Lede-Buried Voicemails from Your Mom
July 11, 2018 2:10 AM   Subscribe

Hi, sweetie. It’s Mom. Do you remember Mr. Levert? He lived behind the high school with that garden. You’d do yard work over there sometimes? He loved you; I’m sure you remember. Anyway, he was in a car accident. Died on impact. Call me back.
posted by like_neon (135 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am TERRIFIED to share this with my wife, or even mention it, because of her mom's tendency to do this sort of thing. We've actually received a cut-out newspaper obituary for someone she didn't even really know that well, sent overseas through the mail with no warning, with no note or anything even enclosed.

Maybe this is a regional thing?
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:38 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


My mother does this exactly! Even worse, as an ex-nurse, she often gives graphic, blow-by-blow details. It often begins with "Do you remember Mrs Smith, who lived just down the street? Well..."
posted by greenhornet at 2:54 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


So brilliantly spot on. Sending this to my siblings, stat.
posted by bologna on wry at 3:11 AM on July 11


Both my mother and mother-in-law do the thing that goes like this:

M/MIL: Do you remember Sheila who used to live next-door to Elaine who worked at the doctor's surgery?

Me: No. I'm pretty sure I never knew either of them.

M/MIL: Well, anyway, it turns out she was having an affair with that man who used to be a taxi driver - the one with the beard and the big dog. You must remember him.

Me: I'm don't think I remember him either.

M/MIL: Anyway, (continues story at length...)
posted by pipeski at 3:13 AM on July 11 [32 favorites]


My parents do this with the added bonus that they have reached the age where they have become substantially read-only, so you often get the same one more than once.
posted by hawthorne at 3:21 AM on July 11 [39 favorites]


Oh dear, I do this...

Well, you don't want to give bad news before you give a greeting. And sometimes you have to set up a story. And it's hard to keep up with your kids' totally different frame of reference. It's hard to keep up with what they've been told in earlier messages. After all, they haven't been gone all that long. Or maybe it just seems like they left yesterday, when it's been years.
posted by Miss Cellania at 3:31 AM on July 11 [46 favorites]


I kinda do this sometimes. My Dad does something entirely different which is where he swallows an experience for years and then suddenly coughs it up... So yeah about seven years ago when I was at the gas station with twenty dollars in my hand to give to the cashier an armed robber came in, pointed the gun at the cashier, got him to clean out the register and then ran out without even noticing that I'm literally holding a twenty dollar bill out toward the cashier. Never told anyone about it, not my Mom, nobody.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:43 AM on July 11 [52 favorites]


My dad used to do this with fatalities. I used to get mad at him, calling me to tell me about the deaths of people I barely remembered, or just did not know. Sometimes they weren’t even friends of his, just acquaintance. Why choose to darken my perfectly fine day like this? What was I supposed to do, or say? The usual pattern was, “Hey, it’s Dad. Do you remember so-and-so? *rambling recollection*...Nancy, he DIED. *recounts time and manner of death*.

Then I realized that these passings were making him feel disconnected, unmoored in the world. He was trying to deal with not just the loss of a person, but with his own looming mortality. I learned to just listen. And all I really needed to do was let him know he was heard, and loved. “I’m sorry, Dad,” was really enough to say. And when he died himself, I wondered how many of his wide acquaintance and friends were calling their children. “Hey, do you remember ...”
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 3:57 AM on July 11 [137 favorites]


My mother talked very slowly and used the same intonation no matter how tragic or trivial the news was. So she'd start out with, "oh, the most terrible thing happened today" and it would take forever before you'd find out if your aunt died or if the Sunday Star Ledger didn't get delivered that morning.
posted by octothorpe at 4:02 AM on July 11 [77 favorites]


Similar, here in rural England. A few months ago I was in a village, for their fete, where I'd been to a church harvest festival back in the autumn of 2014. Two elderly women were chatting next to the early season vegetables. No idea of their names (and that's probably wise), so will call them Edith (the obviously frank one) and Mary (the quieter and more tactful one).

Edith: You look a bit familiar.
Me: I was here a few autumns back for the harvest festival.
Mary: Oh yes, I remember you. The tall man.
Me: Yes; I enjoyed the service, and the supper afterwards. Everyone was very friendly.
Edith: Do you remember the vicar?
Me: {struggles a bit} Quiet, elderly man? Served me a nice cup of tea and a jammy dodger [type of biscuit] afterwards?
Edith: Yes, that was him. Philip {I have made this name up for soon to become clear reasons}.
Me: Yes, I remember.
Mary: Such a shame about him.
Me: {dread} Oh no; has he passed away?
Edith: Oh, not at all. Well, he may have. He had to leave.
Me: Why?
Edith: Horse fucking.
Me: {pause} Sorry?
Edith: Horse fucking.
Me: {pause} He ... {longer pause} with horses?
Mary: No, not quite like that. The church laptop had a problem, and it went to be repaired. And whoever repaired it found lots and lots and lots of pictures.
Edith: Of horse fucking.
Me: {pause} You mean ... horses having sex with each other?
Edith: No. Men fucking horses.
{At this EXACT POINT nearby, and why I remember this so vividly, someone's phone rings. And the phone ringing tone is the theme to the TV series Black Beauty}
Me: {pause} I had not heard of this.
Mary: Apparently it is a thing with some men.
Me: No, I meant specifically Philip and ... horses.
Edith: {a bit animated} Well, it's not really something we can put on the cover of the monthly church newsletter, is it?! Visit {name of church} which has a nice spire and a vicar who is into horse fucking.
Me: So ... {not sure I want to know but too curious not to ask} ... is he in prison?
Edith: No. There were all these police cars and a right hoo hah and they went through everything and took him away. We never saw him again. He is on some kind of register as, well, I don't know, a register of {almost spits out this next word} men who are into horse fucking.
Mary: It was just like Gary Glitter.
Edith: No, Mary. Philip was into horse fucking. Gary was...
Mary: No, I know, I meant his laptop was being repaired and they found lots of pictures. Bad pictures.
Edith: Yes. Anyway, we have a new vicar now. And he is very nice, and his sermons don't go on for ever, and he makes a lovely cup of tea, and he is not into horse fucking.
Me: {pause} How ... {pause} do you know?
Edith: {like I have asked the most stupidest question ever} It's the very first thing we asked him, of course.
posted by Wordshore at 4:09 AM on July 11 [704 favorites]


I'll do this with me. I look at the obituaries page and see a face and a name I know from 40 years ago and immediately start to think, "Oh, that's Mrs so-and-so who ran the horse farm where M. used to get rides in exchange for helping around the stable... yeah, I remember I found a big skull behind their place, probably a cow... huh. Well, it looks like she's dead of... donations to the hospice... looks like cancer."
posted by pracowity at 4:15 AM on July 11 [11 favorites]


Moderators, is there any way we can introduce a 'super, super favourite' button for MeFi?

Because Wordshore's comment deserves it.
posted by Major Clanger at 4:20 AM on July 11 [49 favorites]


One time when I was in college my mother called and was all "So I saw your grandmother and she's fine, and then I read that new book by Stephen King which was all right, and the cat killed a frog, Roger and I got married, and I tried a new recipe for pie but I don't think it worked out very well."

And I was all, "Go back to that second to last one, please."
posted by jscalzi at 4:28 AM on July 11 [83 favorites]


Moderators, is there any way we can introduce a 'super, super favourite' button for MeFi?

You can always flag it as fantastic. Which I just did.
posted by TedW at 4:29 AM on July 11 [15 favorites]


So, long story short, for various reasons the morning of 9/11 I had shut off my phone so I could focus on a long, multi-hour task. When I turned my phone back on shortly after noon, I have like twenty messages asking if I'm okay, not one of which tells me what's actually going on. So when I call my dad to tell him I'm fine and ask what's up, and I swear this is true, he opens with "So, remember the twin towers?"
posted by phooky at 4:33 AM on July 11 [193 favorites]


Hawthorne:They have reached the age where they have become substantially read-only... oh god it's me, isn't it?
posted by evilmomlady at 4:35 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


My grandma does this only since she's 94 and basically everyone she knows is dead already the punchline is about some long lost aquaintance she follows on facebook who has since gotten fat. She'll even spin her tablet around at family gatherings to show you.

-Grandma, I don't even know this person.
-Sure you do, her aunt and uncle lived three doors over from you when you lived in Indiana.
-Gram, we moved when I was 18 months old.
-Well anyway, look how fat she got.
posted by phunniemee at 4:37 AM on July 11 [41 favorites]


This thread has made me realize that my mother is more typical than I give her credit for. For years I have gently suggested that if I don’t answer the phone all she has to do is say “Hi, it’s your mom; call me back”. Perhaps adding something indicating the degree of urgency, although I generally call mom back the first chance I get. But she still prefers to have a long, one sided conversation with voicemail, with who knows what important information buried in there somewhere. As opposed to my late father, who refused to leave messages on answering machines no matter what.
posted by TedW at 4:41 AM on July 11 [8 favorites]


My mom doesn't just leave voicemails like this. It's how she tells stories. They all start with a cast of characters like a goddamn play, wind down the garden path, around the toolshed, into the pond, lie out in the sun to dry off and then maybe, if you've managed to pay attention long enough, you find out who broke their hip or got bitten by a dog.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:42 AM on July 11 [37 favorites]


I recently received a cryptic panicky text from my mom a month ago: “Pleass pray like you’ve never prayed before in your life.”

