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20 January, 2011

Parents.............and Concern.

Is there an imaginary cut off period when 
offspring become accountable 
for their own actions? 
Is there some 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 
on my daughter's head and I asked, 
When do you stop worrying? 
The nurse said, 
When they get out of the accident stage…” 
My parents just smiled faintly 
and said nothing. 

When I was in my thirties, 
I sat on a little chair in a classroom 
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 parents 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, they'll be adults. 
They'll be off on their own 
they'll be out of your hair.
My parents just smiled faintly 
and said nothing. 

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

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 parent's warm smiles 
and their occasional, 
You look pale. Are you all right? 
Call me the minute you get home. 
Are you depressed about something? 

My friends said that 
when I became a grandparent 
that I would get to enjoy 
the happy little voices yelling 
Grandma! Papa! 
But now I find that I worry 
just as much about the little kids 
as the big ones. 
How can anyone cope 
with all this worry? 

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 earthly creation? 

Recently, one of my own children 
became quite irritable, 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. 
The torch has been passed. 

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