Okay, So No One’s Answering

Our son was home for his four-day fall break this past weekend. We didn’t have a lot of plans—he had a couple of doctors’ appointments, and we’d arranged for some long-overdue family portraits—but that was okay, since simply being together was the biggest thing. Ben brought along a friend who lives in Colorado; it was nice to have a chance to get to know one of his new peeps a little.

They went back to Terre Haute on Sunday by way of Louisville—Ben wanted to visit some of his HS friends who are at UofL.  He and his friend got back to his dorm about 6:00pm.

How do we know this? Not because he called or texted us, or vice versa: he’s allowed Martha to have access to his coordinates via the Find My app. As it happens, Ben didn’t contact us until the next morning.  (That’s perfectly fine—I’d like to think we’ve been giving him enough space in this transition period. At the least, he hasn’t complained to us about cramping his style since we dropped him off—and I think he would.)

Obviously, cell phones and GPS have changed so much about how and when we communicate since my first years away from home. Each dorm room at Transy had a phone hanging on the wall, just inside the door. Like everyone else, I had to rely on what we now call a landline—or the occasional pay phone—throughout my grad school years. And occasionally, I’d forget to honor my folks’ request to let them know I was back in Lexington or Urbana after trips home to see them.

I loved my parents dearly, but I’m not being fully truthful if I fail to admit they were not entirely rational when it came to the well-being of their children. An hour’s delay in acknowledging safe arrival led to them imagining a car off the road in a ditch or in a horrific accident. After a while, they’d begin calling, to try to assuage those fears. Frequently, I was on site to answer but yes, there were a few times when, like perhaps Ben did on Sunday, I’d trotted off to visit with friends or gone out to eat, all without a thought.

In those cases, they weren’t above trying to contact someone who knew me. I have evidence of this happening once, probably one of my first two years of college. I’d given my friend Cathy, whose home was just a few miles away from mine, a ride back to Transy one Sunday afternoon, and I suppose I’d gone on blithely about my business. Maybe I’d passed Mark H’s phone number on to them, or—more likely—they called campus information to find out how to reach him. Regardless, eventually I found this from Mark on my door:

I know I’m far from the only one to endure experiences akin to this—it’s natural for parents to have and show concern. On the whole my recollection is that I suffered “minor reprimands” like this reasonably well—I wasn’t the sort to blow up or feel special embarrassment in such situations. While I wasn’t responsible for anyone else’s state of mind, I suppose it was good to be able to offer (eventual) relief. I either inherited or obtained through osmosis a little of this irrationality, though I can hope a combination of technological advances and knowing how it was to be on the receiving end has made me less willing to act on those feelings when they arise.

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