until just recently, Dad would still make a point sometimes of telling me how well their computer was working.

Lately, though, it’s been acting up again. I did some troubleshooting over the phone over a period of several days, and it sounds like their hard drive is full — they’ve got a 30 GB hard drive and about 200 MB free, according to Dad — so that should be easy enough to fix.

I’ll sit with my parents and we’ll uninstall any unnecessary programs and delete old emails with big attachments — the same folks who like to forward links to suspicious websites like to forward pictures of their kids and grandkids, too — and we’ll probably go to Walmart to get a cheap external drive, for backup as well as extra storage.

With any luck, their machine will stay fixed — at least until we go up for Thanksgiving.

10 thoughts on “You can’t go home again (unless you promise to fix the computer)

  1. Number 1 on my parent-computer-troubleshooting checklist:

    Did you take the batteries out of the mouse? It needs batteries.


    1. I can believe it. My parents have gotten pretty good at sorting things out on their own. If a problem’s bad enough that they’re telling me about it, it’s been going on for a while, and it’s a doozy.

  2. My grandmother (who is 83, just wants to play her computer games and forward 20 emails a day to her entire family) burns through laptops like no body’s business and her son’s have decided that it is just easier for all of us to get base price system and when it goes, get another.

    She has gotten some stuff on her system that make the “pros” sit back and shake their heads.

    But the comment about Thanksgiving is so true. Every time we are at her house she goes through the rotation…Her youngest son, her grand-son in law, me then my husband (because he is a software engineer…)

    1. Hi, Molly! I think it’s great that your grandmother is into computer games, and I think it’s smart to give her a machine without a lot of bells and whistles — the leaner the machine, the fewer things that can go wrong (although that’s never how it works out in real life).

  3. You’re very patient. My parents have a “guy” now, thank god, but only because we moved out of state. I think that’s a real growth industry: tech support for the aging baby boomers. Someone could do very well for himself doing that full-time, although he might want to jump off the roof at the end of every day! My mom insisted to me that she doesn’t use a browser, she “just uses Google”. Alrighty then.

    Your blog is great, thanks for stopping by The Wonderwheel today.

      1. You know, trying to provide tech support over the phone to my parents has made me a lot nicer when I have to call tech support for myself. It’s a pretty thankless job.

    1. Thanks for stopping by the Messy Desk! Just FYI, my dad called today to say he’s ready to just chuck the computer and get a new one. He’s never said that before. Things must be worse than I thought!

  4. I think we may be brothers – I have had those same conversations.

    My favorite one is “this guy is a doctor, we met him on the cruise. He is 90, he wouldn’t send us a virus.” Auuugh.

    Still wouldn’t trade them.

    See you at Thanksgiving. Mom said for us to bring dessert.

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