The message was brief. I read it twice: “Hey, Mom, can I come see you guys this weekend?”
I wrote back, “Yippee!” Then I called the boy to get the plan. He had stuff to do before leaving town, he said, but hoped to make it in time for dinner.
I laughed. Dinner would be whenever he could get here.
“No hurry,” I said. “Drive safe.”
It’s about four hours — give or take — from where he lives in Los Angeles to our place in Las Vegas, if traffic isn’t bad. And traffic is always bad.
I figured I’d be lucky to see him by 6, at best. I made a quick run to the market, put sheets on the guest bed and set the TV to record the Warriors game, so if traffic was awful, he wouldn’t have to miss the first half.
Then I got down to business, cooking, cleaning, watching the clock, pacing the floor, praying for his safety, listening for his footsteps coming up the walk.
It’s called waiting. I’m good at it. I’ve had a lot of practice. I’ve been waiting for that boy in one way or another all of his life.
For the record, I’ve waited just as much for his brother and sister. Maybe more for his sister who spent half her teen years barricaded in the bathroom blow-drying her hair.
But he was my first child, my introduction and guidebook to the waiting game for moms.
When he was a newborn, I’d wait for him to fall asleep so I could do something fun like eat or do laundry or brush my teeth. But pretty soon, I’d start to miss him. Then I’d stand by his crib waiting for him to wake up.
I waited, watching in awe, as he took his sweet time learning to do things like walk and talk and feed himself; button his shirt, tie his shoes and comb his curls; pick up his toys and stop teasing his sister and putting the dog in the dryer; throw a ball, swing a bat, ride a bike and read a book.
I waited for him to start preschool and kindergarten and middle school and high school; and I spent years waiting in parking lots to pick him up.
I waited with dread for him to start driving. And I waited up every time he came home late.
Next thing I knew, he was off at college and all the time I’d spent waiting for him didn’t seem like much time at all.
So it goes with being a mother. We wait for our children to grow up — to learn to manage just fine on their own without us. And then, sooner or later, they do.
That doesn’t mean the waiting game is over. It never really ends. But some waits are more memorable than others.
I well recall, for example, waiting on the set of a few TV shows to watch the boy work. (He grew up to be an actor.)
Once, when I visited him at his place in New York, our dinner plans were interrupted by an attack of appendicitis. We took a cab to the hospital. I waited for him to come out of surgery. Then I spent a week taking care of him, waiting for him to heal.
On the morning of 9/11, when I learned of the terrorist attack in New York, I kept trying to call him, but lines were jammed. There was nothing I could do but wait and pray. When he finally called, after trying all morning to reach me, he was standing on the balcony of his apartment in Manhattan watching smoke rise from the World Trade Center.
I was far more fortunate that morning than my neighbor. She also waited by a phone, praying to hear from her daughter, only to learn hours later that she had died on board the plane that terrorists crashed into the Pentagon.
Mothers wait for all sorts of reasons — good news or bad, happiness or heartache, grace or forgiveness or just a little peace of mind. But the waiting is soon forgotten, usually, the minute a long-awaited child walks through the door.
My boy will be here soon, Lord willing. But if he’s late, I can wait. I’m good at it. And he’s worth it. I will always leave a light on for him.
Sharon Randall is a columnist for McClatchy-Tribune News Service (www.sharonrandall.com).