My parents are…unique. Yes, that’s a good and ambiguous word to describe them. My mom and dad depart from Canada every year in the spring and do not return to Canada until fall has begun. Where are they? They have a humble mansion-like home in Croatia. So, what is a good daughter to do in order to keep in touch with her parents? Why, she phones them regularly to ensure that all is well and that they are having a happy-go-lucky life. Well, that is what a daughter with non-unique parents would do. Me? There is a bit of a process to ensure I can keep my sanity intact.
Whilst in Croatia, my folks reside a mere 15 minute drive from the grandiose city of Split. My father is an avid vegetable / fruit gardener and bee keeper. My mother is right there by his side. Not willingly. It’s kind of a wifely self-imposed prison sentence I think. She prefers to cook and bake. Sadly, there is only so much baking you can do if everyone around you is on a diet or diabetic. This is the Croatian village life. I felt this was important to mention so that you could more clearly understand my need to mentally prepare myself for … the phone call.
It’s Sunday in Canada. Morning has passed. It is now 2 pm. I debate on whether it’s a good day to call. Am I feeling happy? Am I feeling energetic? Could I handle a barrage of negativity? Can I be supportive? If my questions result in a sum of 3 out of 4 then it’s NOT a good day to call. If I’m super-hyped and feeling supremely happy, then I take a few deep yoga breaths and dial the number. I close my eyes and mentally prepare myself. I never know what type of conversation I might be subjected to.
A typical phone call would start as follows:
[phone ringing. Mom picks up] Hello?
Me: Hello. How are you?
Mom: OOOOOOH! It’s you! (in a piercing, ear-splitting voice). Is everything ok? Is there something new? Why are you calling?
Yes, every single conversation begins this way. Her highest hope is that there is some life changing news that she can share with everyone in the village and/or the rest of Croatia. This standard call can then morph into one of the following sub-conversations.
MORBID. With my parents, being part of the elder generation, there is a good chance that there was a funeral, or few, that they had to attend. My mother provides me with the obligatory synopsis of the deceased’s life, what illness they ailed from, and how lucky that they no longer need to live in pain and suffering. Her voice is sad and verges on tears. From funerals she might proceed to discussion of the poor surviving family members, especially if someone else is ill. In most cases, I have no idea who these people are. I am obliged to listen intently and ask NO questions. Questions only lead to attacks of my person and “how can you not remember them?!” DEFINITELY no questions.
ONE-SIDED. This is always an interesting one. After the “anything new?” question, she will go on a diatribe about…almost anything! It could be a person or people, or a group of people. It could touch on the government and its uselessness. Which government? Why…any government! They are all crooks. It could segue to taxes and the exorbitant price of food. Maybe the weather is uncooperative. Too much rain. Not enough rain. Too much sun. Too hot. Too cold. Too many bugs. From bugs to things bugging her like her aching back and sore legs. Why is it one-sided? I could say something, but she doesn’t hear me. I have actually put her on hold, picked up my other line for about a minute, gone back to her and there has been no pause in conversation on her end. She hadn’t even realized I had put her on hold. These are the days that I don’t mention anything on my end. She either won’t hear me, and if she does, she won’t remember it.
THE LITANY: This type has some of the elements of ONE-SIDED, but is mostly a regular list of complaints, usually dealing with the unbearable actions of my father. It would include, working long hours in the field, the amount of food he consumes, his argumentative behaviour, his self-righteousness, his loud voice, his deafness, and lastly, his method of breathing. Yes, my father does not breathe as a regular human should. Don’t ask me to explain, I don’t hear it the way she does.
HAPPY: This is my most cherished type of phone conversation. I find this one usually occurs if I haven’t called in over a month. My mother is happy that I had called. She is happy that I am healthy. She is happy that everyone is doing well. She is happy with her life. The torrential rainstorm is no longer a scourge, but a great nurturer of the vegetables. The sweltering heat of the sun is helping everything grow better. My father is an amazing person. He is so helpful and kind. She just can’t do anything without him. She has visited with family…or better yet, family came to visit her and she cooked and baked and everyone loved it! They had so much fun! Yes, this is my all time favourite exchange. It is also usually the shortest one. There is only so much good news and “happy” thoughts one can sustain.
As you may have noticed, I have only mentioned my mother in all these phone conversations. This is due to two facts: 1) My mother likes answering the phone or 2) My father has answered the phone, said “Hello [blah, blah for 2 seconds]” and then “here’s your mother.”
And….everyone together now…deep breath in…exhale…
Prepare yourself for: The Phone Call – Part II.