In a dysfunctional family few are without blame for the things that go wrong. But there’s one criticism I’ve heard time and again that makes me bristle:
“You never call.”
It’s not just that I don’t call the person who says that. It’s that I don’t call a lot of people. I’ve never been a fan of the phone. I always feel awkward on the phone, especially when there are pockets of dead air. I feel pressure to keep the conversation going, and it all goes downhill from there.
Thanks to modern technology, I touch base with family more than I ever did before. I do it with Android texts. I do it with Facebook. To a lesser extent, I do it with email.
But sometimes the folks I’m reaching out to don’t return fire.
I tried using Facebook to communicate more with my mother, but she unfriended me. She found this blog and it pissed her off.
I tried using it to connect with an aunt I haven’t talked to in awhile. She blocked me.
I’d chalk it up to these people not being ready for Internet communications, except that they do it fine with everyone else.
I figure if I phoned, the reception would be about as icy. But like I said, the phone makes me feel awkward. Ironic, since I’ve made my living at journalism for 18 years.
But here’s the meat of the problem:
I’ve had people bitch that I don’t call this relative or that relative to check on them and let them know I care. But the very people I’m scolded for not calling don’t call me, either.
When my relationship with my mother imploded five and a half years ago, a few family members were left confused and angry that me, Erin and the kids had disappeared from family birthday parties and the like.
They talked about it to a lot of people. But no one ever called me for my side of the story. They just made assumptions.
That’s why, when someone tries to make me feel guilty by telling me I never call people, my first impulse is shrug and roll my eyes. Trying to guilt me is bad enough. Do it with hypocrisy and you’re even more certain not to get the response you want from me.
You’re probably reading this and thinking, “Man, he’s bitter today. That’s not like him.” I guess I am a little bit bitter.
But I broach the issue because mine isn’t a special case. Most of us get slapped with the “you never call” guilt trip from family members.
This is the kind of guilt tactic that doesn’t work. If a person isn’t inclined to use the phone much, they’re not going to change their ways. And, if you’re on Facebook and they’re on Facebook but they don’t use it back when you reach out, that’s about the same as never calling.
That said, I do want better relations with my extended family. When a family member sends me a friend request on Facebook, I’ll never turn them down. I want to use the medium to reconnect with them.
My phone line is always open, too. Those who really want to get in touch with me there know how to get the number.
I don’t believe there’s ever a point of no return when it comes to ending family estrangements. I remain willing.
But if someone chooses not to get in touch with me, they shouldn’t expect me to care when I hear they’ve been whining about me from second- and third-hand sources.