It’s 10.30 AM here in France; 4.30 AM in New Jersey.
My cell rings. It’s my dad. My heart stops.
“Dad, what’s the matter?”
“Whaddayadoin?” That’s his phone greeting, no matter who it is. “Nothing. Why?”
“You’re calling me at 4.30 in the morning.”
“It’s the only time you pick up your phone!”
“Is there anything wrong? Is Mommy OK?” I have to ask him straight out, because he likes to warm me up with chitchat before dropping a bomb on me.
“No, what is the matter with you?”
“DAD. IT’S 4.30 IN THE MORNING.”
“I’m at work.”
My heart restarts. “You’re retired.”
“Naaah, semi-retired. I work three days a week. It keeps me busy.” He likes the early shift, so he can fish in the afternoons.
“Jesus, Dad, you could have told me that before.”
“You never pick up your phone. I just wanted to know what you’re up to. We haven’t chatted in so long.”
He did have three pieces of news, however:
- It’s September, and all the shoobies (vacationers) have gone home.
- My parents’ “Spaghetti Reunion” dinner party is in three weeks.
- It rained one day the whole summer. (My dad is a fan of weather statistics.)
Here’s a helpful piece of advice to parents of grown expat children:
DO NOT CALL YOUR CHILDREN AT ODD HOURS. It unnerves us, and plays into our deepest fear – a fear that’s never spoken of, but one I’d be willing to bet keeps expats awake in the middle of the night.
It’s the fear that “living the dream” isn’t worth a damn when you’re six, eight, 10 time zones away from the ones you need most, and who need you most.
It’s the blind panic of knowing that you might not be able to get there in time, or afford a ticket bought on such short notice.
It’s the extra-long hugs you give to family and friends before heading back to your expat life.