I turned on the location part of the map program and then showed my father how look over maps of his neighborhood and town. Next we put in a few favorite places from the — Carnegie Hall in New York City, Branch Brook Park in New Jersey, Rochester, New York, Ocean Grove, New Jersey, a town where he went to college and more. We even visited the Library of Congress.
Each time I showed Dad how he could enlarge the map to a point that allowed him see actual neighborhoods and streets that he remembered. He was just delighted to connect with so many familiar places. As we played together, we probably looked up eight or ten locations where Dad had visited, lived, or worked. Now I know that we can also do this on Google Earth, which not only gets to the street but also to a picture of the actual house or building — but a year ago, pre-iPad — when I demonstrated Google Earth to my parents, it required way too many steps.
The most enjoyable parts of our iPad map adventures last week included half-a-dozen spontaneous stories he told as we identified a street here, a theatre there, a church, a hospital where he had visited as a minister, as well as spots that he remembered at the universities he attended. He had so much to say about each place — and I had not heard any of it before. I will need to visit once more before he feels confident with the maps on his own, but what a treat that hour of mapping fun was for the two of us.
The miracle of the iPad for my Dad — and for me, too — is the way we and he effortlessly communicate — writing a journal entry that he can now instantly e-mail to me or friends, locating just the right academic lecture or presentation, listening to a favorite, but far-away radio station, and now the traveling back in time and place, right to the street, and maybe even the building from the past.
If this period in my life and in my parents lives is about learning as much as possible about their past and our family’s history, the iPad has nudged open countless doors leading to stories, memories, and other unexpected treasures.
N.B. Please see added information in Paul’s comment below.