Then silence. No context. No further elaboration. Someone we loved was likely dying but she wasn’t just going to *tell* me without a little back and forth coaxing at least. This is very typical of my mom to insinuate their is big news but not tell us, or make us ask someone else in the family.

Turns out everything was fine in the end and the person is healthy
posted by yeti at 4:44 AM on July 11 [9 favorites]


My in-laws do this, with the added bonus that every discussion gets diverted at length into a symposium on What Was Where Back Then.

A: “Did I tell you what happened to Uncle Norm last week?”

Me: “No, I don’t think so.”

A: “I couldn’t believe it! He was just back from the hospital when he called..”

B: “No, he called from the hospital.”

A: “He definitely did not. He doesn’t usually have his cell phone with him. It’s only for emergencies.”

C, entering the room: “Who’s had an emergency?”

B: “We’re talking about your uncle Norm.”

C: “Oh, the time he got bit by the Jacksons’ dogs?”

B: “What a mess that was! He came in, covered in bandages, and sat down in that recliner we used to have in the front room...”

A: “We got rid of that recliner years earlier! By the time the dogs bit Norm, we had already moved that thing to to the cottage.”

B: “So what was in the corner by the door then?”

C: “It was the loveseat. You know, the one we bought at Lee’s Furniture.”

A: “The one downtown?”

B: “The one near where that bakery you like is.”

A: “The bakery that is where the shoe store used to be, yeah...”

And so it goes. Whether uncle Norm broke his arm, became a grandfather or was hired to M.C. the hospital’s annual fundraiser vanishes over the horizon behind us while we sort out which year the bank moved to Wilson Street and who wound up with the floor lamp from the living room.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:00 AM on July 11 [115 favorites]


Does anyone else get the thing where someone's obviously had a long chain of thought in their head, then come out with a question or statement with zero context? And then you have to figure out what they're talking about by having a kind of reverse conversation. It's like the complete opposite of this.

Them: So do you think grey is OK?
Me: What?
Them: For the paint?
Me: What paint?
Them: For the shelves
Me: Which shelves? What are you talking about?
Them: I was thinking about repainting the shelves in my study.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:02 AM on July 11 [103 favorites]


Does anyone else get the thing where someone's obviously had a long chain of thought in their head, then come out with a question or statement with zero context?

I suffer from this condition. I call it "Read my forehead." I have been thinking hard about this thing, and arguing with myself, and laying out possibilities, and I have hit a block and need some feedback, so I ask my question. I mean, isn't my thought written in big block letters across my forehead?

Anyway.

Am I the only one to find death-watch an uncomfortable conversational manipulation?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:09 AM on July 11 [16 favorites]


Visiting my aunt and she's giving me the usual comprehensive run down of her bingo pals, and we end up having to dash off from her house in a rush because of the parking meter, so the end of the conversation is "oh and Frank had an operation and he died" so I'm telling her out of the car window I'm sorry to hear that etc..

Next time we're down, three months later, she opens the door and says "for two minutes. Frank's fine now. Fit as a fiddle". As if we'd just stepped out for a second.
posted by threetwentytwo at 5:25 AM on July 11 [73 favorites]


This is strongly reminiscent of my father in law's communication style.

He has a tendency to text or even call us during working hours sounding really serious about what I assume he feels are really important issues that we need to know about but which in fact are really not that critical (like a change in his TV contract that has no impact on us and he is fine to decide for himself). Anything genuinely important like a serious health issue he either just doesn't tell us about at all or he mentions in a minor aside several months later.

I really can't work out whether he really does think it's more important to tell us he's changing from Sky to BT than that he has been off work sick for 2 months and is on the waiting list for knee surgery or he's having some kind of denial type reaction and doesn't want to talk about it at all.
posted by *becca* at 5:31 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Edith: You look a bit familiar.
Me: I was here a few autumns back for the harvest festival.
Mary: Oh yes, I remember you. The tall man.
Me: Yes; I enjoyed the service, and the supper afterwards. Everyone was very friendly.
Edith: Do you remember the vicar?
Me: {struggles a bit} Quiet, elderly man? Served me a nice cup of tea and a jammy dodger [type of biscuit] afterwards?


I have been re-reading Martha Grimes' Richard Jury series, and this would fit in so perfectly, with Melrose Plant as Wordshore.
posted by Lunaloon at 5:37 AM on July 11 [8 favorites]


I have been re-reading Martha Grimes' Richard Jury series, and this would fit in so perfectly, with Melrose Plant as Wordshore.

I forwarded a link to Wordshore's comment to my fiancee, with a note that I thought it sounded like an outtake from Hot Fuzz.

In terms of the original thread, my mother frequently does what Pipeski describes their Mother/MIL does - right down to the pressing-on-regardless even after I exclaim bafflement and that I don't remember/know who she's talking about when she's listing the dramatis personae of the story.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 5:45 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


My mom does this with a slight variation: halfway through a conversation she'll ask me if I remember someone (like the secretary at my elementary school or someone like that that I vaguely remember) and then reveal that she's with them and the call has been on speakerphone the entire time.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 5:51 AM on July 11 [66 favorites]


My mom doesn't do any of this.

What she does do is leave simple messages asking me to call her back when I get a chance. Which would be fine except...

it is always in a tragically sad voice leading me to think my father has died.

I truly dread voice mail from mom.
posted by srboisvert at 5:54 AM on July 11 [22 favorites]


I've been conditioned to react the other way now...

Mom: Do you remember Mrs. Stewart? She--
Me: She's dead?
Mom: No! I saw her in the store and ...
posted by kimberussell at 5:56 AM on July 11 [17 favorites]


This is also my mother and grandmothers to a T, and luckily they also possess some awareness of what is happening, Mom taught me about the 'Who's sick, who died?" portion of any communication with family. Mom still does it though, but from her it's a useful service because I'm not in contact with many people back home and she's a teacher and knows everyone.

My one grandma, though, is amazing at what I like to call the 'Bad news goodbye' in her facebook communiques, dropping in some terrible thing that has happened to someone in the middle of saying goodbye. A direct quote from her, completely unedited

"well t hanks for the message and video and glad to hear from you again. the new people in the cafe are having alot of problems and short ruined th walk in, the pop cooler froze the pop and the oven quit on the stove an they found black mold in the house they were going to move into. so that is alot of problems thanks for checking in."

(she's actually a quite skilled typist, but she learned on typewriters and is resistant to the idea of the backspace key to correct mistakes)
posted by neonrev at 5:59 AM on July 11 [9 favorites]


Does anyone else get the thing where someone's obviously had a long chain of thought in their head, then come out with a question or statement with zero context?

My spouse and I do this to each other so often that we've shortened "Time out, wait a second, I think you were having this conversation with yourself for a while before you involved me in it, so please back up to the beginning and start again, only with me this time." to "Time out." "Beginning?" "Please."
posted by Etrigan at 6:11 AM on July 11 [30 favorites]


The other thing I wanted to say is that this is totally just a form of emotional labor that in times past was basically entirely the job of women and is now somewhat more democratized through social media. Keeping tabs on friends and family and their health is generally considered 'women's work', even today, and in the past that was much more a thing with christmas cards and letter writing and the like.
So yeah, mom's just doing some invisible emotional labor to try and keep you in the loop is all, trying to remember who you know or might know and care about the life and health of and reporting it to you as best she can.
posted by neonrev at 6:14 AM on July 11 [11 favorites]


This was so spot on that my blood pressure is up and I was grinding my teeth by the one about the dog.
posted by a hat out of hell at 6:22 AM on July 11 [7 favorites]


Oh man, my mother in law does sort of the opposite of this. She was always texting one son or the other “Call me.” or “Please call.” No other information. They’d call her back immediately in a panic and THEN she wouldn’t answer her phone (having wandered off to do something else). Finally they’d get a hold of her: what is it? Is everything okay? Is it Dad? “Oh, I just wanted to talk, see how you’re doing.” “Oh, I was wondering if you could stop by this weekend to help your dad take down the screens in the porch.” “Wanted to invite you over for dinner this Sunday.” They finally chewed her out for giving them constant heart attacks and she’s gotten a little better and will maybe tack on a “...when it’s convenient” or “Not urgent” to her texts if she remembers.
posted by castlebravo at 6:32 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Well, how DO you want to be told that somebody is dead?
posted by JanetLand at 6:32 AM on July 11 [8 favorites]


Doctors are taught that the thing the patient mentions in the last minute of the appointment is actually the problem. This looks a bit like that.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 6:38 AM on July 11 [18 favorites]


Hey, Metafilter,
Uptime's been pretty good, frimble's really been on top of it. The US Politics threads have been under control, mods are able to stay on top of them. I know you love your username, and most of you will be able to keep it when MeFi gets sold to Reddit next week. love you, memail me, cortex.

JOKING
posted by Mom at 6:38 AM on July 11 [89 favorites]


Does anyone else get the thing where someone's obviously had a long chain of thought in their head, then come out with a question or statement with zero context? And then you have to figure out what they're talking about by having a kind of reverse conversation.

