One evening, we were out for dinner with the extended family. The kid cousin was to join us in a bit post his tuition and other social commitments. It was a rainy evening and the aunt was continually on the edge, checking for a BBM or a call that she might have missed.
She only relaxed when he finally called to tell her, he was on his way and asked for directions. But that was until he put her on hold. Mid-sentence. She was amused, outraged and embarrassed all at once. She hung up sheepishly and exclaimed, “He put me on hold!”
I giggled, trying to lighten the moment. But I actually wanted to reach out and hug her. Knowing the kid cousin, he meant no offense but I’m sure she felt slighted.
“How dare he!” I shrieked. “I’m sure you’ve never done that to him. You must have placed other folks on hold just to be able to have a word with him.” Pat came the response, “No, I haven’t. Never!”
“That’s the difference between a parent and a child, no!” quipped the mother. I couldn’t look her in the eye.
I don’t remember placing my folks on hold, without prior intimation. But I have been short with them on phone calls. Ignored their calls and texts when I’m angry or sulking. Also threatened to turn my phone off occasionally. I’ve often forgotten to return their calls on a busy day at work and tossed aside my mother’s requests to call once I’ve reached wherever I set out for.
And out of everything she reprimands me for, my phone etiquette is the least of them. She hides her disappointment well. Trivialising my flaws. But she makes it a point to let me know that she knows. Subtly, when I’m least expecting it. Occasionally, when we have company. Just so I don’t forget. It’s her tried and tested technique. And it usually works.
The statement that night was made without any malice or judgment. It was made more as a matter-of-fact than anything else. Yet, it stung. And it made me want to crawl in the nearest hole. There was so much she had left unsaid. Deliberately.
Since that evening, I make it a point to be a little gentler with her on the phone. Listening to her never-ending list of instructions, admonitions and words of concern. Sometimes, even her frustrations. And I’ve realised that it takes so little out of me. Perhaps, a few extra minutes of my day and a little more attention from my end. It’s a small price to pay for a mother’s peace of mind, I’ve learnt.