Calls From the Dark Side (#152)

img_0958Two weeks after our honeymoon, I made the mistake of answering the landline. (Yes, we had a landline. Yes, we didn’t pay for caller ID. Yes, my husband is sometimes a cheap bastard.) A gruff, low, male voice I didn’t recognize barked something about a son or a grandson.

I said, “Wrong number,” and hung up.

Ten seconds later, the phone rang again. I answered again.

The same voice muttered, “….my grandson?”

“Look, dude, there are no kids here, I’m not a kidnapper, and you have the wrong number!” I hung up.

The phone rang once more. I picked it up, ready to tell the idiot on the other end of the line off.

Before I could say anything, the man shouted, “WHERE. IS. MY. GRANDSON?!”

Once he yelled, I recognized my Chinese-American father-in-law’s voice. Jay rarely spoke, but I’d been on the receiving end of his bellow several times. I muttered, “Uh, Jay? Sorry, I didn’t know it was you.”

And how could I, when the man didn’t even say normal things like, “Autumn, this is Jay,” or even a simple “hello.”

I asked Jay how he was. He grunted. I told him that Andy wasn’t home, and asked, “Do you want me to have him call you when he gets home?”

“No. I want to know where my grandson is.”

“What grandson? You don’t have one.”

“Why not?!”

“Jay. We’ve been married less than a month.”

“Yes. So where is my grandson?”

Jesus Christ, how did a man with three children know nothing about the timeline for human reproduction? “Jay. Even if we I’d gotten pregnant on the honeymoon, I wouldn’t know it yet!”

“So could be grandson, yeah?”

“NO!” I took a deep breath. And another, and said, “We are not planning on kids for several years. There is no grandson.”

Jay hung up.

A week later, he called again. Again, there were no pleasantries. There was only an indignant, “Where’s my grandson?!”

I said, “Hi, Jay, how are you?”

“Where’s my grandson?!”

“As I told you before, Jay, we’re not planning on kids anytime soon. There is no grandson—”


This went on for six months. Jay never called when Andy was home. He never called Andy at work. He never called Andy’s cell and demanded a grandchild. He only called me. Apparently, I was expected to produce a grandson on demand.

During the Thanksgiving holiday at my in-law’s house, I painstakingly explained my methods of birth control to my mother-in-law. I rather hoped should would pass the message along to her husband.

Instead, Jay gave Andy a seriously tardy and factually incorrect talk about sex. Andy’s still scarred.

I hadn’t even decorated for Christmas before Jay called again and yelled, “Where’s my grandson?!”

Apparently, my message was not received.

By Easter, I had insisted on caller ID. The next time Jay called, I let the machine pick up. Ha! I thought. Checkmate.

Jay called again. And again. And again. He left no messages. I turned off the ringer.

Caller ID from Hawaii lit up until I left the house. When I got back, I turned the ringer back on. The phone was mercifully silent. For a whole five minutes.

Then Andy’s aunt called, wanting to know if we were okay, because Jay hadn’t been able to get in touch with us. Five minutes after I told Yee-Mah we were fine and ended the call, Jay called again.

I couldn’t stand the thought of Jay calling every single Wong relation. I threw in the towel and picked up the phone. “Hello?”

“Where’s my grandson?!”


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Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

33 thoughts on “Calls From the Dark Side (#152)”

    1. If only I had known “soon,” that’s what I would have said every time Jay called.

      But I suppose he wouldn’t have let it go, no matter what. I could see him getting out a calendar and demanding a date.

  1. Oh my goodness Autumn, talk about a frightening post that fits in with Halloween!

    Please tell me Andy got your back and told your father-in-law to back off? Are they still giving you a hard time?

    1. I would love to tell you that. How I would love to tell you that Andy had my back and told his parents off. But that is not how the dutiful son rolls in the Chinese household.

      I am still coming to terms with it. 🙂

  2. Oh my god that man is seriously invested into the whole thing! My in-laws (okay only mother-in-law) was often asking when there be a grandchild but nothing like that at all.
    I wonder when he will get the message that it is not up to him wanting a grandchild…

  3. You made me laugh as always, Autumn but I’m sorry that you are going through this! My wife and I get nudges from both families about when we might be expecting to have kids (we aren’t) but nothing like this!

    1. Thanks, Tom, and I am glad you laughed. Don’t worry, we are okay! This is a memoir blog, and this didn’t happen recently, which means it’s funny to me now. (Actually, it was kind of funny, then, just because my white sensibilities found it so ludicrous.) I’m glad your families are more subtle!

  4. Hahahaha, sorry, that would be arduous AF but you just tell the story so well I can’t help but laugh.

    My Chinese MIL told Peter the other day that they want to take him out for his upcoming birthday and I was like “that’s strange, they never celebrate birthdays”. He turned to me glumly and explained it wouldn’t be a celebration so much as a nagging session.

  5. Oh my god. This is harassment to a whole new level. How you get any peace, I don’t know. I hope it eventually all died down. I mean, it had to because I suppose you had work later on.

    As Ruby said, this posts fits in just right in the Halloween season. I’m sure someone else had to know that Jay was accosting you like you. I mean, Andy had to know at some point…

    1. Oh, Andy knew. I told him. He’d shake his head and be exasperated, but a) he was used to his father getting his own way, and b) he knew that any resistance was futile.

      It was frustrating, sure, but it was only once a week. Imagine if we lived closer!

  6. So scary!! You know what, C. is the only child in his family. I am so glad I don’t understand Suzhou dialect because I’m pretty sure the grandma mentions the baby topic every time we go visit…

  7. Bloody hell! Did your in-laws think babies are delivered by storks (which happen to work for DHL)?? I swear they would be happy to pay for 24 hour special delivery if they can! XD

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