I've done this in the past. I remember some friends being baffled when I told them that my problem with The Blues Brothers was that John Lee Hooker, the one authentic blues musician in the film (the others being soul or R&B) had less screen time than that shot of the Illinois Nazis' car falling. I think that I was trying to convey that there was a weird kind of tension in the film between the superlative musical performances (James Brown! Aretha Franklin! Ray Charles! Cab Fucking Calloway!) and John Landis' one directorial joke, which was taking some stunt and stretching it out to absurd lengths. But most of that was in my head.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:41 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


My version of this issue is conversations with older people who get stuck on remembering the name of the subject of the story when I don't know the person anyway and the actual name doesn't matter.

"So several years ago I was at the store when I bumped into Steve... Skip? Stanley. Sammy? Oh, what was his name..."

"It doesn't matter. Go on."

"Sterling? No, that was your great-great-uncle. Saul? Steve?"

"Just go on."

"Stewart?"

We never actually get to the story because the whole tale derailed in the first sentence because of a forgotten name.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:53 AM on July 11 [18 favorites]


The other thing I wanted to say is that this is totally just a form of emotional labor that in times past was basically entirely the job of women and is now somewhat more democratized through social media.

When I was small, and my family visited my father's parents many hours away, I'd wake up and wander downstairs and find my mother seated at the kitchen table, with my grandmother bustling around making breakfast and gossiping in hushed tones about Sue next door, so sad about Sue's daughter's divorce; and do you know that they said cousin Jim seemed like he might be (whisper) that way (close whisper); and oh, oh, oh, don't let the toast burn, the fire department's been so busy with accidents...and my mother had this glazed look on her face, but kept encouraging the stories with phrases like "That's TERRIBLE" and "Well, who got the house in the divorce?"It made me uncomfortable to see adult situations treated as terrible secrets to be guardedly passed along, hidden shames shared over breakfast. I found my mother's prurient interest offputting, like someone collecting clubs to be wielded at a later date, and the stories were not, to the best of my knowledge, shared with my dad, who was the one who actually knew the folks under discussion.

That scene is always at the back of my mind when the phone rings a day after social media has alerted me to the death of a former neighbor/classmate/relative of someone I know. I dread having to do the dance of entertaining my mother's frankly ghoulish relish in conveying the news, and she is deflated and non-pilussed by the idea that I already knew, as if being plugged into who's-dead/who's-had-an-accident/who's-having-a-tough-time is a competition. This dynamic leaves me depressed as well: the call isn't to see how I am, or how the grandkids are, but about scoring a goal, and I dislike it. My classmate did not die so my mother could be the first to reach me with the news. Yes, it's the emotional labor of keeping records and information-sharing; yes, this is about my mother's fear of her own mortality, and it is also a passive-aggressive form of shaming for my lack of connectedness to my place of origin, and a particularly icky one, at that. I am OK with finding things out in a more direct, if removed, fashion.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:56 AM on July 11 [22 favorites]


Metafilter: makes a lovely cup of tea, and is not into horse fucking.
posted by theorique at 7:20 AM on July 11 [37 favorites]


Well, how DO you want to be told that somebody is dead?

Speaking personally, I'd prefer a little brief onboarding and then just dropping the news:

Me: Hi Mom.
Mom: Hi honey, how are you doing?
Me: Pretty good, and you?
Mom: I'm doing fine thanks, but I just heard some sad news that I wanted to tell you about. Remember your elementary school teacher, Mrs Wong? I was speaking to Sarah Bentley in the grocery and she told me that Mrs Wong had passed away from ovarian cancer.
[... conversation continues ... ]
posted by theorique at 7:27 AM on July 11 [10 favorites]


Oh, Jesus, my mother is so bad about this. She frequently either buries the lede or just jumps in the middle of a story. Years ago my father was in an accident. This is the voicemail I got:

Mom: Hey sweetie. Hope everything is going well, sorry we missed you. I just want you to know that the doctor thinks Daddy should be just fine. He's recovering well and seems to be awake now. 'Kay. Call me when you get in on my cell. I don't think I'll go home until they release him.

It turns out; he'd chopped off two of the small toes on his right foot while clearing brush. Somehow, she forgot that she hadn't told me the first part about how they packed his toes in a cup of cherry limeade from Sonic and went to the hospital where the doctors put my father under and reattached his toes.

A day or two later when he was home, and I called back to check in on him, she says "Oh, he's mad and frustrated at not being able to get around. He's been on my nerves all day. I'm taking him a pencil and the shotgun right now and hopefully that'll make him better."

No. My father wasn't writing a suicide note, and my mother wasn't planning on shooting him. He was just on the front porch doing crosswords and saw a groundhog in the garden that needed shooting.

She told me she had breast cancer in the drive thru line at Arby's. I'm not kidding you, it was "Two classic roast beefs, with horsey sauce, a coke, and a Jamocha shake. Thanks. Oh, sweetie, I have stage three breast cancer. I'm gonna go have the girls lopped of this Tuesday. Do you want to be in town for that?"

However, when shit was really serious, she was straight to the point. When my dad was dying, this is what I got. "Hey sweetie. Daddy's sick and isn't going to be okay. Come home."

So I did.
posted by teleri025 at 7:31 AM on July 11 [87 favorites]


My late father used to always recount one morning of his namesake's feast day (a thing in our church we call a "nameday") when I came into the dining room to see him reading the paper, breakfast cooking in the toaster oven behind him.

"Good morning, daddy. Happy nameday! Why is the house on fire?"

He beamed at me with gratitude for a good second and a half before his face dropped and he spun around to put out the flames in a wild panic.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 7:31 AM on July 11 [22 favorites]


Metafilter: makes a lovely cup of tea, and is not into horse fucking.

But the sermons go on longer than ever.
posted by The Bellman at 7:36 AM on July 11 [16 favorites]


I have the opposite problem. One memorable voicemail series from my mother:

1: "It's your mother. Call me."

2: "It's your mother. It's urgent. Call me."

3: "You need to call me right now. It's about your sister."

4: "It's your mother, calling about your sister. It's urgent. Call me as soon as you get this."

5: "You need to call me as soon as you get this. It's extremely urgent, about your sister. Call."

I had been listening to these with increasing trepidation! I finally get to the end and call.

"So I'm planning you sister's birthday party, and some of these songs she's picked out, well, the ... lyrics - can you listen to them and tell me if they're ok?"


.... "NO."

And I hung up.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:39 AM on July 11 [57 favorites]


I want to be friends with Edith.
posted by mcduff at 7:40 AM on July 11 [18 favorites]


Wow, it's equally gratifying and mortifying to know that other MeFites have family that does like this like my mother-in-law.
posted by Kitteh at 7:54 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Long ago, I told my mum that I never listen to voicemails and I'll call her back as soon as I see she has called. So she has (almost) stopped leaving nonsensical voicemails.
But I did the burying the lede to her the other day...
M: Hi Mum, it's me
Mum: Hi, how are you doing
M: just fine, I'm leaving in a few hours when I've finished packing, but I'll have to come back 'cause I didn't manage to get everything sorted
Mum: sounds good, then maybe you can come visit when you're back?
M: of course, now what are you having for lunch today?
Mum: Eggs
M: And has your nurse been over?
Mum: Yes, and will you now tell me what happened at that f...ing funeral!!!!

My mother can't go out much so she missed the funeral of a family member the day before. She knew in advance there would be drama, and called me already right after the event to hear what had happened, but I couldn't talk then. So I was really teasing her when I called.
posted by mumimor at 7:56 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


I envy those of you whose parents' long, rambling stories eventually come to some kind of conclusion or point.
posted by kyrademon at 7:57 AM on July 11 [29 favorites]


So much of this rings true for my mom.
Does anyone else get the thing where someone's obviously had a long chain of thought in their head, then come out with a question or statement with zero context?
My mom does something similar. She'll be trying to make some point or remember something, and get distracted, or forget exactly what she wanted to say, and then an indeterminate amount of time later (a few hours, a few weeks) will simply pick up exactly where she left off without any introduction. I'll shake my head in confusion and say "what?" and then she'll explain.
posted by adamrice at 8:08 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


My mom sometimes does the opposite, e.g.

Mom [at 1:30am]: Are you awake?
Me [worried because she's usually asleep by now]: Yes, what's happening
<Mom is typing...>
[This takes forever. As each minute passes, I grow increasingly worried]
Mom: Your sister is working on a school project and needs to merge three PDFs into one. I remember you mentioned a software that can do it. What was it called? [long description of project]
posted by airmail at 8:11 AM on July 11 [9 favorites]


"I'm sorry, was that out loud?"--Cliff Clavin
posted by Melismata at 8:16 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I have no idea how one should break this news. I hate the "Call me" and nothing but and sounds ominous, and then they're not there when you call, but the other ways don't work great either.

I think I'd say something along the lines of "Don't let someone wait in suspense and panic wondering what's wrong if you're just calling about casual shit," though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:21 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


This is just like my family, except each story needs at least 4 repetitions of "to make a long story short".
posted by BeeDo at 8:31 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Well, how DO you want to be told that somebody is dead?

One of my favorite old jokes has an option:

A man left his cat with his brother while he went on vacation for a week. When he came back, he called his brother to see when he could pick the cat up. The brother hesitated, then said, "I'm so sorry, but while you were away, the cat died."

The man was very upset and yelled, "You know, you could have broken the news to me better than that. When I called today, you could have said he was on the roof and wouldn't come down. Then when I called the next day, you could have said that he had fallen off and the vet was working on patching him up. Then when I called the third day, you could have said he had passed away."

