You never know what’s going to remind you of your childhood…

January 26, 2010

in random

My mom and dad called last Friday. Actually my mom did. Mom’s always the one that calls. And she always calls around 9 pm when it is the absolutely most friggin’ chaotic in the house. And she always pleads innocence saying she cannot figure out the time difference. And she always asks, “Have you eaten yet?” even after I tell her “It is 9 pm here. Ma!”

“It is cold there now, right? It is freezing here.” My mom says. Every single time during the winter. Did I tell you that they live in Taiwan? A sub-tropical island? The temperature in Taipei was supposed to reach 69 °F that day (as opposed to 36 °F here in Chicago and actually considered to be warm since it is finally above friggin’ freezing…)

“Ma. Sigh. You do know that the weather there has nothing to do with the weather here, right?” I could not bite my tongue and just let this one go.

“But it is really cold here. I bet it feels colder here.” My mom is a “last-worder” too: that’s probably where I got it. Between my husband and myself, my kids are doomed both nature- and nurture-wise. “Do you want to talk to your dad? Oh wait. Your dad wants to talk to you. Actually, he asked me to call you.”

Pleasantly surprised since my dad never wanted to talk to me on the phone, not that he loves me less but because he’s a man, I screamed, “Ba!” (The Chinese word for “Dad”) when my mom handed him the receiver. At 80, my dad is hard of hearing nowadays.

“Have you eaten yet?” He said, without a beat.

Sigh. “Yes. I have.”

“Is it snowing in Chicago because it is really cold here.”

Sigh. “Actually it is warmer today because it is above freezing.”

“Really? That’s something.”

“So… what’s going on? What are you doing today?” I know better than to expect my 80-year-old father to tell me something exciting in his plan for the day.

“Nothing. Just watching TV…. You haven’t called home for a long time. Is your husband still out of the country?”

“Yeah. He’s in Spain this time.”

“That’s what I thought when you didn’t call home for a long time. You must be very busy with the kids then.”

As if on cue, my oldest came to stand by my side and whispered loudly, “Mom. Mom. Mom!”

I glared at him and pressed my point finger to my lips. Ignoring my gesture, he continued,

“Mom! My gum hurts because my tooth here,” he proceeded to open his mouth with both hands so I could see better, “See? It is coming out. My tooth! My gum hurts!”

I turned my back towards him. He did not give up and came around to the other side, “So I need to go see a dentist…”

“Dad. Hold on. Just a sec.” I switched to English to deal with the dental crisis that was not, “Can’t you see I am on the phone with my parents? We’ll talk about this later.”

As if he did not hear what I just said, he switched to a brand new subject, “Mom, we need to pick up my new glasses!”

“I will. Tomorrow! I need to bring you with when we pick up your glasses…” I gritted my teeth.

All this time, Mr. Monk was on the floor pouring sugar into a bowl so he could make crystals according to the science book that he got last November. He never showed interest in the darn book until I was on the phone. Now he was next to me as well,

“Mom. What is a saucer?… Is it this?” He pulled out the biggest pot to show me, making a loud clattering noise.

“NO! That is NOT a saucer. And why do you need a saucer NOW for god’s sake?!” I raised my voice.

Seriously. They were quietly reading at the kitchen table before the phone rang. It just seems that EVERY TIME when I am on the phone, all of a sudden they have urgent information to share, questions to ask, emergencies to deal with. The sky is falling! We need your attention NOW!

I could hear my dad on the other side of the phone line: “It sounds like your children need you. I just want to hear you voice. We’ll talk later.”

“No. Dad!” He hung up before I could protest further. I frantically tried to dial my parents’ phone number. I am not making this up: in order to call my folks, I need to dial 22 friggin’ numbers. That’s right. 22. After the third try, the call finally went through.

“Mom. Is dad there? Could I talk to him?”

“He hung up on you, didn’t he? That man. He always does that. I told him to give me the phone and he said you were busy! Here he is.”

“Dad. You didn’t have to hang up!”

