Straight to Voice Mail

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My parents like to talk on the phone. A lot. I am not particularly a phone person. I keep my calls short and I prefer being with people face to face. My friends know I am not the best at returning messages. I mean, I DO. It’s just a question of when that might happen. Text me, and you’ll have your answer right away. Call me and you might be waiting till your pre-schooler enters middle school.

So I’m not a phone talker. Which means, I’m not the best phone caller. This really bugs the shit out of my folks. When my parents don’t hear from me for a few days, they will undoubtedly call me in Virginia all the way from New Jersey. They would call every day if they could, and sometimes they do, but they try to temper themselves a little bit and play it cool.

As if I’m not on to them.

I don’t know what my parents think is going to happen to me or my family if we don’t talk for a few days. They try to be smooth about it. Let’s say it’s a Saturday morning and our family is out of the house at a soccer game for one of the kids. Let’s say that during this time, they try to call us at home. Nobody answers.

So what comes next? Well, naturally something terrible must have happened to us at 9 AM on a Saturday morning if we are not answering our phone. These suburbs we live in can be a cesspool of violence and turmoil when you look past all the shiny SUVs and minivans. I may have even chipped a nail. So my parents panic and call me on my iPhone. I don’t hear it because I am a running around like a crazy person, watching my 6 year old play soccer, yelling inappropriate things at the 15 year old referee and generally acting like I am watching Arsenal play and not a bunch of little girls who still don’t know what a semi-colon is.

Imagining the worst now. “Vhat if she is in a ditch? Or vhat if she had accident?” Now they start to panic. So they call John’s phone. He doesn’t hear because he is the team coach and is trying to cordon 6 year olds into some semblance of order on the soccer field, no matter that one of them would much rather play Duck, Duck Goose.

My father’s call goes unanswered.

The day passes and we finally realize that we have three messages from my parents, ranging from cool, “Oh, vee just vant to make sure you are gud!” to “Nobody is answering phone. I have called both of you… Ok, call ven you can…” The message sounds dejected and morose, as if John and I were sitting around plotting ways to ignore my parents.

I know I sound like a bit of an asshole when I say this, but these calls stress the shit out of me. Not because I don’t love talking to my parents but because if I am not available when they expect me to be, they assume that I am dead in a ditch somewhere or potentially ignoring their calls.

It brings back to mind the summer that my parents sent me away to camp. Hindu Heritage Summer Camp, to be exact, somewhere in the middle of nowhere the summer between 4th and 5th grade. I wasn’t particularly pumped to be leaving home for that long and I didn’t really know that I wanted to learn all that much about my Hindu heritage because, well, I was 10 years old. Most 10 year old American Hindu kids don’t want to learn about Lord Krishna. I could wax lyrical on Madonna, but not so much on Lord Ganesh, if you know what I mean.

So my parents sent me away to camp, which turned out to be pretty cool. I think they burst into tears when they dropped me off but I was alright. I was ok. I was with my older cousin, Shivam, and we were convinced that we could keep our shit together for the few months we were there. Besides, there were a TON of other Indian American kids just like us there and we already could tell that most of them hadn’t come to train to be yogis. I breathed a sigh of ten year old relief, ate some Skittles and moved on.

Imagine every camp song that you know and make it Hindu. Well as Hindu as you can to a bunch of American kids whose parents are all Indian immigrants. So well, that’s what they did. I remember singing along to the melody of John Denver’s “Take me Home, Country Roads” but in our own special Hindu way,

I hear the conch in the morning as it wakes me up

My counselor reminds me of my Hatha Yoga class

And stumbling out of bed I get the feeling that I should

Have stayed in bed today, but no way!

Seriously, I wasn’t missing no dang Hatha Yoga class. Not even at 6:30 in the morning.

So things went well. Friendships were made. It was like any other camp I guess, except for the fact that the people who ran the camp were all wizened Swamis in long orange robes. No matter, my camp counselors still dressed like Madonna and would sing Whitney Houston songs with us, so there was some balance.

The thing was, somewhere along the lines, I forgot to send letters home to my parents. This was a very egregious offense. The worst kind. I don’t know what bad fortune they felt had befallen me at Hindu Heritage Summer Camp, but apparently the wheels in their heads were turning and I am pretty sure they started regretting sending me to a camp that was five hours away.

