The Phone Call

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?”


“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:

  1. It’s September, and all the shoobies (vacationers) have gone home.
  2. My parents’ “Spaghetti Reunion” dinner party is in three weeks.
  3. 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.


11 thoughts on “The Phone Call

  1. Hi there,

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    Let me know if you’re interested.


  2. Funny stuff.

    Though not an expat, I can relate.

    My Mom is worse than my Dad. Calls at odd hours, constant calls. When I lived in Cali, there was a 3 hour time difference and yep- phone would ring at 3am. All. The. Time.

    My Dad has no concept of the fact that he is retired and I work like a dog. He thinks I have all the time in the world.

    Gotta love ’em though!

  3. So true!

    When I was a kid I had a grandma who simply did not believe in time zones. She’d call at 5 a.m. my time, then be shocked to discover that my lazy bones were still in bed. Nothing I could say would convince her that it wasn’t 7 a.m. everywhere in the world.


  4. I’m not an expat either, but I can also relate. As a truck driver, I’m often in several different time zones in one day and my mother can never keep track.

    But it really doesn’t matter what time anyone calls me because it could be three in the morning and I’d sound just like I’d been up for hours! AND, often at three in the morning I have been up for hours since I do a lot of night driving. 🙂

    In closing – I love that you all your mother “Mommy” – I’m 40 years old and still do that and some of my friends give me a hard time with that. Whatever…she’ll always be my Mommy. lol

  5. Ok…So the moral of the story is if you talk to them more often, they won’t call you. As a Mom I can tell you that when too much time passes between calls, I worry that something is very wrong and they don’t want to call me because they know I will hear it in their voice. That’s what Mom’s do. That’s what Dad’s do. They worry. Because no matter what the age, my kids will always be my kids. No matter how busy at work or how much life tries to distract me, my kids run in the background of my mind, heart and soul like soft music that you love so much it almost makes you cry.

    So, all you kids that are in this world and lucky enough to still have parents here on this side of the sod, pick up the phone. CALL HOME.

  6. yeah, mine do that to me too!!
    love when mom calls the salon and asks to have me interrupted. then has a computer question or doesnt remember my address.
    crazy aunt nancy!!

  7. Maybe Corky respects that you’re every bit as Presidential as Hillary, taking calls at 3:00 a.m.. If this makes no sense to you, there was an infamous TV commercial to this effect, back when Hillary was still running for the nomination.

    I work out of my home office, and I’ve noticed that any calls I get after 9:00 p.m. from clients are NEVER for sharing “good news”! I also get calls late at night from friends in California who forget the 3-hour time difference. Charming!

    Glad nothing was wrong!

  8. Marie is right on the mark! I’m a mommy also and calls are very necessary. Why? Because you just sometimes need to hear a real live warm, ear hugging voice! The world has gotten very cold with all the technology and us grey hairs (or bottle auburns), need to feel what we grew up with…..the telephone! Just as you techies are addicted, we were addicted. It was our lifeline to those not around the corner!

  9. My grandmother called my mom at 2:30 a.m. I think I told you she and my grandfather live next door to my mom. This is a recap of the conversation:
    “Kathy, is your father over there?”
    “No Mom.” (thinking to herself, it’s 2:30 a.m. Why would he be there”
    “Well, I can’t find him.”
    “Mom, did you look in the guest bedroom (where his computer is)?”
    “No, hold on while I look.”
    Pitter patter of little Nana feet, and in the distance my mom hears:
    “Frank, what are you doing in here? I have been looking all over for you (their house is like, 500 sq. ft.)”
    Pitter patter of little Nana feet and she gets back on the phone
    “Thank you Kathy, he was right where you said he was.”
    And promptly hangs up the phone.
    Like, no big deal. And no “sorry to wake you at 2:30 and scare you half to death.”

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