Birthday Technology

Happy Birthday to me!! Another year has rolled around and I am happy to still be here.

Two years ago when I had a birthday, I was sitting in a hospital room, waiting to find out if and when my mom would have surgery on her hip. She had fallen the day before and there was some controversy as to whether she had broken her hip and what kind of surgery, if any, she needed.

As the day progressed, my father eventually showed up and sat in the other chair in the room. I would get up and walk around occasionally, leave the room for a new view in the hallway and continually kept looking at my phone. Finally my father, who is technologically illiterate and seems to be proud of it, (which I don’t understand being proud of a lack of knowledge on a subject, but that is a rant for another day!!) asked me why I couldn’t leave my phone alone.

At the end of two trying, long days I finally broke down and told him that I kept looking at my phone because it was my birthday, a date that he has been unaware of for many years, and looking at the texts and Facebook posts wishing me a happy birthday were the only positive things I saw that day. They kept me going and each time I looked at my phone, I smiled.

Technology certainly has its down sides, but in times like that day, it also has its positives.

Yesterday, as well wishes came in on yet another birthday, I thought back to two years ago. How the night of my birthday, they took my mom into surgery, planning one procedure and ending up doing another. How, as a get away for a minute, Tim took me down the street to a birthday dinner of Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and waffle fries. How we sat and waited in a totally empty waiting area because of the late hour. How the whole hospital seemed deserted and how I felt like I was walking in a fog, a scary fog.

I tried to think back to my birthday last year and I had no recollection of what we did. Was the year before so overwhelming that last year’s events just disappeared from memory? I looked back in my journal and saw that Tim had foot surgery the day before my birthday last year so we didn’t do anything. I was busy playing nurse- and not in a fun way!!

So when I headed to bed last night, I realized how fortunate I am to see another birthday. And I thought about technology.

My birthday was all about technology this year. I made reservations for dinner online. I got tons of well wishes on Facebook and by text. I caught up on some TV that I had recorded previously. And I got an Apple watch that both excites and terrifies me. (I’ll keep you posted on how that goes!)

My son came over after his evening radio show and we had returned from dinner to present me with a new radio/ phone docking system. The old one I had in the kitchen was no longer compatible with my phone and didn’t play very clearly. Being a big radio fan, well a fan of one radio show in particular, I need a good, clear radio. My old one was almost 20 years old so it was time to update that technology.

My son also brought me an unexpected surprise of an Amazon echo dot. He has one and I have quizzed him on it a lot. It intrigues me. So now I have one.

As we sat around the den, late into the night, trying to set up my watch, my radio and my dot, we talked about our day. About the time I figured my son would leave, after all he had not had dinner and it was late, he tried out the dot by calling out the name of some game.

Immediately, Alexa asked how many people were playing and what decade of music did we want to start with. Not really knowing what I was getting into, I yelled out “the 70’s.” And just like that we were laughing and singing and competing.

We worked our way to the 90’s, the 80’s, the 60’s and the 2010’s. We each had our “best decade” so we took turns winning. Tim and I would try to help each other when it was obvious that someone had no clue what the correct answer might be, which had Jon rolling his eyes and begging us to stop. He kept telling us it was a competition, so we shouldn’t answer for our opponent. All of this seemed to confuse Alexa on more than one occasion, making her tell us we were wrong when we were right because of too much talking!

Finally we realized that it was super late and Jon needed to go home. As I got ready to go to bed, I thought about how much fun we had unexpectedly had due to technology. How blessed I felt to know so many people who can wish me well on a special day whether I have truly known them for years or just have a Facebook connection through theatre or school.

I thought about how I had been able to stay connected to the outside world while trapped in the hospital nightmare from two years ago and how so many things are so simple for us in this day of online restaurant reservations, music on demand, recorded TV, and connections made through social media to people I would never know otherwise.

I am old enough to remember and appreciate a simpler time, but still young enough to appreciate this more technological time.

I am grateful that no matter what age we live in, connecting with people in any way makes the sad times bearable and the happy times even more enjoyable.

I am happy that the sad memory of losing my mom a week and a half after my birthday two years ago has been nudged further back in my brain by the love I felt not only that day, but all of the days since. And that I have a family that can still get silly and play together.

I hope for many more birthdays for myself and for whomever is reading this. I hope that we, as a society, can work to find positive uses for all of the new technology. That we use it to grow closer together and not to divide us.

I hope as I get older I can somewhat keep up, keep my brain working and current. I hope that no matter what, I can keep the memories of nights like last night, when the family is together and laughter fills the room.


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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.