"Adolescence is perhaps nature's way of preparing parents to welcome the empty nest." ~ Karen Savage and Patricia Adams
The timeline: Thursday afternoon
4:00 pm Max has left the house before I get home from work, without telling anyone where he's gone. I assume he's with his friends Andrew and Chris. It's spring break at his college and he is still in "I-don't-have-to-tell-anyone-anything-if-I-don't-want-to" mode.
7:00 pm We eat dinner without him, which is not unusual.
11:00 pm Time for bed. Ken and I fall asleep easily, confident that Max will be home at a reasonable hour.
1:30 am I wake with a start. Something doesn't feel right. Looking in Max's room, I see the empty bed and quietly walk downstairs to see if he's fallen asleep on the couch. No one is there. My text to him is: " It's late. Come home now." But I get no response. I'm having trouble keeping anxious thoughts at bay.
1:45 am Back to bed. Ken is awake now. Sleeping is an exercise in futility, knowing our 19-year-old son is out late and unreachable. Where the hell could he be? Worrying begins in earnest.
3:00 am Ken's turn to call Max. He leaves him a message because Max's phone seems to be off. "Max, where are you? It's 3 o'clock in the morning. Please call home. We're worried about you. Just let us know where you are."
3 am to 5 am Our imaginations have gone wild. He's dead in a ditch. He's passed out from drinking. Someone has beaten him and left him for dead behind the mini mart. He has to be hurt. Otherwise why wouldn't he call?
5 am to 6 am We're exhausted from lack of sleep, so we make coffee and hope we'll make it through the work day. I say a prayer that sounds like a mantra: "Please let him be ok. Please let him be ok."
6 am Someone must be up at Chris' house by now. Chris' mother checks his room. "No, Chris is home. He got home early last night. He says he hasn't seen Max since late afternoon yesterday." My heart is pounding as I dial Andrew's house. "Andrew says Max hung out with someone named Kamali last night," Andrew's mom says with concern in her voice.
6:15 am Ken calls Kamali's house. Kamali is a young man Max knows from school who lives in the next town. Kamali's parents haven't heard from their son all night either. But we learn they went somewhere together last night.
6:30 am The house phone rings. It's Max calling to say he's on his way home. His phone died yesterday so he's calling from Kamali's phone. Now I ask you, why couldn't he do that before his parents waited up for him all night?
7:30 am Max walks in the house. "Hi, Mom." Just like that. As if nothing much has transpired in the last eight hours that didn't take years off my life. I don't know whether to hug him or strangle him. I opt for neither. "Don't even talk to me, Max." He sheepishly retreats to his bedroom to get some sleep.
2:20 p.m. I come home from work, calmer now. My son walks into the kitchen. I stare at him for a moment, hands on my hips, hoping I am having an unnerving effect on him. "Why didn't you call to tell us where you were? And by the way, where were you?" I find out he was at a party an hour from home (it was St. Patrick's Day) and was too tired to drive back (i.e. he had been drinking). He makes the unbelievable and preposterous claim that he texted me after midnight to ask if he could stay over and that I texted him back with just one word: No. I tell him I never received such a text so I couldn't have texted him back. And anyway I NEVER would have said no. How many times have I said I don't want him on the damn road if he's tired or had been drinking? How many times have we had that conversation since he started driving? I'll tell you: more times than I can count.
2:25 p.m. I have forgiven him, but I don't plan to forget. In fact, I plan to bring this up as often as possible to make him understand that we are happy to give him the freedom he wants, with some reasonable constraints when he's home from school. I tell him to please not do that to his parents again, that we can't go through a night like that again. At least not until Olivia starts pulling this crap too. Hopefully I have a couple of years recovery time.
A week later we are sitting in a restaurant with Kamali and his parents to discuss a possible move out of the dorm and into a house near their school. I can't help but bring up the events of the week before. When I tell them I thought they were dead in a ditch, they thought it was hilarious. I laughed along with them, but I don't tell them about the terror I felt that night. It was not the time or place for it. I couldn't tell them how, when I don't know if he's okay, my mind goes to the unimaginable, the most awful place for a parent. Life stops and nothing can make it continue, nothing can make it all right until I hear his voice.
People tell me not to worry about things that are out of my control.Well, shoot, Life is out of my control! How can I not feel scared? I've seen the bumpersticker on the cars of the faithful, "Let go and let God." I hate that saying. First of all, it's grammatically incorrect.Where is the second verb? Let God what? Second of all, isn't that what's happening anyway? God is in charge and is making all the decisions.
My eye doctor told me that the twitch in my right eye is due to stress and lack of sleep. He suggested I take half a valium before bedtime. I'm strongly considering it. That way, if someone doesn't come home, at least I won't know until I've had a good night's sleep. Works for me.