And so one morning in the mess hall, Swami Dev got up and gave a long speech to all the young citizens of the camp and told us how important it was to keep in touch with our families while we were away. He then went on to read a letter from a very concerned parent who felt that their daughter had forgotten them and who couldn’t understand why she couldn’t find the time to write a letter.

Of course, Swami Dev was not one for subterfuge, so he looked directly at me in the mess hall as he read the letter, making me want to curl under one of the hatha yoga mats.

So, OF COURSE, I went and wrote the letter. And I DID miss my parents. But you know, people. 10. I was 10.

I look back at those memories now and think about how my parents feel about needing to connect and I realize that no matter how much I complain or bemoan their need, I need it just as much. And I think about how fortunate I am to have the gift of parents who care (especially after watching Breaking Bad. I mean, can you even believe Jessie Pinkman’s parents?) And while I have never been a meth dealer like Jessie, a part of me knows that those calls and those letters and the not giving up on me would not stop.

One day, I’m not going to have this. One day, the phone won’t ring in my house and move to my cell and then John’s phone as my parents try to locate me. I won’t get to feign annoyance as I tell my Dad, “YES, Papa. I’m OK.” I don’t know when, but I know that like most things that we are blessed with in life, this cannot last forever. One day, they will be gone and my phones will still be there.

And God, I will miss that incessant ringing.

There may be days when I am tired. There may be days when I am stressed. But I hope that my parents realize that every time I hear their voices, I understand it’s a gift. Unless they are being annoying… Well, even then.

As I write this I realize how much more I need to make an effort to run to the phone to catch it when it rings. While I still can.

XO,

Kiran

19 Responses to Straight to Voice Mail

  • Stephanie says:

    I get messages like this on my cell “Stephanie are you there? Pick up! Pick up the phone, Stephie. Can you hear me?”

    NO I CAN’T HEAR YOU, it’s voice mal, not an answering machine. This reminds me, I should call my mom.

    • masalachica says:

      Bless her heart. That cracks me up so much. I dare you to try and explain the difference between voicemail and an answering machine to her. She’ll probably get it, but perhaps we can take a bet on how many braxton hicks contractions you have between the time you start your explanation and when she finally gets it. The other day I tried to explain how to upload pictures to Shutterfly to my dad. As a matter of fact, maybe that’s why he keeps calling, damnit.

  • Katie
    Twitter:
    says:

    Oh Kiran. I love this post. As my grandparents approach 90 and their health isn’t as good anymore, it suddenly occurred to me that my parents were also getting older. I know that is dumb, but who thinks of their parents as getting to be geriatric, right? So when my dad fell down some steps and hurt himself, but didn’t tell anyone because he thought it was no big deal? I LAID INTO HIM.

    Anyway, I get this. And I love how you wrote it.
    Katie recently posted…Through the Lens {May}My Profile

    • masalachica says:

      Katie,
      My dad has been legally blind since I was about 8 and has aged much faster than his years. I have actually seen him fall before and it breaks my heart – it’s one of the most stark memories I have of his vulnerability and I just fucking HATE IT. I am glad you got this. That means a lot. XO

  • Greta says:

    I hate talking on the phone but since we don’t have a land line anymore, I almost miss that feeling of getting home and walking the house, hoping for a message. How sad is that? Ha. I love reading about your parents.
    Greta recently posted…NASA in my Car (Seat) #EvenfloPlatinumMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      I know – I have no idea why we still have a landline, Greta! I think the only people who call it are my parents and Indian offshore criminals telling me I am being investigated by the IRS (another day, another post). XO

  • Laura
    Twitter:
    says:

    This made me laugh. I have a mother-in-law like your parents. I don’t think she and Dan talk daily anymore, but she would like to. Meanwhile, I never talk to my parents on the phone. I never called so they stopped calling. We have a good relationship otherwise, and see each other monthly, but I should probably make the effort to call once in a while.
    Laura recently posted…That Time I Talked with John GreenMy Profile

  • Leigh Ann
    Twitter:
    says:

    See I get frustrated because no one ever calls me. Seems my family thinks that because we are connected on FB, we don’t ever have to talk. But then again, I hate talking on the phone, so I never call them either.

