Who Calls?

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise — “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

  • Ephesians 6:1-4

If you are the one who calls your adult children and they never call you, you might want to try this little experiment.  Do not call them and see how long it takes them to notice and call you, you know, to see if you died or something.

On second thought, if they never called, that would be heartbreaking.  You would not do this experiment unless you had one hundred percent confidence that they would call, and soon.  Confirming your suspicions would leave you feeling empty inside.  You would wonder if you had failed in teaching them as the Apostle Paul suggests in the Scripture above.

I know of a man who waited the entire day on Father’s Day to get a phone call from his son.  The man’s wife called the son as the sun was starting the set.  The conversation went something like this:

Mother:  You realize that this is Father’s Day and your father has sat next to the phone all day awaiting for your call.  He is very upset and hurt.
Son:  I know that it is Father’s Day.  I am a father, too.  I am insulted that he has not called me to wish me a Happy Father’s Day.
Mother:  But your father is YOUR father.
(The line went dead.)

My wife fumed about twenty years ago.  She said that I talked to my parents once each week, and I was the one that called them every time, and most of the time when you had to pay for the call and throughout the time when minutes were not free.  Now with free minutes, you could talk all day, but no, as soon as they said “Hello” they were looking for an excuse to hang up.

I had to correct her.  In the previous 25 years, my mother called two or three times to lecture me on something that I was doing wrong, and my father called only once in my entire life to complain that I was not showing proper respect to my mother.  From then until now, I think my mother told him to make the call, and the lack of respect was clearly in her imagination.  It never occurred to me that I might not respect my parents.  In saying these words, I am merely stating facts.

Now, if I talk to either of my sons, it is usually me that makes the call.  My phone is an expensive means of downloading my heart watch data for more detailed viewing.  I like to know how well I slept the night before – usually not well.  If my phone rings, it is either a wrong number or a telemarketer (criminal) or our younger son.  The younger son calls his mother often, and occasionally calls me.  The conversation is usually short: “Hello, Dad, why is Mom’s phone turned off?”

NOTE:  My wife was again in the hospital recently.  Her telephone was a dedicated number for her hospital room.  The phone rang and I answered.  The caller said, “Our records show that your vehicle is about to lose warranty coverage…”  I could not believe it – on a hospital phone number.  What criminals!!!!

But getting back to my son calling me…  When I started  answering my cellphone with “I have no idea why your mother’s phone is off” instead of saying, “Hello,” he finally apologized, entered into a 2-3 minute idle chit-chat, before asking to speak to his mother.  Okay, maybe 4-5 minutes on a very rare occasion.  And a couple of times, my son says, “Dad, I need to talk to you.”  At that point, I fight back the urge to say, “Oh, No.”  Then a short prayer goes skyward before I even know what the subject is.  Those calls last longer, and once we’ve both ‘cried it out,’ I will ask if he has any energy left to talk to his mother.

To explain why our younger son almost always calls his mother, his mother says “Yes,” but his father says “No,” at least a lot of the time.

Now, my wife and her sisters?  That is different, to an extent.  My wife has four sisters and three living brothers.  Her only older brother calls about once every five years or so, near her birthday.  She never hears from her other brothers unless she calls them, and one is constantly cancelling his phone and getting a new burner phone – long story.  But of her four sisters, the oldest and youngest of the youngest four children talk with regularity.  The oldest of her younger sisters usually calls daily but might miss a day here or there.  The “baby” of the family {is she 60 yet?) calls once each week, about 40:60, with my wife initiating most of the calls.  My wife calls all her sisters, but with the next oldest, she tends to call more. There is some sort of balance there and respect for the older sister who often changed their diapers, many years ago.  As for the oldest younger sister, we have two sons, and she has three sons – that in common.  The other sisters have more girls than boys or only girls, fully grown women now for the most part. Of the two sisters not mentioned, one of them calls on rare occasions while the other waits to be called.

And I thought I could write a follow-up post on “Who Visits?” But, maybe I will just add that we have lived away from family, and we felt obligated to visit. My sister, who hates travelling anywhere, would go to her husband’s family reunions a few states over, each year as their big vacation. My wife and I both spent our vacations visiting relatives, even trips to Disney World meant spending multiple nights with my aunt who lived nearby. Once or twice, we took a trip just for us, but then stopped to overnight with relatives along the way – at least we saved hotel money a couple of nights.

What brought this entire post to mind? My wife started dialysis on a temporary basis (and hopefully not shifting to permanent). She has three dialysis sessions each week, four hours each. When she made the phone calls to let family know, one of them said, “I guess this ends your travelling…” Could this mean, “I will never see you again, because my vacations are meant to be my fun, and visiting a sick relative is not fun?” When you are always the one making the sacrifice, driving millions of miles over the years, the others never think of the sacrifice as being an option to consider.

When my wife told me of her odd phone call, that’s when I made the inventory, and it seemed the initiation of contact, by phone or travelling or even snail mail, was skewed almost entirely in one direction in many cases. Yes, we are older than some siblings, and older than nephews, nieces, and our own children. We are not really asking for “respect for one’s elders,” but a little love would be nice, something that says that we were on someone’s mind – ever so briefly, but long enough to act. In a way, it reminds me of people who complain about being lonely in a crowded room. You might not want to talk, but then you might want to be included, but you are ignored.

I have heard of parents who make their children sign a contract that the children will visit once each year as a minimum once they leave the nest.  That is not showing respect, and it obviously points to the parent realizing that they have done a lousy job as a parent.  If you feel compelled to make such a contract, can there be any love in the household?

My mother was a lifelong bookkeeper in everything that she did.  For the first 40 years of my life, my mother would distribute a list of addresses and phone numbers once each year.  It was entitled “Loved Ones.”  It had aunts, uncles, and cousins on the list.  Suddenly, about ten years before my parents passed away, the title of the list changed to “Obligations.”  Love had left the building.  These were the people that we were obligated to.  Love and honor need not apply.  The list had grown to add in-laws of in-laws and friends of in-laws that we had never heard about, but they were on the list to appease the legitimate in-law that insisted upon their inclusion.  Sorry, I am not obligated to my brother’s third wife’s brother’s friend “who was very close,” and to whom I have never seen or heard of until they made the list.

“Honor” is an action verb.  It is not passive.  And to honor effectively, the honor needs to go both ways; it needs to be reciprocal.  If you do not honor your son, does that not reflect upon you as a parent?  I am not saying that you agree.  I have shaken my head in dismay over my sons’ decisions that I can hardly believe that my head could still be attached, but they are the ‘masters’ of their homes.  When in their homes, I live by their rules, and the younger of our sons is good about letting us know what those rules are before screaming and yelling at us.  I think the older son just makes stuff up.  But even when they call on the phone to say something that might be hurtful, we might say that we disagree, but we do not intentionally lecture or berate.  We have never, as my parents suggested that we do, gone to their home, camped outside their doorstep until they repent and come to their senses.  Maybe we should, but that does not seem to be mutual respect and honor.

Are you the one who calls if there is a call at all?  If so, what did you do that led to that unbalanced relationship and how can you show God’s Love in a way that could rectify the issue? Or maybe the other person is self-absorbed and manipulating you. Either way, we still love them.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

2 Comments

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  1. love has that way of being for better or worse…we control the better…the others can have the worse

    Liked by 2 people

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