21st Century Kid

Communication And Family And Who Is Good At It And Who Is Bad At It

I was feeling particularly nostalgic this week and was thinking: when was the last time I saw Mickey in person? I couldn’t remember, although I knew it wasn’t that long ago. I sent her a message to speak with her about this.

“Mickey,” I interrupt, “I have a question for you.”

“Okay,” she says, “But I’m sick with a ‘common cold’ (from hell).”

“Bleh, well that stinks. I’ll try to make this as brief as possible then!”

“Sounds good – but don’t be too distracting, I’m watching Bridesmaids on my sick day.”

“Oh, that’s a great movie! Anyway, anyway… I was thinking about how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other. The last time I saw you last July, right?”

I wait for a response, only to get dead air then remember: I saw her last Thanksgiving! I slap myself.

“No! Thanksgiving was the last time I saw you… right?”

“Yep. But, still, it feels like FOR-EV-ER…” she says. “I meant to sound like the kid from The Sandlot.”

“Okay, so basically a year. That’s a long time, sheesh. But at least we speak once a week. Do you speak with Thomas (our older brother)? When was the last time you saw him?”

“Umm… I saw him at my Quinceanera, which is almost fourteen months ago. So, a while. But, we’ve video chatted a few times. Last time we did that, though, was when we found out Emilie (his wife) was pregnant last month.”

“Sheesh. What about Brendan (my younger, her older brother)?”

“Well, April – right before he deployed to Iraq in May.”

“That makes sense. I literally have no idea when I saw him last in person. But I do remember we video chatted all together before he deployed, which was incredibly awkward because he hates gay people, most of the family and other nice things.” I stop myself as to avoid sliding down a mudslide of negativity and hate which, really, is of no use to anyone.

“So, that is that.” I say. “Wow everyone keeps in touch more than I thought. Well, more than me. I am not very good at it. What about grandma? You speak with her?”

“I talked to her on the eleventh,” she says.

I slap myself again, “Really??? You are on it. I haven’t spoken to her since Mother’s Day…but I meant to call her on her birthday last month, which I sent a gift for… but then I didn’t call… then I meant to call her when Hurricane Irene hit… then I didn’t. I suck!”

“Well, I did have to call to thank her for a birthday card…” she says.

“Ahh. Then it wasn’t like you called, like ‘What up, G??'” I tell her.

As we speak, I realize that we have a very weird family communication dynamic. I know people who speak with their Grandmothers once a week and Mothers twice a day and siblings even more. On a good day, I’m lucky if I send or receive a text from anyone in my family. This isn’t to say that we don’t communicate. Instead, I think we all have given each other independence and trust in what we do which requires less “checking in”. And add ambient awareness via social media contributes to this as well. Moreover, nothing really changes for us since we know each other so well. Unless someone is going to have a baby, deploying to another country for the military or called in to audition for Community (yes, that was my trivial contribution to the family phone tree), there isn’t a reason to call outside of Sunday afternoons when everyone calls each other. I feel like I should kick up communication a notch but, then again, I know me and I know that I have seven people I need to return calls to that I have not returned because I hate talking on the phone.

“I guess I’m bad at communicating because I hate talking on the phone,” I tell Mickey. “I know I come across better in writing.”

“I’m the same way. I hate talking on the phone except with Mom and Dad. I don’t even like talking to my friends on the phone… it’s just awkward to me.”

“Do you think the phone calls are becoming obsolete?”

“Umm,” she pauses, “Yes and no. I hate talking on the phone but it truly is a time saver since a conversation that would take at least ten texts takes five seconds on the phone. So, I say yes and no.”

I’m surprised by how remarkably brilliant her answer is. She’s exactly right but, in a way, still retains a gem of teendom: texting, which is the 21st Century Kid’s clear-corded-neon-inside phone conversation.

“Is there anyone you miss that you can’t get in touch with?” I ask, baiting myself to relay. “When I was in school, I had the toughest with pets because I missed the family’s dogs so much. You can’t speak with a dog on the phone!”

She Internet laughs, adding, “Well, I definitely miss Dottie! (Dottie is my dog, formerly her dog.) Oh, I miss Bobby, too! (Bobby is my boyfriend.) But, we all do a really good job of keeping in touch.”

She’s right: with Facebook and Twitter, we all do a good job of keeping in touch. I also notice that she must be buttering me up for a plane ticket or something since she only mentions missing my dog and my boyfriend the most. Things that make me go Hmmmm….