Today is the big day. My younger kid has a motocross race that he’s been anticipating for weeks.
You should know now that I hate that he races. I never watch. I can’t.
I wake up all night long the day before, terrified, thinking of all the possible ways he could get hurt–or worse. I lay there, tossing and turning, hoping that tomorrow night, I’ll get a more restful sleep once the day’s races are over and my kid is safely in his bed.
That’s when I think of my grandmother. When I’d visit her, I’d wake up early in the morning to find her sitting quietly in a darkened living room with her rosary in her hand. She was praying for her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Praying was her way of finding solace for all those worries that keep you and I awake at night, of sharing the emotional burdens of life, even if the person she was sharing with only existed in her head.
I’d sit down beside her, and she’d pat my leg and whisper, “How you doing, Deb?” She was so sweet and vulnerable and full of love. Having children is a privilege, she’d always say, and then she’d go on to tell me about the three perfect girls she’d had, how they never gave her trouble–not once–because there’s nothing better than time and distance to erase the fine lines and flaws of childhood. Most memories, like a Monet, are better from afar.
I’d sit with her until she was done saying her rosary, her mouth moving silently. Though I never said them anymore, I still, if I didn’t think too hard, could recite the Our Father’s and the Hail Mary’s. I didn’t tell her that I was no longer a believer, had not been for more years than I had been one. She just assumed that I was like so many other Catholics of my generation who stopped going to church but still held to their faith. Sort of.
But that peace she found in her rosary, that exchange of saying prayers for God’s attention to the welfare and safety of people you love, I get that. You and I don’t have a rosary. We’re acutely aware that our kids are at the mercy of others, of nature and of luck, both good and bad. Trusting the wrong person or being in the wrong place at the wrong time could have catastrophic implications. We worry for our kids, who have so little fear, if any, who just see themselves as indestructible super-heroes in one giant playhouse. They have a self-image that is much bigger and much stronger than it should be.
So, we worry. And like praying, worrying is futile. But it is the exchange we offer up to the universe, hoping that, if we think and fret about every possible thing that could go wrong, that will somehow be a prophylactic against it happening.