Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Relief is a One Way Ticket.




Yesterday my son landed at Heathrow on a one-way ticket.
For the past six years he has been working in ex-Soviet countries, first Russia, and more recently Kazakhstan, but now he is back in England, in the sunshine, jogging in Hyde Park, and even having a bit of a lie-down on the fresh spring grass.
Apparently.
I haven't actually seen him.

I hope I have always supported my sons in their careers and life-styles, and been proud of their adventurous spirits, but until today I did not fully appreciate the cost of having off-spring quite so far out of reach.
I realised the effect of this because I went to the dentist this morning and very nearly fell asleep in the chair. Even while I was being de-plaqued and polished, I nearly nodded off.
Then I came home and fell asleep in the sunshine in the garden. Now I am awake and a sort of dull mahogany colour with sparkling teeth, which is really quite unnerving.

I never do these things; dozing off during the day, but I suddenly realise - the relief is immense. Vast. As vast as the distance between here and Central Asia.
And now I can barely put one foot in front of the other, so I sit stretched out, like the Pasque flowers on my rock garden.

I hope I never let it be known, this low-level anxiety. The one thing I have always believed in is giving my children freedom, but this in itself can create in them a feeling that I may not care enough. Such a tightrope, such a delicate balance. As a parent you can but do your very best and hope it is enough, hope you are giving the right messages.

Yesterday, when my son telephoned with news of his arrival on English soil, I said something of how relieved I was, something of the anxiety, which was always made so much more complex by the need to have visas.
'I was always concerned,' I said, 'That you might suddenly need me and I wouldn't be able to come straight away.'
'Yes, Mum,' he said. 'I might have needed emergency trouser repairs.'

Which puts it all into the right perspective, somehow!

24 comments:

marigold jam said...

I understand exactly how you feel - our daughter has arrived back after 2 years of travelling often I didn't even know where she was exactly and the relief when she arrived back was enormous!

Molly said...

I love your son's sense of humour! He sounds like a fellow who is well able to take care of himself, even to repair his own trousers! But I know the feelings you describe and the tightrope act.....So happy for you that he is back!
But will he recognize a mahogany person with sparkling teeth as his dear old mum??

Jenny Woolf said...

Yes - you can never let go entirely. Nor should you. But I bet he appreciates your not hanging on. I appreciate that my parents didn't hang on but they were there if I needed them.

Relatively Retiring said...

Marigold: Ah, you know well the cost of freedom, given with love, endured with gnawing anxiousness.

Molly: Thank you for sharing the happiness. He still needs the old mahogany Mum for emergency repairs. I took my sewing equipment out to Kazakhstan on my last visit!

Relatively Retiring said...

Jenny: yes, that's the balance we all aim for, I'm sure. It was those wretched visas that posed the problems.

PB said...

...there are so many kinds of emergency repairs parents can be called upon to undertake, that never occur to adult children until they arise... glad for you.

Fire Bird said...

that last one was me btw signed into wrong account

Annette said...

I love your son's response. I laughed out loud. Isn't that so typical? We give them wings and teach them to fly and then secretly worry they will crash into a tree. Meanwhile, they are soaring away oblivious to our concern (which is as it should be).

Zhoen said...

Sounds like being a good mum to independent adults to me.

Don't sew his trousers, cheeky thing.

Relatively Retiring said...

Firebird: invisible mends and emergency repairs sound like good parenting.

Annette: that's a lovely analogy.

Zhoen: ah, but I do pretty special sewing. Some people don't ask twice! My younger son had a special sweatshirt, and I repaired some small holes by embroidering insects over them. That one became something of a fashion statement, but it doesn't always work that way.

Jane said...

We're back to the C Day Lewis poem (http://www.cday-lewis.co.uk/#/walking-away/4525050890) aren't we:

How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.

I'm a very 'hands-off' parent and have also sometimes worried that it might seem that I wasn't caring enough, but I'm assured by daughter (and interestingly several of her friends in comparison to their own mothers)that it's absolutely the best way to be and she knows I'll be there in an emergency. Doesn't mean we don't worry, only that we keep our sewing kit always to hand!

pohanginapete said...

Your emergency trouser repairs are legendary. I'll always remember the way you intercepted the remains of my trousers (fortunately, one of two pairs) on their way to the rubbish bin after seven months in India and Africa. When they eventually disintegrated (fortunately, not in public), the repaired bits remained defiantly intact.

The low-level anxiety — yes, my mum would have understood perfectly. I think my travels would have been too much for her, but she would have been immensely proud of what I was doing, just as I know you are of your sons. Say hello for me :^)

Relatively Retiring said...

Jane: yes, a lovely, wise poem. Thank you for reminding me.

P.Pete: is the world ready for the tale of your disintegrating trousers, I wonder. Send me the repaired fragments and I'll see what I can construct around them, maybe in leopard skin?

Isabelle said...

I hang my head in shame because I'm not a hands-off mother. I think my children would die of shock if I started being one now. I mean, I've let them go. But I don't like it at all. And I worry a lot.

As, clearly, you do too. You just hide it better.

Relatively Retiring said...

Isabelle: we all do our best, in very different ways. My concern is that I could hide it too much.

Leslee said...

Glad you have him back nearby! But I suppose that won't really stop the worrying entirely :-) I think I would have been the same kind of mother - encouraging freedom but having lots of carefully hidden anxiety. And of course missing them terribly.

Relatively Retiring said...

Leslee: it's such a complex business. I feel I miss them as small infants because I was exhausted and pressured most of the time, and I'd like some of that time back in order to do it better. Now I rejoice to meet them as adults and I feel much less grown-up and competent than they are. What a muddle!

Molly said...

I think we need to see some of your legendary "repairs!"

Relatively Retiring said...

Molly: you need to have a word with my nephew - pohanginapete, also at The Ruins of the Moment, although it sounds as if even the repairs have now expired!

Zhoen said...

I have some jeans that could use a few butterflies to the knees... . I had no idea you were a mythical seamstress.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: put them in the post, but you may not get butterflies back!

herhimnbryn said...

I am sure ou get the balance right RR.
Am impressed actually, that you nearly fell asleep in the dentist'scahir!

herhimnbryn said...

That would be chair!

Relatively Retiring said...

HHnB: my dentist has the most wonderfully comfortable, infinitely adjustable chair. If it wasn't for all the attachments I'd like one for my sitting room.