Hello? What’s new? The Phone Call…Part II

It was another one of those weekends when I had decided that enough time had passed for me to perform this one simple task.  It’s one that I used to try and perform every second weekend, but my self-preservation kicked in and I decided that my mental anguish was unnecessary.  A good four weeks (wow…a month) had passed and I was ready to take on this challenge.  I took a few deep breaths…breathe in [count to six], breathe out [count to six].  I was ready.  Time for The Phone Call.

I punched in the phone number.  I listened and heard the ringing on the other end.

Mom:  Hello?

Me:  Hello.  How are you?

Mom: OOOOOOH!  It’s you! (loud piercing voice to ensure I can hear her in Canada).  Is everything ok?  Is there something new?  Why are you calling?

Me:  Just called to see how you were doing.

Mom:  Everything is wonderful!

JACKPOT!  I hit the “Happy Phone Call” Day!  Woo hoo!  Woot woot!

“We were so lucky,” she started, “they had flooding in the next village, but we didn’t get any here.  God definitely heard our prayers.”  Oops.  I got excited too soon.  She was happy to hear from me, but now this conversation was spiralling into one of those other dimensions.  Oh no!  Hopefully no funeral talk.  I had a feeling the “litany” might be involved in today’s catch up phone call.  I continued to breathe in slowly and exhale slowly.  I could do this.  I could keep it positive.  I was feeling empowered!  No matter what she threw at me I could weather the verbal onslaught!  Hit me with it Mom!  I challenge you!  And she did.

After 4 weeks of being incommunicado with my parents, I was mentally and emotionally prepared.  I could handle a little rumble and wrestling in the pit of antagonism and negativity.  I’d chalk it up to “Fun Folk Times” and knew that after hanging up I would have another 4 weeks to boost up my auto-negativity immune system.  It started with the horrible weather and then moved on to ALL the other non-good things in her life at the moment.  If you read my previous post you would know that I am speaking of The Litany.

I did manage to bring up some things that were happening in my end of the world.  Although we are doing a major renovation in our home, I did not bring up this jubilant part of my life.  Why?  We hired people to do the work.  We did NOT wait for my father to return and have him do it.  So, best not to reveal happy things that would definitely sour quickly.  She spoke of the “miracle of the vineyard”.  When they had arrived in Croatia, the vineyard had been a disaster.  The blossoms had been blown away by high winds and there was no chance that there would grapes this year.  Looks like God decided they needed wine and now there was an abundance of juicy grapes.  Ok, I paraphrased, but that’s basically what her version boiled down to.  We spoke of children and grandchildren.  We conversed about my siblings and their lives (short story as I hadn’t spoken to anyone in awhile).  We chatted about the weather, about their return home, about my aunt and her recovery after surgery.  Yes, we covered many topics and I managed to keep the conversation mostly upbeat.  It was a pleasant catch up session.  Then, my mother informed me that my father had sauntered into the room.  Things changed quickly.

“Hey!  Hey you!”  she hollered at my father.  Yes, hollered, because…well, he was in the same room right?  “It’s your daughter!”  she laughed out loud as she yelled.  I waited a bit and as my father said “hello” into the receiver I could hear mom yelling in the background.  “Don’t talk too long!  It’s long distance!”  To which he replied (yelled back) “I just got on the phone!”  This is where my usual interjection comes in:  “What’s new?”   I do this in the hopes of distracting him from her verbal onslaught.  This most recent conversation was one that had me LOL-ing afterward for days.  It also had me talking to myself and shaking my head.  I am sure I looked strange, but all I kept thinking was Please don’t let me end up like them.  Here is why.

Dad:  Oh boy.  We are so tired now.  We were just making wine.  You would not believe what…

[shouting in background] I already told her about the vineyard!  Don’t waste time.  It’s long distance!

Dad:  Ok, so you know about the wine.  Your mother and I are ok.  We are..

Mom [bellowing]:  She knows that!  I told her!

Dad:  Well for heaven’s sake!  Fine!  [grumble grumble].  What’s new with you?  How is everyone over there?

Me:  We are all….

[shouting voice]:  She told me everything!  I’ll tell you all about it.  Don’t waste time.  It’s long distance!

Dad:  [harrumph with head shaking and an exasperated chuckle].  Although I was not in the room, I could visualize it.  I’d heard that sound before and know the head shake that accompanies it).  “Okay then,” he says resignedly.

Me:  I guess I’ll let you go.  We can talk another day.  Bye.

Dad:  [click]

Done.  Task performed.  An hour on the phone with my mother and 45 seconds on the phone with my father.  I sometimes wonder what happens after he put the phone back in the cradle.  Does he just walk away?  In this particular case,  I imagined her starting to tell him everything I said.   Then I remembered that today was a litany day for her so she probably didn’t hear anything or remember anything I said.  Oh well…4 more weeks until we do it again.


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.