    Which reminds me, my husband’s grandmother called the other day. If we don’t call her back, she will be convinced that she didn’t do it right. ;)
    Leigh Ann recently posted…in which I talk to you about my hairMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      You crack me up. I can just imagine her looking at her phone now and thinking, “what does this little button thing-a-ma-jiggy do anyway?” as she presses mute. Go call her and make her day. XO.

  • Elaine A.
    Twitter:
    says:

    You make me want to call my Mom right now! (my Dad is not much of a phone talker). I think it’s so sweet that your parents still want to know that you are safe even at this stage in your life. :) And you’re right, you will miss those messages someday…. <3 this.
    Elaine A. recently posted…We’ll Always Have Paris – Review & Giveaway!My Profile

  • Joey
    Twitter:
    says:

    Aw, haha, great post! I rarely call my big kids. I text them sweet things, like, “Shopping with your sisters, wish you were here,” and “Don’t forget your grandma’s birthday.” They call less often than I text, usually with news of grades or needs they have. My parents almost never call me, but we keep in touch on social media, and I call them periodically. My husband’s parents are the kind that like to talk to us every single day. I don’t like talking on the phone much, either, and I think my husband, even less. It’s important to tell them little unimportant things, say I love you, and then promptly find some reason to get off the phone! lol — It doesn’t work as well when they DROP BY.

  • Arnebya
    Twitter:
    says:

    I LOVE talking on the phone (to the right person, of course). I can talk for hours and tend to do so with my father, even if I happened to have seen him the day before. I’m less of a texter, although I do respond timely. (Admittedly, I am the same with worry. If you’re due here by 4 and I call you at 4:20 and there’s no answer? Dead. And I just wait for the officer to ring the bell).
    Arnebya recently posted…ReprogrammingMy Profile

  • Kim says:

    I mostly communicate through social media and texts, but if you get me on the phone and the chatting starts, I am going to be there for a while. So I guess I must like talking on the phone sometimes at least.
    We did get rid of our landline a few months ago because the only people who ever called us were telemarketers and my parents. Now my parents call my cell. :)
    Kim recently posted…Growing Together – Guest Post at Raising HumansMy Profile

  • Alison
    Twitter:
    says:

    I hate talking on the phone. It’s ironic really, because when I was a teenager, I conquered the phone. I was on it for hours.

    My parents don’t call me much, though my mother calls once every couple of weeks to check in. Because I hate the phone, I barely make calls to ANYONE. So I do feel kinda bad, but I’m always a text message away!

    Oh, and when I was a teen, my grandmother would call our house at least a dozen times a day. I think she was lonely. I miss her now that she’s gone.
    Alison recently posted…Through The Lens Thursday #22: HomeMy Profile

  • The Bride says:

    I’m like you in that I don’t like to talk on the phone. Though like another commenter above said, with the right person, if they call me, I can go on for an hour. But I hate initiating contact and I’m fine without it.

    My parents are like your parents. They will call and if they don’t get me right away (most often – because my phone is always one silent) they will leave frantic messages. Then when I call them back they will without fail say “I tried to call you!”. I have to hold my tongue and bite down on the part of me that wants to say: “Yes, that happens because I don’t sit watching my phone the whole day.” I’ve actually said this a couple of time, but to no avail so I just ignore that comment and move on.

    I think cell phones have made it worse because some people assume that it’s about them being able to contact you at their convenience. Hell, even some of the friends in my generation are irked if they don’t have a right-away response.

  • Roshni
    Twitter:
    says:

    Totally love this post because I feel about my parents the same way….hyperbolic and exasperating to say the least, but I know I will miss all of it one day!
    Roshni recently posted…Online games : 3 ways to not let this lead to a clash of generationsMy Profile

  • Andrea
    Twitter:
    says:

    I actually don’t mind talking on the phone, because it’s a great way for me to take a break from whatever task I’ve deemed most important at the time. When the phone is connected to my face, everything else can wait. Your story about camp is perfect. :)
    Andrea recently posted…Spam Loves My BlogMy Profile

  • Prachee says:

    I’m laughing out loud as I read this. I can totally relate. My parents once called campus police at the Univ of MD to track me down as I apparently hadn’t returned their calls fast enough.

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MEET KIRAN
I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....
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