The brother thought about it and apologized.

"So how's Mom?" asked the man.

"She's on the roof and won't come down."

posted by Daily Alice at 8:40 AM on July 11 [55 favorites]


"She's on the roof and won't come down."

That is my parents' favorite joke.

I tried to turn things around recently when I found out that a distant acquaintance everyone assumed was long gone was still alive.

"Mom - do you remember Mr. So-and-So? He's still alive. He's 102!"

"Oh. Why?"
posted by lagomorphius at 8:50 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


My dad once phoned me, asked how I was, let me talk about my news for a bit, asked lots of follow-up questions, THEN, when I asked what was new with him, told me his partner had died. I still feel guilty about it.
posted by ITheCosmos at 9:08 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


Next time we're down, three months later, she opens the door and says "for two minutes. Frank's fine now. Fit as a fiddle". As if we'd just stepped out for a second.

What a cliffhanger!! I’d watch that show!
posted by greermahoney at 9:15 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


What I hate is the phalanx of messages - home phone (she never calls my cell), text to my cell, text from my dad's cell, maybe even text my wife - and then not answering the phone when I call back. Or, honestly, ever.

"Why didn't you answer my call?"
"Why don't you *ever* answer your phone?"
posted by notsnot at 9:23 AM on July 11


My brother had to implement a policy that I have to shoot him a text that clarifies whether or not my repeated calls are serious or not, after he pointed out that my attempts to contact him after a friend attempted suicide were exactly the same as when I have a really good joke to tell him.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:29 AM on July 11 [15 favorites]


Does anyone else get the thing where someone's obviously had a long chain of thought in their head, then come out with a question or statement with zero context?

Yes, and it drove me insane for years and I'd say things like "HAH?" and "Can I get a segue?" and "Feel free to put the exposition right there in the dialogue." Lately, however, I've been noticing that sometimes I know what she's talking about, even when I shouldn't because there's zero transition and no context and she hasn't been talking about whatever it is recently--like not within weeks.

I've started to kind of like it. We were apart for some years, which is why, I think, I used not to get them, and now we've been together for several more years, and I'm getting them again. Neato.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:30 AM on July 11 [10 favorites]


We never actually get to the story because the whole tale derailed in the first sentence because of a forgotten name.

I've developed the habit: when Mom does this same thing, after a couple of her attempts at remembering the name I suggest, "Let's just call him 'Sid' for now." And so far she's gone along with it. I can't speak to why "Sid" has become my go-to Generic Male Name Placeholder but it's worked so far.

Otherwise Mom actually does something related: she's more likely to tell me serious news about people I'm less connected with, but as for close family, I often don't hear anything. My father once had to be rushed to the ER and then hospitalized because of an infection following a colonoscopy and polyp removal - and Mom didn't even call to tell me anything had happened until she was about to leave to bring him home the day he was discharged. Later, I didn't find out about the birth of my nephew for three days because nobody called to tell me it had happened.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


The problem isn't just burying the lede, but general tone of voice and attitude mismatch toward whatever news there is.

I once had a roommate wander up to me and ask about the methodology of putting out a grease fire in tones of such unconcern and merely vague interest that I had already looked up the information, presented it to her, and gone back to what I was doing before the penny dropped and I went into the kitchen to find out that the oven was, in fact, on fire.

After we put it out, I complained, and she asked if I would rather she had panicked? I mean, no, but...
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 9:41 AM on July 11 [8 favorites]


in defense of Moms, your Dad may know that a busload of friends plunged off a cliff at the high school reunion that you couldn't attend, landing on the home of your grandmother, and everyone perished in a horrible conflagration except the driver, who you have never met but is in the Elks with your Dad. When you ask your Dad what's new, he'll say My buddy, Ed, the bus driver, he's getting out of the hospital tomorrow.
posted by theora55 at 9:53 AM on July 11 [23 favorites]


Obviously, as time has passed the frequency of my mother's conversational obituries has increased to the extent that this is now how they proceed.

My Mother: "You know so-and-so's husband who used to live..."
Me: "Dead then"
My Mother: "You're a horrible child"
posted by fullerine at 9:55 AM on July 11 [29 favorites]


Hah! I did this once. I had to go in for minor surgery and called up my parents to let them know that I was going in for minor surgery for something minor that wasn't major. Hence the term "minor".

But you can't really lead with that. So I did the usual "How are you guys doing? Oh, you got some new orchids? Sounds nice. No, I haven't spoken to Aunt Betsy in ages. Hey, let me tell you why I called..."
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:55 AM on July 11


This dynamic leaves me depressed as well: the call isn't to see how I am, or how the grandkids are, but about scoring a goal, and I dislike it. My classmate did not die so my mother could be the first to reach me with the news. Yes, it's the emotional labor of keeping records and information-sharing; yes, this is about my mother's fear of her own mortality, and it is also a passive-aggressive form of shaming for my lack of connectedness to my place of origin, and a particularly icky one, at that. I am OK with finding things out in a more direct, if removed, fashion.

This is all generally true to my experience as well, especially the 'lack of connectedness' and the seeming deflated on the occasions when I already knew about a bad event she wanted to tell me about. I do want to share an alternative view on that, at least with my mom (no idea about your mom), I've come to see that deflation as a sort of defeat on her part, that she really does view making those calls as being a valuable service that she provides, an ingrained part of her life. For her, social media and asynchronous and constant updates about people's lives are kinda a disruption to the person she was raised to be.

My family is more open about gossip, but for sure the dynamic at family events as a kid was the women at one table sharing the info on the people we all cared about and the men off chatting about farming or the weather or some shit, and then on the drive home mom would relate to dad all the things she had found out about. Nowadays that same general gender divide exists, but the 'drive home' part is gone, everyone knew what was going on as soon as it happened cause usually mom saw it when it happened too. I really feel for the moms who provide this info that social media already told you about, odds are they grew up in a time when that info was a valuable thing to know and a part of the role they were taught to play.

In short, many of our mom's grew up only hearing about those events from their moms, and learning that it was their job to continue that, and now that we are flooded with info about everyone we ever knew, it seems weird. Same sorta with the casualness about death and illness, when my mom was a kid, it was the 60's in a rural area, folks getting seriously ill and/or dying was a constant thing for her.
Everyone's family is different tho, so, that's just what I've seen and think.
posted by neonrev at 9:59 AM on July 11 [11 favorites]


I've started to kind of like it. We were apart for some years, which is why, I think, I used not to get them, and now we've been together for several more years, and I'm getting them again. Neato.

Yeah, this is one of my favorite things about my marriage and one of the things that annoys witnesses the most. My husband and I know each other so well now that the sheer amount of context we have together makes most of the conversations we have with each other are somewhat to mostly unintelligible to others.
posted by Kimberly at 10:01 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


My parents don't really do this. I wonder if it's a big city thing-- they just don't know what's going on with my old teachers or classmates, any more than I do.

The one time I remember something close was when I was in middle school and my dad was trying to delicately ask if I knew a particular classmate. I didn't. Turns out he'd stolen a car. (I also have no idea what he would have said if I had known him. Maybe a lecture on theft?)
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:02 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Otherwise Mom actually does something related: she's more likely to tell me serious news about people I'm less connected with, but as for close family, I often don't hear anything.

I get this too.

My parents sometimes do this weird thing where they "don't want to worry me".

This leads to situations where (e.g.) I didn't get the news that my sister was having surgery until after the fact. They rationalized that it was better because I was focused on my college exams.

Maybe that means I don't worry in advance, but it also means that I feel disconnected from what's going on in the family.

I don't like it very much.
posted by theorique at 10:03 AM on July 11 [10 favorites]


theorique: COUNTER-SIGNED. Exactly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I've always been curious where the no-content voicemail (e.g., give me a call when you have a chance, I just had a quick question) evolved. It's definitely a generational thing.

Is it about privacy, like a throwback to the days when you could be playing your answering machine in front of five random friends who stopped by? Is it an etiquette or taste issue, like it's rude or off-putting to go into detail when talking to a robot?
posted by smelendez at 10:22 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


When my mom called me to tell me that my dad had been diagnosed with cancer, she began by telling me about the lunch they had in Dallas at a Chinese restaurant. She had walnut shrimp. My dad had the kung pao chicken. Their lunch orders were unremarkable -- in fact, they were the exact same things they always ordered, to the point that she didn't even need tell me -- so the conversation was really humdrum until I said "Wait, why did you go all the way to Dallas for lunch?"

This past weekend, she told me about my brother's Fourth of July experience watching fireworks from a boat on a lake. The fireworks were beautiful. The lake was wall-to-wall boats, like you could walk from one shore to the other without ever getting your feet wet. My brother's three buddies, whom he hadn't seen in about ten years, were all doing well. One is a fly fishing guide in Colorado, and another one just had his first grandchild. The actual story she eventually told me was that while they were on the way back to the dock, a boat in front of them, which had 8 people aboard, capsized and started sinking. My brother and his friends saved 7 people from drowning. (The 8th was picked up by another boat. Everyone survived.)
posted by mudpuppie at 10:28 AM on July 11 [12 favorites]


My mom is famous for just not telling me the lede. Like one time, I asked about one of our farm relatives because the farm had come up in conversation. "Oh, how's Uncle X doing." "Um. He passed away. "Oh no, really? When?" "Um, two years ago." Well thanks for letting me know, Ma!

