Editor’s note: This column originally ran in 2009. Tammy’s sons, now 20 and 24 , are out of the house, but she worries just as much about them as when they were younger. Also, she has her heart and mind on the mothers who lost children in the April 27 tornado.
It is 4 a.m., and I am sitting here wondering where my 19-year-old is.
He moved home from college, but he’s not in his bed.
I had gotten up, thanks to a little something called a night sweat, and I saw his bedroom door open. He sleeps with it closed. When I saw he wasn’t there, it scared me.
Because I’m his mother, and mothers worry.
I don’t know if he has had a wreck — it’s storming outside — or is safe at the house of the friend he went out with last night. Or maybe he’s at his dorm, where he still has some of his things.
I checked the kitchen table, and there wasn’t a note.
I called his cellphone, and he didn’t answer. I left a voice mail — a mixture of worry and irritation: “It’s 4 a.m., and I don’t know where you are. I hope you’re not in a ditch somewhere. I’m worried. You have to let your parents know where you are, even if you are in college. I love you.”
Then, I texted him. “Where are you?”
My husband got up and told me to go to bed. “Maybe he’s in the dorm. He’s probably asleep,” he told me, not really worried.
Well, I have an active imagination. That’s also part of being a mother.
There’s no situation when we can’t imagine the worst happening. When my two boys were little, my mother would call and tell me all sorts of tales about things that had happened to someone. My favorite is one semifrantic phone call from her to be sure John didn’t sit on the drain at the swimming pool because she’d seen a report about kids’ intestines getting pulled out.
So I added that to my list of worries — abduction, drugs, car accident, getting intestines sucked out.
It’s a wonder I ever let him out of the house.
But until you have children, you don’t realize how much your parents loved and worried about you.
My first night at college, I was 17. I had skipped my senior year of high school when we moved to a new town. So, there was a dance. I met a guy. We sat and talked until about 2 a.m. I’d never been out that late in my life.
When I got home, my dad was getting in his truck to come look for me. (See, this was 1980 B.C. — before cellphones.)
• • •
I finally went to sleep, and in the morning I saw a sticky note from my son on the kitchen counter: “Ditch got uncomfortable, so I came home.”
I was relieved and mad at the same time. He was safe in the dorm all the time.
To all the mothers who worry — needlessly and for good reasons — happy Mother’s Day.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.