In Australia, you don’t always see the generations rubbing shoulders. The young hang out with the young, bicycling, skateboarding, swimming; the elders have their circle and generally get together at clubs. When my son was a youngster, around eight or nine, growing up in Dubai he couldn’t be kept from his mum and dad. He needed to position himself in the middle every time we took an evening walk, holding each of our hands and swinging his own happily.
That position — in the middle of the two people closest to him — was his comfort zone. By the time he was 13 and we’d moved to Sydney, things changed dramatically. He’d follow us up the street on the way to the shopping mall, at first a few paces behind and, as the months progressed so did the distance. We could tell he was trying to integrate with the way things were done here, watching some of his peers. Besides, it was the age of the dreaded teens.
That’s why on this day, in 2019, when I’m seated in my favourite corner of my favourite coffee shop sipping my favourite brew, I look up with a fair degree of surprise at the couple that wanders into the place. One of them, a man, is pushing a shopping trolley through the door with confidence; the other has her hand tucked through the crook of his elbow. As odd couples go, they are distinctly odd; a rarity. He, I learn in due course, has just turned 19. She, on the other hand, is 65! The first time I set eyes on them they are both suffused with laughter. He has obviously said something funny and she’s delirious, reaching into the folds of her sleeve for a handkerchief. Five minutes later, when they set their coffees down at the only table adjacent to mine and she — a total stranger — bids me good day, I learn that her name is Joan. And Davey, the young man, is her grandson. Davey’s father is a soldier — what is called ‘a digger’ in Australia. He’s somewhere overseas, helping keep some country safe.
iPhone messaging lessons
‘And Davey in the meanwhile is keeping his grandma safe,’ she says, giving his arm a playful pinch. Actually, what Davey is here to do this morning is teach his grandma, over coffee. One small lesson at a time, he’s showing her how to use her iPhone. Today’s lesson has to do with messaging: If you’re sending a message on your iPhone and you make a mistake and type ‘darking’ when you mean to type ‘darling’, you can simply press down on the space bar and hold, and the space bar turns into a mouse so you can move the cursor exactly to the letter you want to edit.
I am astounded by this because I, also an owner of an iPhone, had no idea this could be done. Davey’s inadvertently taught me something, too. Joan will take this lesson, once she’s learned it, to the club where she, in turn, will show her peers how they may correct all the ‘darking’ errors in their own messages. In turn, Joan, when they get back home, will teach Davey a few more tricks in the art of napkin folding, a speciality skill she picked up when she worked as a caterer in her day.
“In this way, we are bridges,” she tells me, “this exchange helps us span the generations and keep us bonded. All my friends at the club cannot thank Davey enough.”
And Davey, who’s going into catering and hotel management soon, says he’ll thank his grandma a lot when the day comes for him to prove his skills.
Kevin Martin is a journalist based in Sydney, Australia.