In my life, the worst offender of burying the lede is Kid Ruki's best friend. I was driving the kids home from the mall once and he was telling a story and included the words "and then my mom got mad because Chris stood on Carrie Fisher's chair" and kept talking like he hadn't said anything unusual. Everyone else in the car, including me, screamed in unison, "Wait, what?" Turns out his mom had bought two of Carrie Fisher's chairs from the estate auction. (This is the same boy who, when telling me about the names he had people listed as in his phone, said "Drunk Aunt is my Drunk Aunt who owns a pet pig" and when I asked for clarification, he proceeded to earnestly explain to me what a drunk aunt is instead of the "owning a pet pig" part. I adore that kid.)
posted by Ruki at 10:28 AM on July 11 [17 favorites]


Does anyone else get the thing where someone's obviously had a long chain of thought in their head, then come out with a question or statement with zero context? And then you have to figure out what they're talking about by having a kind of reverse conversation.

I had a coworker with whom I had a really joking relationship. We'd bullshit each other with straight faces -- that was how most of our conversations would go. So when this one started, I assumed it was just another one of those.

I'd had a cold, and as I ran into her in the hallway I sneezed into the crook of my arm

Her: Oh good, you got the memo! "Always cover your mouth when you sneeze."

Me: You know, I recently heard that they're calling it the vampire sneeze now. They're teaching kids in classrooms to do the vampire sneeze as a way of teaching them to cover their sneezes.

Her: Hey, I saw this show them the other night. Did you know that in World War II, they did a whole bunch of research to figure out how they could used them to support the war effort?

Me: I did not know that.

Her: Oh, they totally were going to do it. I don't remember the details. But they thought it would be a good idea because, you know, you can entice them to move in groups and, of course, they fly.

Me, thinking I'd just learned two new things about vampires: Okay..... So how exactly was this going to work?

Her: Well, they started doing research and they figured out how much they could carry. I don't know how they figured that out -- I guess they just strapped a lot of weights to them to see how many weights they could put on and still fly. So they figured that out and then they made these tiny little bombs and then they figured out how to put them in vests or something.

Me: And they were going to wear these vests and drop the bombs?

Her: Yes, exactly! Because in Japan --

Me: Oh, you mean it was JAPAN doing this research. Okay, that makes actually makes some sense.

Her: No, they were going to use them to drop the bombs ON Japan.

Me: ...who's "they"?

Her: Us! The U.S.!

Me: This was government-sponsored research?

Her: Exactly.

Me, incredulous: In WWII, we were going to use vampires to drop bombs on Japan.

Her: No, not vampires -- bats.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:40 AM on July 11 [40 favorites]


my mom always did this despite the fact that i told her i deleted every message as soon as the recording said "next message, 3 minutes long"; the more aggressively i deleted, the longer her messages got. only moving to another continent saved me bc she loathed the expense of calling me.

my uncle (her brother) has picked up the slack with similarly long messages which are approximately 10,000x worse because not only is he a rambler, but also a low talker, a mumbler, and someone who will answer a question from someone else in the room with him without any indication that he is no longer speaking to the person he is calling. so the hell never actually ends.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:42 AM on July 11 [8 favorites]


Well, how DO you want to be told that somebody is dead?

"Jerry, it's Frank Costanza... George is dead... Call me back."
posted by littlesq at 10:46 AM on July 11 [9 favorites]


> Edith: Yes, that was him. Philip {I have made this name up for soon to become clear reasons}.

Philip, from the Greek name Φιλιππος (Philippos) which means "friend/lover of horses".

I see what you did there.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 10:53 AM on July 11 [79 favorites]


My family almost never calls me beause they're worried they'll be "bothering" me. I've pointed out that this is ridiculous - if I don't have time to talk, I won't answer the phone. That's how phones work. You aren't legally required to pick up every time.

The result is when they do call me I'm always worried someone is dying. Usually, however, they are calling to tell me a piece of mail has arrived for me. (One time is was a bridal magazine. They wanted to know if they had missed something.)
posted by maryr at 10:55 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


It's not only a generational thing; with email these days, I absolutely panic when I see my friends and family call me, because it can only be horrible news (or a butt dial).
posted by Melismata at 10:57 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


A few years ago my dad went on a hike in the mountains in the spring, when the snowpack was starting to thaw and shift. Stepping off a ridge he started an avalanche and got swept about 1000 feet down a steep snow chute into a valley, miraculously with only minor injury, but had no way to get back to the trail and night was coming on. His phone had gotten soaked and the signal was poor but he managed to get a call out to 911, explaining his situation and roughly his location before the call dropped. He then thought to send a message to me and my siblings to let us know what was going on.

This was the message we got: "Yo OK waiting for a helicopter or something."
posted by otolith at 10:57 AM on July 11 [58 favorites]


My sister scares me by calling me twice in a row while I'm at work. I pick up on the 2nd call, anticipating something serious. Sis: "Oh, I was just calling back to leave a voicemail. I thought you would pick up the first time."

I'm pretty lucky, conversation with my parents goes more like:
Dad: Hey, have I told you about my new philosophy?
Mom: I have to tell you what I discovered in the garden/a new recipe I invented.

No sharing the news of the death of a far off acquaintance.
posted by Emmy Rae at 10:58 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Dad: Hey, have I told you about my new philosophy?

OMG this is half my family so glad I'm not the only one!!
posted by Melismata at 11:00 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


The only time I ever expressed anger at Mom was when Dad was in and out of emergency surgery before she told me about it (I lived far away) because she didn't want me to worry. She took it to heart, and called me the next time he crashed and was hospitalized. I drove hours to see him, which turned out to be the last time I saw him alive.
posted by Miss Cellania at 11:06 AM on July 11 [17 favorites]


My mom will call in the middle of the night (cause I'm a night owl usually) for some innocuous reason, but it scares the cap outta me because phone call in the middle of the night = OMG TERRIBLE TRAGEDY (I don't put my phone on silent at night because WHAT IF??).

She will at least preface tragic/stressful stories with "I have to tell you something horrible I read/heard!", and I can at least say NOPE, I don't want to know!
posted by littlesq at 11:21 AM on July 11


I haven't read the whole thread yet, but Wordshore's comment induced fits of wheezing laughter. I sounded like Muttley.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:22 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


This thread is really opening my eyes to the universality of this. I've had words with my mom over her tendency to send me emails where the subject line is just something like "Uncle Mike" and I have a moment of anxiety while I open the email and scan through paragraphs of context to figure out if the punchline is "went fishing and caught a huge muskie" or "died last night".
posted by traveler_ at 11:29 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I'm one of 6 kids. My Mom would tell family news to 2 or 3 kids, depending on who she happened to call/ who called her, then assume we all knew. Emotional labor can be actual labor when it's not super-critical, like cousin Whosis getting divorced and when it's urgent it's very difficult. This thread is making me realize how hard it was for Mom to call 5 kids (youngest was still at home) to say my Dad had died.
posted by theora55 at 11:42 AM on July 11 [12 favorites]


Actually, directions from my aunt are kind of like this.

Aunt: Okay, so you want to head toward Coburn's. You know where that church used to be?
Me: No.
Aunt: Well anyway, don't turn there. Keep on going until you get to the main road that comes into town. Take that. There is a stoplight at Highway 3. Don't turn there, turn at the next light. There is a big tree a few blocks past it.
posted by Emmy Rae at 12:01 PM on July 11 [6 favorites]


All of this.

My father in law is an Explainer with Backstory. He couldn't shout "Fire!" in under twenty minutes. When my mother in law had dementia, she would lose the plot of whatever he was talking about, five minutes in. I encouraged him to be brief, but some things are just not possible. He's a good man, just the same.
posted by corvikate at 12:13 PM on July 11 [5 favorites]


Then I realized that these passings were making him feel disconnected, unmoored in the world. He was trying to deal with not just the loss of a person, but with his own looming mortality.

Yeah. This isn't necessarily even an age-triggered thing, although I'm sure it can be; you can see the same pattern among people whose occupation includes a lot of there-but-for-the-grace-of-god realizations of your own mortality. Military, emergency response, etc. At least among people I know, there's almost this genre of story that has no particular punchline, no real lesson or anything, it's just vaguely horrifying, and yet... everyone listens and nods and somehow that makes the world seem slightly less fucked-up, and then you get another beer. Why is it that the act of having other people listen makes things seem more bearable? I don't really know.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:17 PM on July 11 [18 favorites]


This thread puts me in mind of Lenny.
posted by lagomorphius at 12:20 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Emmy Rae, my dad does something related -

Me: Hey, could you send me the address for the vacation house?
Dad: Hang on, I'll send you directions.
Me: No, Dad I have Google Maps on my phone, I just need-
[Dad emails me 2 page Word document having written out multiple route options and a hand drawn map, address not included]
Me: Dad, WHAT'S THE ADDRESS.
Dad: 123 Lake Front Drive. Didn't you get the directions I sent?

At the vacation house:
Dad: What route did you take?
Me: Uh...whatever Google Maps told me to do. ...Maybe 35 to 73? I think? There were some back roads in there.
Dad: WHAAAT

He's a good dad; I am an ungrateful daughter.
posted by castlebravo at 12:22 PM on July 11 [18 favorites]


"Jerry, it's Frank Costanza... George is dead... Call me back."