“But you are busy. You should go tend to the children.”

Exasperated now. “No. They can wait. They are not babies any more. They need to learn to be respectful!”

Of course, all this was said in Chinese so my children did not get any benefits from this lecture which explained why at this exact moment, at the same time, my oldest decided to play on a laptop that ran out of power and was struggling to get the power cord out from behind a desk at the risk of toppling everything that was sitting on the desk, and my youngest decided to pour sugar solution (sugar:water 6:1) from a sauce pot into a shallow saucer.

I watched all of it unfold in slow motion, and I could feel myself boiling. I did not even bother to cover the receiver as I exploded.

“WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I AM TALKING TO MY PARENTS? HOW OFTEN DO I GET TO TALK TO THEM? I AM ONLY ON THE PHONE FOR FIVE MINUTES! DID ANYBODY BLEED? IS ANYBODY DYING? NO? THEN DON’T INTERRUPT ME! NOTHING IS THAT URGENT! Go to your rooms NOW! No. Don’t touch anything. Leave that on the floor. Just GO TO YOUR ROOM!”

Switching to Chinese, “I am back. Dad, what were you saying?” I was expecting him to give me another lecture about being more lady-like.

“Whoa. You sounded just like my mother when we were little.” My dad commented.

My grandmother had 14 children. I have never met her, and my dad has not told me much about his mother, that is, he has never really reminisced about his childhood. When I was around, I was too young to ask these questions; now that I am old enough, I am not around enough.

Not sure whether this was something I should defend myself against, I defended my grandmother instead. “Well. There were so many of you. If she did not yell like that, she probably could not keep all of you in check.”

“That’s what I said. You sounded just like my mother.” He chuckled.  “That really reminds me of when I was a kid. We lived on a farm so she could yell like that without disturbing the neighbors.”

Maybe I was just imagining things, but he sounded like he had tears in his eyes when he said again, so quietly this time as if he weren’t talking to me,

“Wow. This really brings back childhood memories.”

{ 29 comments }

Elly Lou January 26, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I heart Dads. My heart hurts that you guys are so far apart. I’m going to hug my dad extra when I see him this weekend…just for you.
.-= Elly Lou´s last blog…FrankenBarbie =-.

Jane January 26, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Oh my god – this is such a sweet, well-told story. Only it’s real. You are such an amazing ‘story teller.’ I was right there with you – through the children demanding your attention as soon as you’re on the phone (happens all the time here) – to feeling your dad missing you, his childhood. Beautiful post!
.-= Jane´s last blog…Tunes for Tuesday Confessional =-.

Merrilymarylee January 26, 2010 at 4:39 pm

I’m checked Chicago Tribune website to make sure your mug shot wasn’t on the front page. I’m taking that to mean the sugar water didn’t go into the laptop.

So hard to get those phone calls that need to go smoothly at bad times and for it to be from the other side of the world. . . ouch! Kids have a sensor that can pick up on that. Do they talk to your parents on the phone? Only my oldest two like to talk to grandparents on the phone… and we’re talking sports, at that. :)

My daughter has a friend who informs her kids in similar situations that, “You know, there’s a CRAZY mama living inside of me and believe me… you don’t want to see Crazy mama!”

I’m not advocating. . . I’m just saying that it works for her!
.-= Merrilymarylee´s last blog…Dots from Weinermobile World =-.

Jennifer Lynn January 26, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Ohhhh. Great moments. Made me kinda teary. ….and why is it that the moment you are giving attention to something else, something for yourself….the kids need it immediately. That seems to be the way:)
.-= Jennifer Lynn´s last blog…Healthy Compromising OR Co-Dependent Suckage…….Who Knows?? =-.

magda January 26, 2010 at 5:35 pm

The love between you and your parents as you describe it, is palpabele. What a gift, not only to have that connection but to be able to capture it in writing. I honestly could in my head see a split screen with you and your parents talking on the phone.
The screaming triggered memories of my mother who in all seriousness is thought to be mentally ill. She would be swearing and cursing at us for being whatever age we were. The phone would ring and she would assume this charming and bizarro calm voice to say Hellloooo? Gross.
Only the screaming part is similar and I am sure you did it without profanity or the sort of eye contact that suggested “You will be sorry for ever if you don’t vanish!”
.-= magda´s last blog…Fear Factor =-.

magda January 26, 2010 at 5:36 pm

you like my spelling of palpable???
shit
.-= magda´s last blog…Fear Factor =-.

