Those words were quietly uttered to me by my son last week when my husband and I suggested he lengthen his stay at our house over the holidays. I was taken back a bit by his words, but had to admit, he was right. We were worried about him. He had been recently dealing with a lot of stress which led to sleep issues, but seemed to improve so much while at home, goofing around with his sister and two brothers. A change of scenery and a break from the stress he’d been dealing with worked wonders for him.
I later explained that he was right. We did worry about him, just like we worry about all of our kids. Yes, he’s twenty-eight years old. Yes, he’s married. But we’re parents and parents worry. That’s what we do best. And that’s normal.
Soon after that conversation, another of our sons was heading to the sunny skies of California to visit friends. Not wanting to check luggage at the airport (understandable), he brought only a carry-on bag and a backpack. And, though the weather here in Chicago a week ago hovered in the balmy forty degree temperature range, we knew that, upon his arrival back home in the wee hours of this morning, they would plummet to dangerously low numbers. We knew this because we checked the weather forecast before he left. We did that because we’re parents. Pleading with him to bring a warm coat, he resisted, explaining that he absolutely could not fit another thing in his bag. His plan to get home from Midway Airport was this: take the Orange Line “L” downtown, then take the Red Line to his stop and then walk the four blocks to his apartment. Well, that wasn’t gonna’ happen on our watch. He finally relented and managed to squeeze a not-warm-enough-for-us-but-better-than-nothing coat into his bag. We told him to forget the “L” and take a cab instead from the airport to his apartment. “That will be crazy expensive.” “We’ll pay for it.” And we did. But, when we heard last night that his flight was delayed, we worried that he’d be stranded at LAX for who knew how long. So, we prayed for a smooth return home. When I awoke at 5:30 this morning, I reached for my cell phone, hoping for some word from him. And I saw three short, but sweet text messages:
Got a cab right away
Yes, he’s twenty-five years old. But we worried.
The day after he left for warmer shores, our third son was headed back to Knoxville where he attends school at the University of Tennessee and, as a graduate assistant, runs the drumline for the Pride of the Southland Marching Band. It’s been a great gig for him but it required an early return over his break because the band and football team were headed to Jacksonville FL to play in the Gator Bowl (vs University of Iowa Hawkeyes, which was a bloodbath for Iowa, but that’s another story for another day, since we are a family of Hawkeyes…). But, his flight back would mark the first time he’d ever flown alone. Sure, he’s traveled by air with us in the past, but never on his own. Could he have figured out O’Hare International Airport by himself? Yes. We’re confidant of that. He’s a smart kid. But, we knew that deep-down, he was probably a little nervous about navigating the throngs of humanity at O’Hare. So we accompanied him through check-in (curb-side is the only way to go people, but don’t tell anyone) and got him to the security line at which point we said our goodbyes. We’re pretty sure he was unaware of our spying on him as he snaked his way through the line, on our tippy-toes every so often saying, “I see him.” and “There he is.” and finally “Yes, he got through!” when he successfully and securely headed toward his gate. The flight was quick and smooth, baggage claim was a breeze, his ride was there to pick him up and Tyson-McGhee Airport proved to be much easier to get around than O’Hare. Whew…he made it. All by himself. Well…pretty much.
He no sooner got home when he decided to run a few errands. Shortly after heading out, the car died. Complete transmission failure was the diagnosis. So after a call home to Mom and Dad to share the good news, he arranged for AAA to tow his car to the nearest place he’d checked online that had very favorable reviews. Things like that are always more of a problem when you’re seven hundred miles from home. We worried about how he’d get back to his apartment. “Can you call someone?” “Is there a bus you can take?” He told us he would walk back, which naturally caused my husband and me to check Knoxville weather on our cell phones. In the forties. He’d be okay. Yes, he’s twenty-three. But we felt a lot better once he was back home relaxing with a nice cold beer. He deserved it after that long day.
So, this morning, after waking to the good news that son number two got home safely from California, the next concern was whether or not to let our daughter drive to work. We told her not to go in yesterday after an overnight snowfall left some roads poorly plowed and slick. We felt quite sure that the daily running of the company would not be adversely affected if their part-time, summer-and-school-breaks warehouse employee missed a day of work. As the day wore on and roads cleared, she felt guilty about not going in, though, leading her to definitely plan to go today…even though wind-chill temperatures had dipped to thirty below zero. And so she went, bundled up in her parka, headband, scarf, gloves and boots. Oh, and instructions to text us when she arrived safely. Of course. Yes, she’s twenty years old. But she’ll always be our baby…
I know I’ve probably painted a horrible picture of parenthood to my childless readers, but those of you with children understand. Yes, we worry, but only because our kids have opened our hearts to a much deeper level of love than we ever thought we were capable of. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything. It is a comfort, though, knowing that their guardian angels are always on the job.