This is my family. It's these other stories that sound like a sitcom to me.
posted by bongo_x at 12:45 PM on July 11 [5 favorites]


When I started college my mom would leave distressed sounding “Call me back as soon as you get this...” messages on my machine, and then cheerfully answer, just wanting to talk. I had to tell her to stop because she was stressing me out. Of course, one day she called with a pleasant, “please call me when you can.” Being used to this I waited a bit, and she called back to tell me my uncle had died.

She also liked to call me at like 11:30pm her time. She has no idea what she’s doing to me.
posted by gc at 12:46 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


My parents sometimes do this weird thing where they "don't want to worry me".

This leads to situations where (e.g.) I didn't get the news that my sister was having surgery until after the fact. They rationalized that it was better because I was focused on my college exams.


So, this is me borrowing someone else's story, but when I graduated college the Valedictorian told a speech that had a jaw-dropping twist. It was all about how important his family was to him, and how his grandfather had immigrated from China with nothing to allow his family a chance for a better life. So he (the valedictorian) had worked and worked to make that a reality. When he had been told that he was graduating first in the class, he excitedly called his parents with the news and couldn't wait to tell his grandfather. Whereupon his parents told him that his grandfather had died months ago and they didn't want to tell him because it would be distracting.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:11 PM on July 11 [8 favorites]


I envy those of you whose parents' long, rambling stories eventually come to some kind of conclusion or point.

This. I hang in there as long as I can but after I have learned that there used to be a dry-cleaner on the corner next to the post office, I sometimes burst into tears. Do I ever find out what happened to Uncle Norm? If so, it is usually months later, when I hear, “remember when Uncle Norm had appendicitis last year?” which leads to an argument over where the pool table was and if Joyce moved to California right after her divorce or if she went on that cruise first.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:14 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I'm not a mom but I sure am practicing for this role. From an ambulance I emailed this to someone "details to follow. No action needed. Turns out I'm allergic to morphine."

That was the entire email. To be fair, an allergic reaction. To morphine.
posted by bilabial at 1:22 PM on July 11 [11 favorites]


I'll hear of deaths or serious illnesses somewhere mid-conversation about other things and then it's always "Oh, didn't we tell you? Yes, surely we told you back... oh, no wait, that was your brother/sister-in-law/cousin/someone distinctly not me we told." Oh well, yes, So-and-So has terminal cancer, it's terrible, will surely be dead by morning.

This then leads to a litany of terrible news items they'd also failed to tell me about. Some of them are of the third-uncle-twice-removed I don't really remember but others are people their age or just older who I certainly do remember and would like to hear about. And also: the newer category of people I went to elementary and high school with and not spoken to since whose parents are all dying (not people my parents knew but they see it in the newspaper) so there's lots of conversations starting as "Didn't you got to school with a Jon Snow... well, his mother's dead."

I'm certain there are lots of old people and circles of more distant relatives who think I'm a horrible person because I just... never get told anything.

Edited to add: Two more things in this vein -

1. A few years back my mother was telling me about... her volleyball league. Which... WHAT?! Sport? Volleyball? Huh? "Oh, marylyn I've ALWAYS played volleyball!". Literally not true, never heard of this woman playing volleyball. But now when they tell me of a death I sometimes get to use "Oh mom, they've ALWAYS been dead!".

2. My parents are going on a two week cruise. They didn't want to tell me about it. "We ... we didn't want to say because... well, it is a lot of money and that IS your inheritance." WTF?
posted by marylynn at 1:42 PM on July 11 [10 favorites]


Whereupon his parents told him that his grandfather had died months ago and they didn't want to tell him because it would be distracting.

Wow. My situation was merely irritating and a little upsetting - my sister was dumbfounded and embarrassed that my parents had done this and apologized for not telling me herself. At least I learned at few days later and my sister was just fine.

Not telling the kid that his beloved grandfather had died ... I just hope he was able to get a good job with those valedictorian grades and pay for some high quality therapy. That's eff'ed up.
posted by theorique at 1:46 PM on July 11


I've just realized I may have been one of these confusing calls, long ago.

I was cat-sitting for a friend who lived just a few blocks away from a theater I regularly worked at; it was convenient becuase I usually had just enough time to swing by and feed the furball between my day job and my rehearsal. But one night, when I got there - I saw that the cat had somehow gotten into the cupboard, located the big box of catnip, and knocked it down all over the floor. And was tripping balls. "Oh fuck," I thought, "I have only just enough time to take care of this before I'm late to rehearsal, oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck..." and I frantically started sweeping up spilled catnip and trying to figure out where I should put it, not the trash because then Tiger would just dig it out again, shit maybe I need to carry it out, and what to do with the rest of the catnip, oh shit, think think think think think somewhere with a door the cat can't open oh fuck i have only a few minutes now and is the cat okay oh no fuck the cat is puking drop everything make sure it's okay oh gosh it seems okay just needed to get that out i guess okay back to the catnip what time is it oh FUCK stash the catnip somewhere and just go go GO -

....And that is why my friend got a panicky message from me one evening while she was on her vacation, in which the only thing I said was - "YOUR CATNIP IS IN THE FRIDGE! I WILL EXPLAIN LATER!" *click*

....I didn't have the chance to call back until after rehearsal, after she had already gotten home, and it took her about a minute and a half to stop laughing long enough for me to explain what the hell was going on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:53 PM on July 11 [20 favorites]


my mom once slipped the phrase, "it's like when i was married before" into a long rambling story about some OTHER family's drama.

I was nearly 30 and had no idea
posted by domino at 1:55 PM on July 11 [39 favorites]


Remember that time I dropped you down the stairway to the basement and you landed on your head?
Uh, no.
No, I guess you wouldn't. You were a baby.
Explains a lot though.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:06 PM on July 11 [16 favorites]


my mom once slipped the phrase, "it's like when i was married before" into a long rambling story about some OTHER family's drama.
I was nearly 30 and had no idea


This is 500000% my dad. Only he takes it to the next level and it's part of a story he's telling to some completely random stranger while we're within earshot. This is how I learned that:

-he was almost drafted
-he lived in Chicago (where I live now) for several months before moving back home and marrying my mom
-he paid for one of his coworkers sons to go to a voc-tech
-he had two brothers
-his dad literally dropped him off at a k-mart-type-store when he was 8 and never came back
-his mom didn't just die when he was six she shot herself at home
-[lots more things, I can't think of off the top of my head]

So much of this would have been valuable information to have on hand to help explain who and why my dad is, but no, these stories are for strangers, not for family. Who knows what else he's got going on.
posted by phunniemee at 2:18 PM on July 11 [46 favorites]


Conversations with my spouse and his family are like this. With spouse, I finally started asking him to give me the point of the story first, then fill in the relevant details. Otherwise it is a monologue. I have trained myself to tune out my in-laws at this point.

[Dad emails me 2 page Word document having written out multiple route options and a hand drawn map, address not included]
Me: Dad, WHAT'S THE ADDRESS.

posted by castlebravo at 3:22 PM on July 11


My grandfather did this once, pre-internet, to give my parents directions to a rental cottage the family was sharing. I *think* it even included rest stops. That map was legendary and my parents kept it for years. Sadly, it disappeared at some point.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 2:27 PM on July 11 [5 favorites]


When I was little, I always wished for a sibling, and then when I was eight, my parents sat me down and told me that I had an older brother and sister, and I remember thinking I should have been more specific in my wish.

That's how I found out my dad was married before. He doesn't talk about himself much, but the little nuggets that slip out are so fascinating. Like when he was flipping through the channels and Green Berets was on and he nonchalantly said "I'm in that movie" and changed the channel. Or when my mom and I were running errands and she, again with the nonchalance, said "that's where your dad's store used to be." And I'm all wait, what, Dad owned a store? Or when my mom dragged him to see The Lion King musical and he announced his disappointment that there wasn't enough "Zulu music." We didn't even know he liked music in general. So I introduced him to Ladysmith Black Mambazo and my parents just went to see them recently. My dad said it was one of the best shows he's ever seen. Wouldn't stop talking about it for days. Who knew?
posted by Ruki at 2:37 PM on July 11 [27 favorites]


Oh, my Dad is the master of terse emails.

Take this chain of verbatim emails from him:

> You never need to apologize to me, I’ll say more about that later. I have to run to help [redacted] with an appointment.

That was out of nowhere, in reply to nothing. He was out of contact for several days (not answering phone and emails) and then I got:

> The date for surgery is March 27 at 10:00AM, with pre-op exam and testing on the 20th.

Keep in mind I had no idea anything was wrong, at this point.

This was followed by a - again, verbatim and whole - email:

> I feel good enough that I’m going to work a bit on taxes today.

And again, through all of this, he wouldn't reply to any emails, and he wouldn't call back or pick up the phone. At least he CCed a ton of people on the last one, so most of these were followed by replies of "Wait, did something happen" along with a couple like "I'm so glad it was benign!"

We kept the thread going - some friends, some family, most who don't know each other at all - all of us replying all to each other until it finally made sense... my father included on the CC list, but never replying... and that's how I found out that my Dad had a tumor behind his eye. Working backwards beyond that, it turns out that my stepmother spent some time in a psych ward (the aforementioned appointment)

Great communicator, that one.
posted by MysticMCJ at 3:17 PM on July 11 [7 favorites]


I really enjoyed reading this thread at the laundromat. Then I realized, my Mom was like this, but she used to write me very long letters (before the Internet). Calling was reserved for special events, like holidays and birthdays, and it was usually me calling her.

