Sometimes when I ring my Granddad (which I don’t do often enough) I talk to him for a good while. On those occassions, conversation has a natural ebb and flow, of the kind I achieve with closer friends, and we practically shoot the breeze. Don’t get me wrong: even then, our record duration for talking together on the phone is still definitely less than ten minutes. He’s not one for yakking, is Granddad.
Other times, though, it’s a bit more stilted. He gets tired easily, and I’m often more peopled out than I realise when I first pick up the phone to dial. So I quickly run out of things to say, and there’s a second or two of what you might call dead air. I think Granddad’s used to that embarrassment in different situations, though, as he has techniques to bring the call to a rapid close.
I’m always sad when that happens: whereas I once rang him out of a sense of duty, I now ring him out of choice. So if I fear I’ve left him imagining the worst about my motives for ringing—maybe: did his mother just ask him to?—then I feel like a bit of a failure. What do you say, though, when you’ve nothing to say? When you were both born in a culture where men don’t chat?
(Could I ever say what’s really on my mind? “I love you, you sweet old man. Don’t die. Not ever.” I don’t think so, although it would make a change from discussing the weather in Lancashire.)