Friday, February 10, 2006

To Call or Not to Call...

I've rekindled a correspondence with my Uncle Paul. Sort of. I think. Now that I look at this opening sentence, written so matter of factly, I begin to wonder. Is this going to work out? We haven't spoken--via e-mail--for at least six years, and I doubt we've spoken on the phone since I was in high school. Our infrequent cyber letters came to an abrupt halt when he asked why I didn't speak with my grandparents and I replied, "Why don't they speak to me?". He said he didn't know what I meant and I proceeded to explain my version of events, which was that I had tried to keep some kind of relationship with them after my parents separated for good, calling from time to time, cards, etc. They had no replies for any of them. Nada. Zip. Silence. I took that to mean they weren't interested. He was perplexed that I would take their silence to mean they didn't want to speak with me.

Fast forward to three weeks ago. Out of the blue I wondered about this Uncle of mine. Brother to the father who isn't a part of our lives, any more (hence the incommudicado from the grandparents.) The seemingly rational, more open-minded product of a conservative, tight-lipped, the-father-is-god-in-the-house-regardless-of-his-actions, East Coast, Jewish upbringing. He was the artist. The rebel. The one who went to Canada and then emigrated to Germany in the early 70's. He's lived there almost my whole life, except for a brief stint in Portland, Maine, while I was in high school. He's a writer for a German magazine. He's married with two teenage boys, wee babes last time I saw them. I googled him. I found him. I contacted the magazine that he writes for and sent an e-mail, asking to be put in touch with him. I half expected to hear nothing, but the very next day I opened up the gmail, and there was an e-mail from Paul. All excitement and glad tidings. He, too, had wondered about me and what I'd been doing with myself, had also googled me. Pleased to see my name pop up in association with theatre. Well isn't this swell, I respond. So nice to hear from you, etc., etc. A reply to my reply. And that's where it comes out. The same old song. Why have you never spoken with, or written to your grandparents? Now, just grandma, as grandpa died a few years ago. Was he kidding? Hadn't we gone over this before?

I am not one to air the dirty laundry of my family and spend hours talking about what a jerk this person is, or how destroyed I was by actions of my father or what a rotten childhood I had. I had some good times and some bad and I certainly don't feel like my past life has had negative consequences on the choices I make now. I haven't chosen to wallow in the distresses of those years gone by, and I don't expect to start. However, it is clear to me that I can obviously hold a grudge. When my parents split--for reasons that are no one's business but ours--my grandparents appeared to have CHOSEN not to interact with those children who, in their mind, had taken the side of my mom. My two little sisters, Dana and Paige, were in grade school when this upheaval occurred; and they all moved back to Southern Idaho to have a bit of a new start. Others of us were already out of the house, and my other two younger siblings (Jess and Jaime) chose to live with my dad, though they claimed to hate it. Better that than move to a ho-dunk town. My grandparents NEVER, not ONE TIME talked to Paige and Dana again. No birthday cards, no phone calls, nothing. Those two girls were LITTLE KIDS! I admit, I took offense to their actions by inaction. And once they made it clear, to my mind, that they weren't interested in me, either, then I stopped bothering. Making the choice not to try to contact them. Apparently, their version of events is not the same as mine, as expressed by my uncle. Grandma cannot understand why I never called when grandpa died, or before he died, or even now that he's been gone.

Paul's argument sounds a lot like something my grandpa, or even my dad, would have lectured us on as kids. It is my duty, as the grandchild to make the effort. Not theirs, or hers as it stands now. If grandma never picked up the phone to call me or even answered when I called, it is still my obligation to try to get her on the phone or send her letters. I am the young generation. Her age affords her status as some kind of matriarch who is to be waited upon and showered with adulation. Ok. He didn't actually say that last part. But the first part, about me being the one obligated to make the effort. He did say that.

I can see his point. She comes from a different generation. Sure. But how does he explain their treatment of two young girls who don't understand why their grandparents suddenly aren't a part of their lives? Not that it was such a huge loss. They weren't exactly the most exciting people. Lots of rules surrounding behavior when you were with them. Don't forget to show proper respect and gratitude--to the point that the meaning of both is lost since it is artificially forced upon you, rather than occurring spontaneously, out of true gratitude.

He hasn't written me back, since I wrote that I have been and will continue to think about his views. I told him I wasn't ready to just pick up the phone but one never knew...I wanted to mull it over some more. Thank you for your thoughts. Well. I meant it. I DON'T know what I want to do. If I call her, I don't want to tell Paul, because I don't want him to think I'm doing it because he was so wise in his advice. I had been thinking about making that step long before Paul told me I had to; and his opinion has actually sparked that very stubborn streak in me that makes me want to do nothing out of defiance. Dammit. This is all sounding very childish. I'm almost embarrassed to publish this entry, and I think it would be good for me. Ah, crap. I'll probably call her. I'm nervous. What the heck do I say? And what good is it going to do? Who am I doing this for?