She wrote long letters, double-sided, often turning them sideways to include extra detail in the margins. Sometimes ended with, "well, I guess your Father has to get to the Post Office, so I'll say bye for now."

And I'm not sure how you people do things, but here in Maine, that sort of long-winded gossip is par for the course. "Oh yeah, Ed down-ta-baggin's end, he bit the dust, didn't ya know?" and people live off this stuff. I literally had to drive my cart around two Maine women gossiping with each other in the interior sliding doors (thus, holding everyone up, including a cart girl in the parking lot just outside, who rolled her eyes at me and we winked at each other), but everyone else was just going around them. This happens in the aisles, "oh yeah, Bea, didja hear about blah blah?" And I'm trying to buy pasta, and it's not just the women, it's the men, too. Gossips, all of them!

I do know that my brother used to tell me to get to the point, but he was a crusty old bugger. My Ma had the gossip gene, and so do I, and I won't apologize for it. My Dad also told a lot of stories, but no one ever came at him for it, did they?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:29 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


My mom will never call me. She will wait endlessly for me to call her, and if it has been more than a week she will give me an earful for not calling sooner. When I point out that phones work both ways, that she can call me, she says that she doesn't want to bother me.
posted by meows at 3:53 PM on July 11 [6 favorites]


Like when he was flipping through the channels and Green Berets was on and he nonchalantly said "I'm in that movie" and changed the channel.

This might be the best story I've read on this site.
posted by bongo_x at 4:05 PM on July 11 [8 favorites]


My sister does this to me. I'll get a voicemail: "The surgery went well, Mom's in recovery, we'll talk to her when she's awake"
What surgery, why, WHAT. THE. HELL. VICK?!
"OH no one told you?
No...
"Oh well Mom had to get surgery for (whatever the hell it is) and it was today.
You really didn't know?"
I really didn't know.
"I can't think why we didn't tell you."
I suspect it's because you're evil.
"Oh, yeah, well there is that."
posted by evilDoug at 4:05 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


This is absolutely my mom. She's the family gossip so usually if anything happens to anyone in the family I'll probably find out about it within five minutes of her finding out. Regardless of whether the other person would want me to know. Or at least she'll contact me within five minutes. She also has horrible ADD and it's hard for her stay focused on a single train of thought more than a few sentences until she's distracted by some other thought that needs to be shared. Unless she gets the important news out within the first few minutes, I'm probably never going to hear about it.

Then there's my dad who won't mention anything important and prefers to stick to what he fixed in the house or how he redid the garden or whatever. That's why I found out about his last divorce from the newspaper (which was, of course, passed along to me by my mom (his first wife)) and found out about his recent engagement via Facebook.

Then there are my aunt and uncle. My uncle will fill whatever silence exists with long free form rambling about anything that happens to be on his mind at the time. But God forbid he doesn't get the details correct. Then my aunt will jump in to make sure to correct him despite the thing that was wrong not being in any way relevant to the story.

Families are weird.
posted by downtohisturtles at 4:16 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Man, I wish my family would leave voicemails when someone dies. They will sometimes tag all relatives in FB photos of the wake (open casket usually). It's pretty jarring.
posted by emeiji at 5:19 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


This made me miss my dad’s messages. This made me miss my dad. This made me miss him very much.
posted by ovenmitt at 7:12 PM on July 11 [11 favorites]


Why is it that the act of having other people listen makes things seem more bearable? I don't really know.

I don't know either, but it's very real and powerful.

A colleague and I once ran a workshop for fellow faculty where one of the activities was that one at a time, individuals would recount a situation relevant to our topic and the others in the group would just listen. My co-facilitator and I were mildly alarmed that many of our colleagues started getting teary eyed while recounting relatively benign (as in, no one died or was injured) but slightly stressful situations. We figured out that at least part of it was just the enormous relief of having others actually listen to their story.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:21 PM on July 11 [9 favorites]


Does anyone else get the thing where someone's obviously had a long chain of thought in their head, then come out with a question or statement with zero context?

Late to the party, but: there's a word in Japanese that just means "that," and it is super flexible and horribly prone to use without context: hey, where is that thing? You know that thing yesterday? On account of that's how it is, I'm going to...only even more so. My husband and I have been fining each other 100 yen (about a buck) for each time we say it. After a couple of months, we've accumulated enough in the That Jar to go out for a pretty nice dinner for two.
posted by huimangm at 8:25 PM on July 11 [9 favorites]


My favorite "wait, what?" moments with my parents were many years ago when in a completeley pedestrian conversation with my mom she goes, "Oh yes, it was somewhat like the plane crash I was in" and after a great deal of WAAAT and prodding on my end I learned that one summer when I was about 12 my mother was in an aircraft that experienced landing gear failure on approach and had to fly around for hours to burn off fuel.

My dad knew about the situation, which was of course being covered live on TV, and made sure my sister and I had no idea what was happening.

So a week or so later, I get them both on the phone at the same time and my intent is to thank Dad for his caring intervention and at the same time to scold them for NEVER TELLING ME (not "us," as my sister passed away when we were in our twenties and I am now in my fifties) and Dad is like, well, uh, thank you, but maybe I should tell you about the time *I* was in a plane crash.

Which he then did (a similar gear failure situation).

My parents, to this day, spend about 170 days of the year on the road, internationally, all air travel, as I did and my sister did as kids although to a less intensive degree. Say we had long air trips four to sixteen times a year from age .9 years until age 18. I still love airplanes and flight but I was over travel by the time I was about 13.

I understand their impetus - they were trying to keep us from experiencing or developing anxiety about a core element of their experiential identity* - but goddamn, that is a buried lede.

*it didn't work - my sister developed a crippling neurotic fear of flying by about age 15. Did that stop us as a family from flying? Hell no! I love my parents very much, but they, like all people, exhibit questionable judgement sometimes.
posted by mwhybark at 12:05 AM on July 12 [6 favorites]


The problem isn't just burying the lede, but general tone of voice and attitude mismatch toward whatever news there is.

Burying-lede-wise, we had a lovely little garter snake in one of our front pine trees, and it was a nice day and our neighbors were out, and we wanted to show it off, because it was such a beautiful little thing.

But we failed to show it off. Because we don't know if our neighbors are phobic, and they're good folk, so we don't want to terrify them by letting them know there's a charming little snake in our front trees.

I still haven't figured out how to bring it up. "Apropos of nothing, are you afraid of snakes?" Because when you ask a person that question, they're generally going to want to know why you're asking.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:37 AM on July 12 [4 favorites]


We figured out that at least part of it was just the enormous relief of having others actually listen to their story.

"And it seems to me that wine — a deep, red, tannic wine, perhaps shiraz — is pouring out into that cup, and as the story deepens it comes shimmering up towards the rim. You hold it carefully, your side of that edge of that cup. You know you can’t let go. They keep pouring their story in; sometimes it gushes, sometimes it trickles, sometimes it bleeds from them in visible pain — sometimes it tumbles in a sparkling joy, but it’s of a rich substance, and it’s… their life, that you’re helping to cradle, in your hands that breathe steadily to keep from trembling as the story sparkles like warm spiced liquid rubies."
posted by brainwane at 7:11 AM on July 12 [5 favorites]


Ledes are for journalists. Clearly, these particular storytellers are patterning themselves (ourselves) after Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painters.
About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along...
posted by brainwane at 7:13 AM on July 12 [5 favorites]


Edith: Yes. Anyway, we have a new vicar now. And he is very nice, and his sermons don't go on for ever, and he makes a lovely cup of tea, and he is not into horse fucking.
Me: {pause} How ... {pause} do you know?
Edith: {like I have asked the most stupidest question ever} It's the very first thing we asked him, of course.

posted by Wordshore (who else?) at 4:09 AM on July 11

Yes, of course, i.e., one horse-fucking vicar—well, that could happen anywhere. But two horse-fucking vicars and a place starts to get a reputation.


Related: is there some laureate we can bestow upon Wordshore?
posted by she's not there at 7:22 AM on July 12 [11 favorites]


Mom: So, [cousin] is in the hospital right now.
Me: Oh, no, I hope he's okay, what's going on?
Mom: Well, I don't really want to say.
Me, thinking it must be very personal: Oh, well is [Aunt] with him?
Mom: Oh yes, but you know...he was missing for a few days so she needs to stay with him. Plus, they might transfer him to jail.
Me, ????: Wait, what? What happened?
Mom: You'll just need to read between the lines.
Me: Uh...what are the lines?!
Mom, finally: Well, it's not really my story to tell but he wasn't answering his phone for several days and [Aunt] became really worried and so your brother went knocking on his door but he wouldn't answer but he could tell he was home. So [Aunt] called the landlord who called the cops to see if they could get in the apartment to check on him. And, well.... [big sigh].
Me: ...and?
Mom: Well, he had turned his apartment into a major marijuana-growing operation. Just plants everywhere and lights and he was apparently just smoking it constantly so he couldn't answer the door because he was....
Me: Super paranoid?!
Mom: Oh, yes! Super paranoid! Is that a thing that goes with marijuana?
Me: Definitely a thing, mom.
Mom: But I'm worried about [Aunt].
Me: Yeah, that's really stressful.
Mom: Well, plus she tried to go back and get rid of everything. But it was very extensive.
Me: [facepalm]
Me: Anything else going on?
Mom: Oh, well I have Rotary tomorrow for lunch. The topic is street improvements on Main! I'll let you know if anything juicy happens.

