My family and I have a rather formal relationship. Everyone is on speaking terms and extremely polite to each other at all times, denying the desire to act otherwise because, well, isn't that what families do? My family thinks so. It is very important to my parents that we appear as one big happy family full of great love and admiration for each other and no issues whatsoever. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Long story. Gruesome details. But imagine anyone reading this would have an even more tragic family saga than I.
I am expected to call my father every Sunday at approximately 3 p.m. The conversation always follows this pattern:
Me: Hi. How are you?
Dad: Fine. How are you?
Me: Fine. What's new?
Dad: Nothing. What's new with you?
Me: Not much.
Eternal awkward silence while I try to find some way to hold a conversation.
Me: How's Wilma? (My stepmother of 20+ years).
Dad: She's fine.
Throw me a bone here, Dad!
You get the picture. My poor husband has had to listen to this painful exchange of words for more than seven years. He has patiently listened to me whine on Sunday afternoons about "having" to call my dad. He has politely, but consistently, turned me down when I offered him a dollar to make the phone call on my behalf. I know, it's wrong. I should want to talk to my parents. I know I should be thankful my parents are still alive. And I am. But I HATE the drudgery of the Sunday phone call. Why can't I just call when I have something to say? Because my dad is afraid I will never call because I will never have something to say. Because I am afraid I will never call because I will never have something to say. Because they must be able to tell their friends that they talk to their daughters on a regular basis. That makes them good parents.
Today we were driving home after a visit with Mark's mother (a completely different experience). It was 4 p.m. I was an hour late with the phone call. I started whining and complaining. It looked like Mark was going to take my side for a minute, but then he sucker-punched me. "If you don't want to call your dad, don't. But how will you feel if he drops dead next week and you didn't talk to him? Will you regret it? You know it could happen any time." For all my moaning and groaning, he knows I would regret it. His father died unexpectedly two years ago. Fortunately, Mark had just had a terrific conversation with him, but even though they had a great relationship, Mark carries around regrets. His heart is heavy, and it always will be. I know Mark is right, and I know the right thing to do.
Me: Hi, Dad. How are you?
Dad: Fine. How are you?
And so it goes.