Something I Can Still Do

It's 11pm, but I'm hurriedly doing a once-over on the house because we have friends coming over first thing in the morning. My husband and our 15 year old are pilfering the freezer for ice cream, laughing and talking about the trip we're taking tomorrow. I'm sort of half aware of this, but mostly I wondering where my oldest son is right now. He's been at an all day music festival today, and I'm expecting to hear from him soon. Although 18 now, I think I worry more every time he leaves the house. He's not just shooting baskets in the driveway or riding his bike down the street anymore. These days, when he walks out the door he could be headed pretty much anywhere.

My mom-brain hasn't worked out the right neural pathways to deal with this yet.

As I shove too many dishes into my groaning dishwasher, fill it too full of detergent, and ignore the arched eyebrow of my darling husband, my mind wanders to a discussion I overheard earlier tonight. I only picked up bits and pieces of it, but they were talking about a group of teenagers, reckless driving, a death, and possible jail time.

I silently curse myself for allowing these kinds of things to pop into my brain. The faces of Steven and all his friends, being driven around in a big old van by one of Steven's best friends, drifts through my thoughts. I slam a cabinet shut and start scrubbing countertops.

My phone rings, and I must look like an Olympic track and field gold medalist, hurdling past our slumbering dog to answer it.

"Hey Mom, it's me. So... I'm okay, but... the concert was great! But, so, I fell and I'm hurt and there's a lot of blood..."

Neurons fire. Pathways form. Time for my brain to learn how to deal with 18 year old Steven.

"Okay, Steven, just explain what happened."

And he does. A lot of rambling words about racing his friends back to the van, a curb that appeared out of nowhere like the boogey man, causing him to basically launch forward and slide across the pavement for what his friends estimate was a good ten feet.

I breathe. I grab a countertop. I ask more questions.

"Where are you right now?"

"We're still in Grand Prairie, we haven't left yet, so Ryan's going to drive me up to the front of the arena. There's a first aid center there, and we'll have them check me out. There's a lot of blood. There is just a lot of blood."

Yes, I think, my stomach curling in on itself, I believe you have mentioned the blood several times.

I want to teleport myself there. Grand Prairie is a good 30-45 minute drive from us, and I just want to be there in that van with those kids -- with my kid -- and fix this whole situation right now.

"Ok, man. That sounds like a good plan. Go see First Aid and give me a call as soon as you've talked to them."

"All right, Mom. I love you."

And we hang up. Simple. Easy. The kids-become-adults have got the situation under control. There's an unknown amount of blood pouring out of my son's body, but not to worry. Some kid in a First Aid clinic out in the middle of nowhere can treat him and send him on his way, lickety-split.

I look up at my husband, suddenly aware that he and Daegan have stopped kidding around and are staring at me. I give them a short recap of the conversation. Isaac just shakes his head.

I go back to cleaning, to shuffling things around, the way I used to shuffle these boys around from school to soccer practice to birthday parties and home again, when they were younger. It was so much easier then, when I had the illusion that I was in control of their tiny little worlds. Now their world is huge and open and as wide as they can imagine it to be, and I love that the possibilities in front of them are endless.

And I hate it, just a little bit, too.

A second phone call lets me know that he is fine, although the people at the First Aid center only looked at him, didn't treat him. He has some road rash, a little dehydration -- nothing major.

I breathe. I put the phone back down. I calm my mind. I think again of the teenagers affected by the car accident earlier this week. I don't know how people put the pieces back together after something that tragic. I count my blessings.

By the time he walks in the door I'm waiting, first aid kit in hand, ready to help.

Because for now, that is something I can still do for him.


  1. Your writing would have mothers the world over connecting to that experience of the worry teenagers holding a driver license brings. I sensed your panic when the phone rang. I had a similar experience this summer with a call from my 18 year old telling me he had fallen rock climbing, suspected a broken hand and he was 5 hours by 4 wheel drive from the nearest airport, and medical help. Being a mother doesn't get ant less worrisome as they get older.

  2. I felt your angst throughout the whole piece. Any mom could identify with this piece. Glad he will be okay. I have a 32 year old on a trip for work. It was great when he called me yesterday to let me know they arrived safely:)

  3. Your angst was evident throughout your piece that ever mother of a sort-of-grown-up-kid can understand. I still worry....specially when they tell me it is "all under control" but I can still feel that something is not quite right!

  4. So right there with you. I'm the mom of an 18 year old and a 16 year old. How I miss the days when I knew I could keep them safe. Every time they walk out of the house, I have to take a deep breath…

  5. I couldn't help but think how great it was he called you right away to let you know and that he said, "I love you" on the phone. That speaks volumes for the kind of kid and parent that you both are.

  6. My oldest is 16, I'm heading down this road. I read the fear in your writing, but also a restful peace. I hope my journey can be the same.

  7. Oh how I feel your pain. My son is 22 and I still make him call every time he gets back to his apartment after he leaves here. And my daughter who will be 18 next month has to text when she arrives and when she leaves. Oh the worries of mothers you captured it all so well.

  8. It's hard, isn't it? Just the thought of having to et go someday is one of the hardest things for a mom to do. We carried them in our bodies for nine months. We have nurtured them for at least 18 years. They needed us, and we need them. We work ourselves out of a job. It is hard. You expressed a mom's heart so beautifully. I am glad he was okay.

  9. I really like how you described how all these scary thoughts passed through your mind and then the phone rang - I think you had Mom intuition! So glad this was a rather benign "teachable moment" for your son...and so glad he called to let you know in advance. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Love this description: "I go back to cleaning, to shuffling things around, the way I used to shuffle these boys around from school to soccer practice to birthday parties and home again, when they were younger." I'm still in the shuffling around stage with my two young boys. I often wonder what I will think and feel like when they are old enough to drive and be on their own. Thinking about it makes my parents seem so brave! :)