Andrea January 26, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Not sure why that just brought a tear to my eye, but it did! I can totally relate to the kids pulling a Jeckyll/Hyde transformation when the phone rings too. It’s maddening. But your dad . . . so sweet!
.-= Andrea´s last blog…"Sympathy for the devil" =-.

mepsipax January 26, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Yeah, moms can be scary. I think he meant it as a compliment. Kids are great huh.
.-= mepsipax´s last blog…Hey dj one more time =-.

Amanda@Brilliant Sulk January 26, 2010 at 9:34 pm

What a great story!

My dad died three years ago. He was Italian, which meant every single time I spoke to him he asked if I had eaten or was hungry. I told him pasta could not be magically transported via the telephone wires. I also mentioned how annoying this was, but he never stopped asking. Oh boy, how I miss that now…

My dog Mango was born in Taiwan. I wonder if your parents ever ran into him…
.-= Amanda@Brilliant Sulk´s last blog…Family Reunion =-.

Devon January 26, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Good for you scattering those kids while you spoke to your parents. Just because your a Mom doesn’t mean you don’t get a minute.

Littlemissenglishteacher January 26, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Awww! Luckily, my grandpa has been staying with me these last couple of weeks of pregnancy, so I’ve been getting to spend a lot of time with him. He’s all I’ve got … so it’s really nice.

Will you be able to go and visit your parents soon enough?
.-= Littlemissenglishteacher´s last blog…Donate for a good cause! =-.

laura January 27, 2010 at 2:28 am

Thanks for the encouragement to not raise an over hyped sports lovin’ DB. OMG I can’t stand that! He does play baseball but then he knits too, and grows a garden.

You have a 7 yo boy? Do you think he might want a pen pal in Alaska, you know to write real letters too and not just email? I have been thinking of finding someone for him to write too.

Glad you stopped by your blog is hilarious one minute and heartbreaking the next, a great read!
.-= laura´s last blog…Bacon Salad-because you asked for it =-.

alejna January 27, 2010 at 8:23 am

I love the way you tell a story.

And yeah, funny how hearing you yell made your dad nostalgic.
.-= alejna´s last blog…2010: The Year of Looking Back at 2009 =-.

KeepingYouAwake January 27, 2010 at 8:24 am

That is a pretty awesome story. I’ve never been compared to a parent above myself, so I’m not sure how I would take it, but I think in your case it’s a compliment. Your parents sound awesome.
.-= KeepingYouAwake´s last blog…I am an Inventor!!! =-.

Robin January 27, 2010 at 9:11 am

Great story =)
.-= Robin´s last blog…My Fan Fiction Past =-.

TheKitchenWitch January 27, 2010 at 9:48 am

What a sweet post! Your affection for your dad comes through loud and clear.

And my kids always do that to me when I’m on the phone, too. Makes me crazy!
.-= TheKitchenWitch´s last blog…Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Asian Meatball Curry =-.

Unknown Mami January 27, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I really liked this post.

My grandmother had 13 kids.

mrsblogalot January 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Lin, I laughed so many times throughout this post and then wondered-did she yell at the kids in chinese or in english when she finally lost it?-then I got weepy at the end because …well because I am mushy when it comes to far away parents.

Yeah….you never know what’s going to remind you of childhood (-;
xooxoxxoMel
.-= mrsblogalot´s last blog…The Sex Ref =-.

secret agent woman January 27, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Awwww.

