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


How are you? 


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. 


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. 


How are you?  Okay? 


Just called to see how you are. 


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


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.


  1. I can relate to this (only, the accents are different). Sorry about Tony's dad - if you need us, we're here. Lots of love.


  2. I'm sorry to hear that your father-in-law is sick. He sounds like a real gem. You're lucky to be saving the messages :)

  3. Hi Natalie and Tony: I love your blog or whatever you call this sort of thing, and I am sure that whatever Tony does with all these parental messages will be awesome. I'm sad to hear that his Dad is facing health challenges. That's a tough one for the whole family, so lots of blessings to you all. I hope to see you guys at The Barn in May with Sensei. (If I recall, you PROMISED Sensei in front of MANY witnessess like ME, to stay for a whole retreat with him :) lol, Susan Fisher.

  4. Oops...sorry my comment says "Tandin says"'s a long story, but Tandin is my adult adopted son from Bhutan. I'll explain one of these days. lol, Susan, not Tandin.

  5. Hi Natalie,

    I was sooooo happy to find an email from Natalie telling me the gospel of a new blog-entry. I've missed them! (no pressure!). I'm always amazed about the sincerity and openness combined with a big portion of humour in your texts. Really very very sorry to hear about the tough times in your family. I wish you all the best.


    PS. Isn't it great that MG sees you as a daughter without the "-in-law"?

  6. There are ways of recording messages from the phone to either your desktop or a hand held recorder. A store like The Source or Radio Shack would be able to provide you with inexpensive options.