Dear Ann Cannon • Though I grew up in Utah, I moved away just over 12 years ago. Despite being 40 years old, I still need and want to have a close relationship with my parents. Every time I suggest my parents visit me, I’m told they don’t have enough time or money to make the trek to Los Angeles. Yet, they never miss their multiple “traditional” camping and golf trips with my aunts and uncles. They make time to see my sister and her husband and kids, who still live in the Salt Lake Valley, almost every week. I call my mom about once a week, and nearly three quarters of the time I get sent to voicemail. She never returns my calls, unless it’s Christmas or my birthday. Every time I raise the issue, they tell me they’re just so busy and it’s important for them to spend time with their parents (three of my four grandparents are still alive) and grandchildren that they just don’t get around to calling me back or visiting me.
They’ve visited Los Angeles once since I moved here, and that visit came more than a decade ago. I visit Utah to see them on average twice a year. How do I get across to my parents that though I’m a bit removed a couple states away, I still need and want my mom and dad in my life and that their focus on everyone else in the family but me has me feeling orphaned? I’m afraid they’re so focused on tradition for tradition’s sake that they have written off their son who moved away and are unwilling to change anything to accommodate that now long-term change.
— Orphaned in Los Angeles
Dear Orphaned • Your letter made me sad — sad for you and sad for your parents who are missing out on having a deeper connection with their son because of their current choices. Meanwhile, you’re doing all of the things I would advise you to do, though I’m wondering a little bit if they don’t feel motivated to step up to the plate because they know you’ll call and you’ll visit Utah. There may also be a broader cultural thing going on. Have you ever heard the old saying that girls go home to their mothers? The implication, of course, is that sons grow up and leave a family physically and emotionally while daughters somehow stay more connected. Also, was there any kind of breach when you left for L.A.? In other words, were your parents unhappy with your decision for whatever reason? If so, maybe now is the time to explore that and get it out in the open so it can be addressed and possibly resolved.
Finally, send them this column and see if that will wake them up. I wish you the best.
Dear Ann Cannon • Is it just Utah? So many people and organizations here make appointments but carelessly disregard the time! A few (very!) recent examples: I had an appointment with the body shop, which THEY set up, and I waited in the lobby for 20 minutes PAST the arranged time for the estimator; her excuse was “lunch ran a bit longer than I thought.” Then I made a lunch date with someone and had to devour my food because my lunch date was half an hour late — no text message or apology. Finally, I made the first appointment of the day with my doctor (they do tend to get behind) and 15 minutes after the appointed time, the receptionist sailed in saying she didn’t realize her credit union didn’t open until 9 a.m. I don’t know if the doctor was in because you have to make it past the gatekeeper to get in.
I’m not sure if I had a really bad week or if I’m just feeling testy or if I should just learn that my time is NOT valuable. I do try to respect others and their schedules. I know things happen ... but so often? How do you feel about the “mountain in standard time” that seems to happen in Utah?
Dear Waiting • As someone who has also spent a lot of time waiting for others, I feel your pain. Running late does seem to be a part of the cultural landscape here, however. Maybe you and I should move to Sweden where, according to Michael Booth, author of “The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia,” being fashionably late is akin to being fashionably flatulent.