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You Never Call

December 2, 2012 | by Mordechai Schmutter

I never call my parents. At least that’s what my parents believe.

I never call my parents.

At least that’s what my parents believe. About half our conversations are about just that.

“You never call us,” they say.

“I just called you!” I say. “We’re on the phone right now! As we speak!”

“You were supposed to call yesterday,” they say.

“You never call.” “We’re on the phone right now! As we speak!”

I blame my sisters. I have two married sisters, and they both speak to my parents way more than I do. My sister Raizel, for example, literally never gets off the phone with my mother. When I call my parents, my mother has to hang up on her to talk to me.

“I have to go,” my mother says. “It’s Mordechai. He never calls.”

In general, I try to call my parents three times a week, even when I have nothing to tell them. It’s not like something new and mind-blowing happens to me three times a week. But sometimes I forget to call. Sometimes I’m lying in bed on a Friday night, and I ask myself, “Did I call my parents today?”

TIP: If you’re not sure whether you called your parents, you didn’t call them.

So these days, my parents have apparently decided to reward me with information based on how often I call. Like if I call three times a week, they won’t tell me anything about their own lives – they’ll just ask me if there’s anything new in mine. If I call four or five times, they’ll tell me who’s not feeling well. If I call ten times, they’ll tell me about anything major, like if they moved.

“You changed your phone number? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You didn’t call.”

On the other hand, even though my wife talks to her mother at least once a day, her mother rarely tells her anything important. Like my mother-in-law will sometimes call us five times in one day, and then my wife will find out later – from her sister – that my father-in-law is away on a business trip. So my wife will call her mother (of course):

“Dad went on a business trip?” she’ll ask. “You told me the same Wal-Mart story five times, and this you couldn’t tell me?”

“Why do you think I spoke to you five times?”

But aside from my in-laws, no one ever calls us. Basically, the unspoken rule on my side of the family is that it’s up to the younger generation to call the older generation. That makes sense. It’s not like I’m going to get on the phone with my grandparents and go, “How come you never call?”

Actually, I’m never sure what to say to my grandparents on the phone. Grandparents are generally better in person. So our phone conversations usually revolve around trying to invite them for Shabbos. Only the thing is that they would never come to us for Shabbos, and not just because it’s easier to cook for two seniors than to remember to pack everything into a couple of suitcases which they would then have to schlep. The main reason they won’t come over is that the other unspoken rule in our family is that, with the occasional exception of parents, the older generation does not go to the younger generation for Shabbos.

So if we want to spend Shabbos with my grandparents (or aunts and uncles), they would have to invite us. Only they won’t, because they’ll never call us. Of course, these days my wife doesn’t want to go anywhere for Shabbos anyway, because at this stage in our lives it’s easier to cook for kids who refuse to eat than to pack clothing for them for every possible weather.

It’s amazing how quickly we turned into my grandparents.

It’s amazing how quickly we turned into my grandparents.

So as a result, we’re always the last to find out anything that happens in our family. But anyway, I find that everyone, no matter how often they speak to family, will always say, “You know? I’m always the last person to hear everything!”

I think that’s why my mother’s side of the family started a quarterly newsletter. Actually, it started off as a monthly, until we all realized that even though we’d originally felt like no one was sharing anything, it turns out that nothing actually happens over the course of the average month. But because the newsletter goes to everyone at once, no one is the last to know anything.

Basically, what happens is that every issue, the editor reminds everyone to send in their news, and everyone sits down and realizes that they cannot for the life of them remember what happened over the last three months, but everyone else is submitting news, so they have to come up with something. So a lot of the newsletter is about how many teeth came in or fell out over the last three months. (As of the last newsletter, my family currently has 2,196 teeth.)

Also, sometimes the newsletter can get kind of repetitive – especially when it comes to all twenty-five nuclear families recounting what they did over the five intermediate days of Passover. (This comes out to 125 intermediate days of Passover.) Also, when there’s a wedding in the family, the bride and groom send it in as their news, and their parents send it in as well, which I guess is okay. Then one aunt sends in, “We had a lot of fun at the wedding!” and another uncle says, “We spent Tuesday night at the wedding!” Basically, we get to read about the same wedding twenty-five times, and this is a wedding we all went to anyway.

But now, thanks to the newsletter, we have less reason to call each other.

“So what’s news with you?”

“We went to a wedding.”

“I know, I read about it. And I was there!”

“I know. I read about that.”

In fact, I’m thinking that if we just put in a classified section where people can invite each other for Shabbos, no one will ever have to call anyone.

But here’s the thing: Calling your family is not really about news. Your family doesn’t really care if you have news for them; they just want to hear the sound of your voice. It’s like when you’re sitting around the dinner table, and you ask your kids, “What did you do in school today?” and they say, “I ate lunch.”

Wow. Maybe we should put that in the newsletter.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what you say. It just matters that they’re talking.

“Wait, he had lunch? I’m always the last to know everything!”

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