How often do you call?

[youtube][/youtube]Yesterday I called an elderly friend after what must have been about six weeks, and found out that she’d spent three of these weeks in hospital with a broken ankle. She was obviously still in great discomfort, and worried she might need further surgery. We talked for a while. While I am glad that I called when I did, I am also going through a bit of a struggle with my conscience that I didn’t call earlier. I was busy, and she didn’t ring me either, but there it is: How often should you call people that need to be called, be they elderly or ill or lonely or a stay-at-home mom with three little children?

I phone my parents several times a week. They call less often. They claim it’s because they don’t want to interrupt my working. The same applies to my aunt, who never ever gives me a call, but ends up talking with me for an hour whenevery I ring her.

One problem is that the time it mostly occurs to me that I could call this person I haven’t spoken to in ages is half past ten at night. Seriously. Not quite the best time to pick up the receiver.

Another problem is that I get slightly resentful if I am the only one to initiate a telephone conversation. Yes, I get that some people just never call, but that they are delighted when you do. Yes, I understand that this element of a relationship can sometimes work unevenly. Still, in these cases I tend to end up calling less often.

As I see it, I feel responsible to call some people on a regular basis that need outside contact, like the friend mentioned above, but I don’t feel responsible for others with an equal need, and call them only rarely. I can’t look after everyone.

I just hope very much that someone will feel inclined to call when I need it.

– Rike Horstmann

6 thoughts on “How often do you call?

  1. Herta

    Hi Rike,
    I can sympathize, having been in the same situation a number of times. With respect to elderly parents, sometimes they just don’t feel comfortable with telephones. My father resists the use of a phone unless in an extreme emergency, even though he does not have a hearing problem he wants to see the visual cues that come with a face to face conversation.

    The issue of where to draw the line with respect to elderly neighbours is a difficult one. In rural communities where I live (and where geography is a huge issue one neighbour living many miles from another), it is a kindness to make a quick call to say “hello”. That being said, however, one doesn’t want to carry the responsiblity if you miss on occasion and something bad happens at that time. Find out whether there’s a social support network in your area – I know we have volunteer organizations that put people on a “calling tree” so that they receive a regular telephone call from someone. Failing this, perhaps you could discreetly connect with the family. Sometimes children just don’t understand that a simple telephone call can make a world of difference.
    The issue really is about what you are prepared to do. If I were you I would create some limits and perhaps help the individuals explore some emergency response/volunteer resource based interventions.
    Bless you for caring. We don’t always have an opportunity to make a difference and your caring act may have had a bigger impact than you think.

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  2. Leigh AAR

    I think that most parents use that excuse, because I got it from my mother and dad. When I was growing up, my mother always called her mother and family on saturday, because of the savings. When I first got out of school, and on my own I started working for the telephone company and never worried about cost, and picked up the telephone when ever I wanted.

    I am in the same situation as you, as that now my elderly aunts don’t call me with their illnesses. I do find out second hand, and sometimes after the fact. In one incidence my aunt was in the hospital after just having surgery.

    I tend to call people when I am driving, usually on my way home from work. I know, not the best time, but it is quiet, and I have only a set amount of time to spend on the telephone. Arriving at home, I can say, I need to go. .

    Right now a family member is ill, and certain people who should be calling are not. Do you see the steam coming out of my ears? Because I do take it as a lack of caring. Although I think certain people should call, I don’t want to repeat the story over and over to everyone.

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  3. Rike

    Herta, my friend is childless, but she is actually integrated in a net of sorts, and besides has friends who take an interest and visit (which I can’t, as we don’t live in the same country). So in her case, it was not that she was neglected, it was that I felt sorry I hadn’t called earlier. For lack of immediate family of her own, I am in some way part of her net, and so I do feel responsible for showing an interest and caring, even if the long distance prevents me from doing more.
    My aunt is more difficult. In many ways she’s a bitter person, and honestly I can’t face phoning her more that once in a while. My inner resistance to placing a call is huge. (So in some ways I should be grateful she doesn’t call me constantly and makes me face that bitterness when I just can’t bear it right now.) Some part of me wishes she would make an effort on her behalf to keep up the relationship.
    As for being shy of using the phone – none of that branch of family are! The excuse of not-wishing-to-disturb-me doesn’t really wash, either, as I am quite open about it if someone does call in an inopportune moment, end the call quickly and propose to talk more later.
    Leigh, I feel for you about the calls that aren’t coming. In quite different circumstances, I’ve been in a similar situation, and it grates.

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  4. Herta

    Rike, I have a mother-in-law like that (i.e. your aunt) – LOL, absolutely nothing one does or says can make her happy. In addition, she thinks nothing of taking random verbal potshots, denigrating wherever possible and is just plain miserable. I feel your pain. I just try to do the obligatory calls when necessary and no more.

    As for the issue of people never picking up the phone to call…I have experienced that as well. Frankly, I’ve gotten to the point that, if people won’t take the trouble to call me once in a while, I just stop connecting with them. It has meant that my close social circle is now composed of people who actually reciprocate vs. me always being the one to reach out.

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  5. Leigh


    I was very close to my neighbor. We got together every day. Then she moved away to take care of her ill mother. I called and called, and she never returned my calls. Then her mother died, and she didn’t inform me, until after the funeral and that hurt, because it just illustrated the distance between us. It has been over a year since she moved away, and I did see her once when she came to visit her daughter, but I have only talked with her four or five times. Quite a change from seeing someone everyday. She does send e-mails every once in a while, but they are the ones that are forwarded a hundred times, with cutesy messages, like send this back if you are my friend. I don’t bother to call now.

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  6. Herta

    Rike, help! I’m looking for online sources of German handicrafts a la Etsy or something similar, even individual craftsperson’s blog sites. However, I am having no luck – probably not posing the correct questions in google.

    I read German fluently, so that’s not a problem however, i am losing heart. I had hoped to find some unique gift items for Christmas.

    Thanks and sorry that this doesn’t fit with the question above.

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