All this about one way phone calls brings it right back that my Mum particularly who was the queen of the snarky "So you're not dead then" when I did call (regardless of whether it was a day or three or a fortnight), said to me one day, very sadly, she wished that her grandchildren phoned her all the time and visited with her whenever they could, just like one of my aunts who was the centre of her extended family.
I was very tempted to point out to her that I was not the only one on the receiving end of her Female Dog. If my children called her they got more of the same usually followed by an inquisition of how are you doing at school, did you pass your exams, have you got a boyfriend/girlfriend and other prying questions, so they hated calling her.
Aunt on the other hand simply greeted everyone, either on the phone or in the flesh, with "How lovely to hear from you/see you, tell me all the exciting things you've been doing" and allowed them to decide what and how much they wanted to talk about. And they got the same warm welcome whether it had been a day or a year since they'd last spoken except if it was a loooong time she'd say "You must have LOTS to tell me".
Even my daughter came home from a visit with my sister who lives near aunt, and said why can't Granny be more like Aunt x and I had to try to explain that they were both asking for information about what everyone was up to, but that Aunt was able to do it such a more diplomatic way so that everyone wanted to tell her everything and to confide in her and that Granny has just never learnt the art.
As you can imagine, I try to be more like Aunt than Mum and never ever say why haven't you called or any other sarky snarky comment and I even call them if I haven't heard from them for a while!
My grandma had a very tense competitive relationship
with her own mother and sister. It was pretty ugly, from what I understand. My great-grandmother pitted grandma and her sister against each other to vie for her attention and approval. Great-grandma didn't seem to want grandma to do better in life than she did, so spent a lot of time criticizing grandma's career. This tension carried on through their adult years even after great-grandma died. Grandma and my great-aunt had been estranged for some time before my great-aunt died.
Grandma simply refused to believe that my mom, my sis and I enjoyed a close, loving relationship
. We squabbled like any siblings-generally about issues concerning our brother's refusal to do housework - but for the most part, Mom, Sis and I got along really well. We enjoyed doing things together just the three of us- like movies and crafting and weekend trips. Grandma couldn't grasp that it was because Mom made an effort to be loving and attentive to both of us. That she made activities fun because she wanted us to have pleasant memories. That she didn't play mind games with us.
Because Grandma couldn't accept that her own mother was deeply, deeply flawed. She couldn't accept that pride and anger and deep-rooted selfishness between all three of them had made their relationship
what it was. Instead, she insisted that Sis and I were just good at covering up our emotions. That we were secretly "seething with resentment" on the inside and that one day it would all come out and Mom would see what real mother-daughter relationships
So far, so good. We're still OK.