But what is it with kids needing your attention the moment you get on the phone. Even if they don’t hear it ring or see you answer, they just sense a disturbance in the force.
.-= secret agent woman´s last blog…One day, good and bad. =-.

Falling January 28, 2010 at 12:15 am

Tell you what: my dad, who I miss terribly, lives just north of Chicago. You go hug him for me…you get a local dad, he gets a local daughter, the only one who loses is…um, me. Wait, this plan has a flaw…

What did you do after you hung up? What did the kids say?

I’d give you a big hug if I could.
.-= Falling´s last blog…If Only Jack Had Invoked This Rule =-.

Michele January 28, 2010 at 3:17 am

Sending you ((hugs)) for you and your dad. I get the sense that you are very close.
What a wonderful post, and what a gifted writer you are.
Very heartwarming with you and your father. I’m sorry you are so far apart.

Why do kids always act up when we’re on the phone? I don’t get it!
.-= Michele´s last blog…So Long, SAM =-.

Shelli January 28, 2010 at 6:30 am

How funny, and poignant. :-) And slightly spooky, since it almost perfectly describes my night.

I haven’t talked to my dad for about a month; just been too busy. I was going to call him last night after I was done with dinner. But he called me first! How weird is that?! When I told him I was cooking dinner, he told me he’d call me later, and tried to hang up on me. I yelled “NO! I can cook this dinner in my sleep! Stay!”. We talked for 45 minutes. And guess what? My Son decided that was the moment that he needed … NEEDED … to tell me something oh so important (which he couldn’t remember when I was finally off the phone – must not have been that important! LOL). I also yelled at him, and was snarky about it, too! LOL The only difference is: my dad only lives 1/2 hour away from me. Our lives are just so busy, that we don’t have time to make that trip, or make that call.
.-= Shelli´s last blog…How did I get here? =-.

William January 28, 2010 at 11:20 am

I too am a last worder. I think. And Kids always wait until you are on the phone to ask questions.
.-= William´s last blog…Blind Spot =-.

Nancy@ifevolutionworks.com January 28, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Nothing better than a dad to keep you grounded :)
.-= Nancy@ifevolutionworks.com´s last blog…Always Have a Backup =-.

A Vapid Blonde January 29, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Oh my.. Love.
I actually haven’t spoken to my Dad in any real way in months (maybe years) He only answers the phone when no one else (my mother) is around or if its is financial advisor. But I know with out a doubt…I am his number one son…even though I am his daughter. He knows I am and will be fine no matter what.
.-= A Vapid Blonde´s last blog…Marbles Really Don’t Taste That Good =-.

pixielation January 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm

I know how you feel being far away from your parents – mine are in Sydney and I am in London. But I talk far more often with my mother on the phone than I do my father.
.-= pixielation´s last blog…Going cold turkey. Or cold firefox. =-.

Absence Alternatives January 30, 2010 at 8:25 pm

{{{hugs}}} to you too. I remembered that because I have been telling people about your post when they want to understand how difficult and stressful it is to travel with young kids, esp. the prep work. 😉 So the thing with dad not wanting to be on the phone, it is universal then.

Jen @ NathanRising February 3, 2010 at 8:18 pm

How funny!! Nathan is not even a year old yet (but he will be next month! Can you believe it???) and already whenever I get on the phone, if I don’t still pay attention to him, he starts shrieking like a banshee. It’s this ear-shattering scream that feels like it’s about to rupture my BRAIN. Or he takes the opportunity to scoot over to whatever it is he is NOT allowed to play with… like the DVR or anything with an electrical cord. I wonder how he will be when he is two? Three? OMG I’m in for it, aren’t I?

Why is it kids get into anything and everything as soon as thier mom gets on the phone?

I was literally laughing out loud at what you said to your kids! You go, Mama!!!!!! LOL!!

-Jen
.-= Jen @ NathanRising´s last blog…The Swiveling Head =-.

Absence Alternatives February 6, 2010 at 1:01 am

You know, sometimes I feel like a banshee myself. Probably where my kids get it…. Sigh. Karma.

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