Thursday, July 22, 2004

PASSING OF THE TORCH

Grandma Fitzpatrick always told me that when you have children you will worry till you die.  You never think so when your children are young.  You just think when they turn 18 yrs old, it's over.  But, now I have grown children and realize just what she means...
Is there a magic cutoff period when  offspring become accountable for their own actions?  Is there a wonderful moment when  parents can become detached spectators in the lives of their children and shrug, "It's  their life," and feel nothing?

When I was in my twenties, I stood in a hospital  corridor waiting for doctors to put a few stitches in my son's head.  I asked, "When do  you stop worrying?"  The nurse said, "When they get out of the accident stage."  My  mother just smiled faintly and said nothing.    

When I was in my thirties, I sat on a little  chair in a class-room and heard how one of my children talked incessantly, disrupted the class,  and was headed for a career making license plates.  As if to read my mind, a teacher  said, "Don't worry, they all go through this stage  and then you can sit back, relax and  enjoy them."  My mother just smiled faintly and said nothing.    

When I was in my forties, I spent a lifetime  waiting for the phone to ring, the cars to come home, the front door to open.  A friend said,  "They're trying to find themselves.  Don't worry, in a few years, you can stop worrying.  They'll be adults."  My mother just! smiled faintly  and said nothing.    

By the time I was 50, I was sick &tired of being  vulnerable.  I was still worrying over my children, but there was a new wrinkle  there  was nothing I could do about it. My mother just smiled faintly and said nothing.  I  continued to anguish over their failures, be tormented  by their frustrations and absorbed in  their disappointments.    

My friends said that when my kids got married I  could stop worrying and lead my own life.  I wanted to believe that, but I was  haunted by  my mother's warm smile and her occasional, "You look pale.  Are you all right?  Call me the minute you get home.  Are you depressed  about something?"    

Can it be that parents are sentenced to a  lifetime of worry?  Is concern for one another handed down like a torch to blaze the trail of  human frailties and the fears of the unknown?  Is concern a curse or is it a virtue  that elevates us to the highest form of life?    

One of my children became quite irritable  recently, saying to me, "Where were you?  I've been calling for 3 days, and no one answered.  I was worried."  I smiled a warm smile.