Luckily, [cousin] is a veteran and known to the cops as somewhat troubled but also a good guy. Aunt was caught trying to get rid of all the plants but she's a sweet, old, lady who pleaded that she was just trying to "clean out the apartment so he wouldn't get evicted." My brother informed that the dumpster where she was tossing stuff was "picked clean in the night." How would he know, exactly? .... And [cousin] went into rehab with the VA and I don't think he ended up in jail (for that). Which is probably a positive thing he could have only experienced in a small town. He also appeared to mostly be growing for personal use and to give away to his friends.
posted by amanda at 7:32 AM on July 12 [9 favorites]


My grandfather did this once, pre-internet, to give my parents directions to a rental cottage the family was sharing. I *think* it even included rest stops. That map was legendary and my parents kept it for years. Sadly, it disappeared at some point.

It seems like the gendering of this sort of pre-internet work was thus.

The men would do these extremely detailed handwritten lists, notes, maps, instructions, and so forth. e.g. "POOL MAINTENANCE WHEN MOM AND DAD ARE AWAY AUGUST 8-12 (five pages of notes, schematics, and sketches follow""

And the women would do the aforementioned extremely detailed family/friends information gathering and sharing. (Commonly denigrated by the menfolk as "gossip", but it serves/served a great purpose.)
posted by theorique at 7:36 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Ruki: Like when he was flipping through the channels and Green Berets was on and he nonchalantly said "I'm in that movie" and changed the channel.

I love that man. But this story puts a whole new spin on the fake-bamboo tiki bar they used to have out back by the (late, lamented) pool.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:53 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


It's funny how my mother freaks out when I sneeze ("OMG are you getting the flu??!"), but when it comes to herself, it's "oh, I was in the hospital last week, but you were working so I didn't want to bother you."
posted by Melismata at 9:11 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Miss Cellania: Oh dear, I do this...

Well, you don't want to give bad news before you givFoe a greeting. And sometimes you have to set up a story.


And the story starts "Grandma was on the roof."


This is assuming you know the following joke. Jenny asked her brother Jake to cat-sit while she was on vacation. Jake, being a decent guy and being fine with cats, and specifically Jenny's cat, Dr. Flufferstuff, said "Sure." Everything was fine until the good doctor was hit by a car. I won't get into details, but it wasn't a quick death. Jake took Dr. Flufferstuff to the vets and things were looking positive for a while, until they weren't, and then the cat was dead.

Jake was beside himself. How would he tell his sister? When would he tell her? She called, two days before she would fly back home, and he decided he'd tell it to her directly. "Jenny, I'm so sorry," Jake said. "Dr. Flufferstuff was hit by a car, and I took her to the vet ... and it was looking good for a while, but ... she died."

"JAKE!" Jenny shouted. "My vacation was great, and I've really enjoyed myself, but I was looking forward to coming home and petting my cat, and that's how you tell me Dr. Flufferstuff died? You have to ease me into this kind of thing. I have a few days of vacation left! This is all I'll think about now!" Jenny takes a few deep breaths, and being quick to react, she laid out the following story. "If I were you, I would have started off by saying that Dr. Flufferstuff was on the roof. And then the next call, you were trying to get her down, but she slipped, and she seemed to be moving around pretty well, but you were taking her to the vet soon just to be sure. And then the vet finds fracture, and is going to keep her for observation to make sure things heal well. Then there's an infection, which gets bad, but she dies in her sleep and without pain."

"Oh," replies Jake. "Okay. Um, next time I'll do something like that. I'm so sorry. How is your trip going?"
"JAKE!" shouts Jenny. "I can't think about that right now. I'm going to go back to my hotel and relax, and try to come to terms with this before I go hiking later today. And Jake?"
"Yeah?"
"Sorry you had to deal with all that."
"Don't mention it. And I'm sorry I dropped this on you like this."
"It'll be OK. Well, not OK, but things happen. OK, I'll talk to you later."
"Bye."

Jake picks Jenny up from the airport, and he looks like he's trying to hold himself together. "Jenny," he says "Grandma is on the roof."
posted by filthy light thief at 11:18 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


While she was pretty good about not burying the lede when it was serious, my mom read the obituaries religiously, and was always cutting them out to show me/save. She left file boxes full of newspaper clippings and funeral programs for people she barely knew, and she'd tell me about how few people went to funerals anymore and how sad that was.

My mother had a friend from before I was born, from when they worked at the local PD together. My mom moved a few towns away, and lost touch with a lot of the cops they knew, while Rita stayed in town and was active in the retiree community and stuff. Rita was also the informal phone tree person, the one who called others when someone was getting married, was sick, had a baby, or had died. They were good phone friends and though she and my mom chatted regularly in my childhood, as time went on it became clear to me that she was usually calling to tell my mom one of her old cop buddies had died. So much so, that I could make her laugh (sorta) when I answered and said "Oh, Rita. I'm so sorry."

About ten years ago or so, I happened to be home when she called, and I said "I'll be very sad when we realize one day that we haven't heard from you in a long time and find out that something happened and no one was there to call us." She laugh-cried and said she's got us on a list of people for her daughter to call. I said, "Well, if you ever get a call from me, you'll know what's up."

When my mom got sick, one of the things I used to say to her when leaving the hospital from visiting was "don't make me call Rita" - it made her smile every time.

Six years ago this month, I called her one Wednesday morning, and said "Hi Rita, this is Amy, Lo's daughter." She said "oh no" and burst into tears.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:52 AM on July 12 [47 favorites]


I am super late to this party but my dad is the A-1 worst offender in this category.

To understand this story you have to know my mom has had a series of fairly serious accidents, some while I was far away from home. So my dad isn't going to tell me I have to come running unless it's very serious. You'd think, anyway.

So I'm at work and my dad calls my cell phone. This is 2006, my dad never calls me, I pick up the phone.

"Your mom's had an accident, I'm following her to the hospital."
"Okay. Do I need to come."
"No, there's nothing you can do, I'll let you know."
"Okay."

Assumption: Mom's accident is ambulance bad but not come to the hospital bad. Maybe stay overnight in the hospital bad, but not you-need-to-worry bad. Okay. I'm worried anyway but I do what my dad says.

My then-husband and I have an event that night. I get to the event, and he's like, "Are you okay?"
Me, looking at him weird: "Yeah I'm fine. Why?"
"Your mom?"
"My dad said he'd let me know."

So we get through this event and the next morning my then-husband says, I really think you need to call your dad. And it all comes out. My dad had called my husband before he called me, and he'd told my husband the whole truth.

The truth, ladies and gentlemen, was that my mom was in a FUCKING LIFE FLIGHT HELICOPTER and was being taken to the regional trauma center. He just . . never told me that part. "Didn't want to worry me."

My mom was in the neuro-ICU at Grady Hospital in Atlanta. Had been taken there in a helicopter and my dad just . . . omitted that. It's literally taken me years to forgive him. My mom, by the way, was/is fine.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:56 PM on July 12 [12 favorites]


Well after reading all these I no longer feel like it's just me who has these strange one sided conversations with older relatives.
posted by yohko at 6:20 PM on July 12


Joke’s on all of us because my 68-year-old mom texts just like a millennial and I know what’s coming for later generations, which is not just the need to share the news but to be the VERY first one to tell it or it has no worth, so my mom treats all deaths like this with no cushioning or warning whatsoever and always via text:

“Omfg ROBIN DIED wtf.”
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 5:31 AM on July 13 [10 favorites]


Does anyone else get the thing where someone's obviously had a long chain of thought in their head, then come out with a question or statement with zero context? And then you have to figure out what they're talking about by having a kind of reverse conversation. It's like the complete opposite of this.

Oh no! It me! I'm that!
posted by Caduceus at 5:56 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


I find these buried lede conversations emotionally exhausting to dig through and to respond to. My mom's emails are chock full of these, boomeranging from "everything's great! I just did some innocuous things! Here is a thing to be worried about and actually terrible and it's important that you know this thing because whoa the consequences could be devastating. Ok well here's another innocuous thing that proves everything is SO GOOD! byeeeeee."

I just kind of shut down in terms of how to respond. Any tips?
posted by yunhua at 8:48 AM on July 14


My parents sometimes always do this weird thing where they "don't want to worry me anybody".

Like the time I was in Thailand and stopping off in Bangkok on my way back home and a few credits left on an international calling card (90s) so I call my parents, no answer. Call my sister and get her then partner who answers, "Gotanda, oh shit! Your father is still in the OR. I'm not sure when he is getting out. He's probably going to be OK." Exchanged emails day before but no mention or notice of his bypass surgery.

Or, when I was back visiting around the holidays and Mom says she needs me to drive her to Stop & Shop for something last minute. We get in the car and she says, "Now don't tell your father. We're actually going to urgent care. I have shingles again."

Or, the several times they didn't keep their stories straight and me or my sister inform the other that Mom has been doing well since she got out of the hospital a few days ago. "What? I didn't even know she was in the hospital!"
posted by Gotanda at 12:45 AM on July 20 [2 favorites]


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