The Phone Call…Part I

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Family Innings

I am part of a large family.  My mother was one of 8 children and my father was one of 9 children.  On average, each child had 4 children.  That is a heckuva lot of cousins.  You do the math (I am not a math whiz so really, you do the math). 

Wiseguy comes from a large extended family.  Many aunts, uncles, cousins.  Meeting all his relatives for the first time was a bit awkward as it was a funeral.  The only easy part, which was quite intriguing, was that every aunt’s name was Mary and every uncle’s name was Joe.  Honest.  I can’t make this stuff up. 

As a child, I never realized how fascinating it was being part of a large family.  Every Sunday after lunch we would venture to an aunt or uncle’s house or their families would come over to our house.  There was always giggling and laughter. We kids played in the basement.  The adults hid out upstairs.  We made up very creative games as we did not have a lot of toys.  We played school and took turns being the teacher.  We played desert island where we would lay cushions on the floor and jump from one to the other because if you touched the floor then the crocodiles would get you.  We played hide and seek and tag and red light green light.  We played restaurant.  We put on shows for each other.  We played soccer and badminton.  Sometimes the day would end with someone being really mad at someone else and “un-cousin-ing” them, but by the following weekend it was GAME ON! 

As we got older, we somehow grew apart.  Everyone got busier with school and part time jobs (and dating).  Years passed and then we would see each other at weddings or funerals and we would promise to visit or write.  Even with facebook and e-mails and texting and so many other types of media available, there just doesn’t seem to be time.  How did that happen?  How did our parents always find time? 

My first thought was distance.  Even with my siblings, the closest is 20 minutes away and the furthest is an hour and a half drive.  Ok, but even factoring in the drive time, it seems that everyone has so many extracurricular activities, either that they do or that they drive their kids to.  I don’t recall having so many after school activites as kids nowadays do.  Work schedules are different now as well.  Retail stores are now open later and Sundays too.  I remember when stores were closed on Sundays.  Restaurants and other food places are now open all the time.  Statutory holiday or not, they remain open.  Even trying to create family outings, prices have gone so high that it’s hard to arrange for a good day or night out.  Even going to the movies you need about 30.00 per person if you would like a popcorn and drink with the show.

So, is that really the reason why there are fewer family visits?

It wasn’t until The Wiz and The Debater both said to me, “I love it when it’s just us.”  Hmm.  Just us. Just us would be myself, Wiseguy, The Wiz and his fiancee The Baker, The Debater and his wife The Artist, The Princess, and little Kennie.  Just us.  Why is that better?  Huge family functions are so much fun!  So many stories to tell and funny past history tales.  Yes, as we get older we just remember the fond times.  What about the family feuds and battles?  Even planning weddings has become more difficult because you need to know who is not talking to whom and who can’t get along.  Coming from a large family, we dealt with all situations and many times we did wish that we weren’t part of  large family because we would have so much more time for ourselves and our immediate family.

I have stopped trying to plan a huge family get together with the extended family.  I am looking at how wonderful my life is and what wonderful kids we have and how blessed and happy I am that no matter how busy everyone is, we all take the time to figure out how we can all get together for a  wonderful sit down meal and playing games afterwards.  It’s nice to know that they do still WANT to come over.  So many parents end up not seeing their kids for months or even years at time.  We have the honour and pleasure of having their company a minimum of once a month but sometimes even twice a month.  SCORE!  How lucky are we?

So, family outings can be fun.  It’s true.  However, I’ll take my family innings any day of the year.  Love you guys!