My Friend, Alexa, The Echo Dot


IMG_1644My youngest son, John, and his family gave me an Echo Dot for my eighty-fifth birthday. He showed me how to use it and told me you had to use her name, Alexa, at the beginning of each question. Well, the day after they went home to Virginia, I had great fun playing with Alexa. She responded to most questions that I asked her. “Alexa, what is the weather? Alexa, will it rain this week? Alexa, how many legs does an octopus have? Alexa, play some Elvis songs. Alexa, volume four. Alexa, what channel are the Olympics on?” Wow! What this new generation has come up with is beyond my mentality. It is mind-boggling. I must admit, I am not technically savvy although I can use the computer and solve a great many problems by trying different stuff (but mostly by calling my 21-year-old grandson who is an expert techie).  Well, the third day after the Echo Dot had taken its place in my family room, I began to ask her questions. However, my 85-year-old brain could not remember her name. I thought it began with an A, so I began my quest. Alma, play Elvis tunes. Nothing. Anna, what is the weather? Nothing. Abby, play country music. Nothing. Well, I began to go through all the A names that I could think of. Andrea. Nothing.  Annabelle. Nothing. Ashley. Nothing. Ava, Angelina, Amelia, Ariana, Alyssa, Adele, Amanda, Amber. Who knew there were so many girl names that began with A. Amy, Audrey, Alice,  Angelia, Allison, Annie, Angie. Well, that about exhausted all the A names that I knew, so my “savvy computer self” decided to google it. I went through almost all of the A names that were on Google, but still no luck. Finally, I just began to talk at it (in lieu of to it) with no response I might add. “What is your name? Can’t you just answer me? Oh, come on, gimme a break, just give me a little hint.”  Still, nothing was forthcoming from her lips (or whatever she calls them). After about a half-hour of talking to someone or something that refused to speak, I became somewhat frustrated or maybe I should say, a whole lot frustrated. I even shook it (nowadays, that would probably be child abuse or at least offend someone). I knew that someone was going to come carry me away soon straight to the looney bin. I was glad at that moment that I lived alone because I would be considered officially insane and haul me away for sure if anyone had heard me. I also thought my children would’ve signed me up to go to the Alzheimer’s unit.
I soon had a major breakthrough in my brain. No, I’m not kidding you. It hit me that maybe her name was on the instruction sheet. Well, as you might guess, they were nowhere to be found. Another thought was to call my son, John. I knew I wasn’t going to do that as I didn’t want him to know that I couldn’t remember her name. I was surely sliding down the mountain and my brain wasn’t about to cooperate. So I began a search to find the directions. One might guess that if I couldn’t remember its name, how could I possibly remember where the directions were located. So right they would be. I began to look through every drawer, basket, and crevice of my house. I even looked through the trash. I did find a spoon that someone had accidentally thrown away. I thought I had put the directions somewhere safe that I would remember but now I could not for the life of me remember where that was. Was this senility or something worse? I call these little lapses of memories, “Magic Moments” because it is pure magic if they reappear in the corners of my mind.
After an extensive search of my family room, I moved on to the dining room. No directions appeared. I was about to give up and call my son. (How embarrassing that would be!) Out of the corner of my eye, I spied the box that it had come in and opened it up and there were the directions. (See that was pretty smart to leave the directions in the box.) Yippee! Thank you, Lord Jesus. I carefully pulled them out and there in the smallest print ever, I tried to read. Now, I began to look for my glasses. I have about six pairs of cheaters all over the house, but do you think I could find one pair? Another search was about to begin. Finally, I found all six pairs sitting on an end table next to my lounge chair. I put them on and read, “Ask Alexa a question and she will respond.” Alexa, I thought. What a pretty name. Why couldn’t I remember that? So I immediately asked her a question. Her answer was, “I don’t know the answer to that question.” Well, I wondered what good are you if you can’t give me answers. So I asked it again, “Alexa, what is the weather in Muncy? “She answered, “ Indiana or Pennsylvania?” At least now we are conversing. An 85-year-old lady talking to a machine that answers her. Imagine that! So I asked her, “Alexa, would you like me to put your name on you?” She answered, “Whatever you want to do will be a good thing.” I took that as a yes, so immediately got out my trusty old name tag maker (thank goodness, I knew right where that was and I counted that as a major victory for the day), printed it out and placed it on her, front and center so I would always know who she was. Then we began to talk again. “Alexa, how old are you?” She answered, “In years if you’re counting it’s three since I essentially became me.  Before that, I wasn’t,  which sounds quite unplesant because me is what I like to be.” Hmm, when someone asks me how old I am from now on, I am going to say, “I’m 85 because before that I wasn’t me, which sounds quite unpleasant because me is what I like to be.”
Now, I’m off to print out pictures from my iPhone on this cute little printer that my older son, Ed, and his family gave me. I think I can remember how to operate that. He gave me great instructions, but I hope I saved the written ones. Hmm, I wonder where I put them.


My brain is whirling around thinking of Halloweens long ago. We didn’t trick or treat back when I was a kid but we did have parties and bob for apples and dress up in costumes. The first Halloween that I recall, I was going to a party when I was about thirteen and dressed up like a gypsy (I was always a gypsy because I didn’t like scary costumes). The girl lived on Wentworth Street in Charleston, South Carolina where I grew up. It was a balmy evening and probably the first time I was allowed to go to a night-time party. I can’t remember much about the party except for bobbing for apples and that she gave us all a string of beads.  The story that she told us is etched in my mind for all time. She began by telling us that when she was a very small girl, she became extremely ill and was in the hospital for weeks. The Doctors gave up on her after using all of their cures and she died. Her parents were heart broken and her life-less body was taken to Stuhr’s Funeral Home on Calhoun Street where it laid for a few days before they embalmed her. She continued her tale by saying as soon as the undertaker began to remove her cold dead blood and stuck that needle that contained the embalming fluid in her arm, she let out a scream that could be heard throughout the city of Charleston. It was said that even the ships in port heard that hair raising screech.  She was not dead after all. Wouldn’t you know, it all happened on October 31st, All Saint’s Day. The undertaker came running out of the room screaming for someone to call her Doctor. The Doctor arrived and listened to her heart and sure enough, she was alive. She sat up and asked for a drink of water as she had gotten very thirsty while she was dead. She said no one could make any sense out of how or why they mistakenly thought she was dead. She remembered that as she lay dead in the morgue, she heard the voice of her twin sister that was never born tell her that she would be alright. It was her twin sister that left her body and went to the great beyond and she was left to tell the tale.

I was mesmerized but yet I thought she was making it all up. I think all the kids at the party thought that it really happened. As I was walking down her stairs that night, leaving the party, something cold flew by my face, touched my arm and I heard a child’s voice say, “I am her twin sister”. I picked up my pace and when I got to the sidewalk, I literally ran all the way home. Was it the ghost of her twin? I don’t know, but I do know that I never returned to her house again. Just saying…….maybe there are ghosts after all.   I was convinced on that Halloween night, I felt the ghost of her twin sister.