Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Voicemails from my In-Laws


There are 66 messages on our voicemail.  All of them are from my in-laws.  No, they’re not all from last week, but Tony refuses to erase them.  He’s making a documentary about his family, and he says he needs to record them for possible use.  This means I have to skip through all 66 to hear any new messages we receive.

As annoying as this might sound, I realized recently that among Mama and Papa Greek’s voicemails are some gems.  The real humorist is Papa Greek.  His messages are like one-sided conversations, with space in between each question, as if he were imagining the answer:

Hi, Tony and Natalie

[pause]

How are you? 

[pause]

Everybody okay? 

[pause; yelling sounds from Greek soap opera on TV in background]

We were away earlier. I don’t know if you called us or not. 

[pause]

We just came home. 

Mama Greek’s messages are much more dramatic, fulfilling her “you-haven’t-called-you-haven’t-visited-look-what-it’s-doing-to-us” quota.  Like this one, left when we were on our way to their place for dinner:

You left or not?  I have no idea.  You not call us.  Call us please.

She also has this thing where she says I’m her daughter, as opposed to her daughter-in-law.  She’s never stopped lamenting that she only had one child (and probably never will, until she gets a grandchild.)  Once, when I was teary after the funeral of a friend’s relative, she asked me why I was crying, because “You have two mothers now.”  She doesn’t know my mother well enough to see the irony of this statement.  Here’s Mama Greek:

Hi, hi my children.  Hi, Natalie and Tony.  Long, long time have to see you, to hear you.  How are you?  Just I wanna know how you doing.  If you have little bit time, call us. I wanna hear you.  Thank you.

The shitty thing is, Papa Greek is currently battling stomach cancer.  Until recently, he got up every morning and went to work – that is, to the office he used to run with his business partner of 30 years.  He’d read the paper, ask everyone how they were, drink coffee and then go play cards with the business partner, who spends his mornings in much the same way.

Nowadays,  Papa Greek leaves the house a lot less, and it’s usually to go to the hospital for a check-up or chemo treatment.  He sleeps a lot, but he still manages to crack me up.  This is my favourite message from Papa Greek:

Hi, Tony and Natalie. 

[pause]

How are you?  Okay? 

[pause]

Just called to see how you are. 

[pause]

If you feel like calling us, we’re at home. 

[pause]

Doing nothing. 

I started working on this blog a couple of weeks ago.  Even since then, my father-in-law’s health has rapidly declined.  Our lives are changing, and there's a lot of emotion in the air.  I’ll be sharing about this over the next days and weeks.  I'm hoping for many more messages from Papa Greek.  Even if they're about doing nothing.