Never Off Duty

My oldest has a driver’s license. As an older Mom, LIX in Roman numerals, I’ve waited a long time to legally toss the car keys and the baton of taxi driving and errands to my son. The hours I gain  make a huge difference, but, I am also hyper-aware that now it’s my child’s hours out in the car. In traffic with–you know who–I don’t need to point my finger at anyone.

I have joined the legions of parents, who despite–alcohol,TV, E-Bay, hot tub, sex, FaceBook, relaxants, etc.–can’t fall asleep. I can be bone tired at midnight, going on less than four hours of sleep, but my eyelids refuse to droop. Not until I hear the second thud coming from the kitchen door, his foot steps, keys hitting the counter, the refrigerator door swinging open.  Think Radar from M*A*S*H*. Those sounds are sweeter than my favorite John and Paul love songs.

When he’s been late and hasn’t called and worse, I can’t get a hold of him, I WORRY. Sit in the living room, in my robe minus the fluffy slippers, with one eye on Chopped reruns and the other on the phone, while my brain concocts hideous scenes. I take my pulse and chew an aspirin with water when he’s more than an hour late.  I think of my mother, a young widow, who went through this eleven times and had four of my six brothers in a row. Just don’t loosen the reins too much on them, she’d say after I’d share a particularly bad scare we’d had with the boys.  I miss her, terribly, but especially so on these nights when I could have called her. A night owl, she’d have kept me company and reassured me everything was going to be alright.

When my broad shouldered, tail between his legs son arrives, I’m stern when I tell him in Spanish, the oh shit you are in trouble language in our home, to sit down and explain himself. I literally cross my arms to keep my mother’s words from tumbling out.

His body leaning against the sofa, tells me not to worry with the same cocky look I must have given my mother. I hear myself and know my impact is as anemic as my mother’s was on me. I have a horrible teen driving record to prove it.

How do I explain to my son that I’d also like to pass the baton on worrying. I’d like to be off duty.Turn the switch off. I hear my mother whisper and chuckle, “You never stop worrying, mijita, you only pray harder.” 

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