"I just can't take anymore loss" she said to me, gulping back the tears when she called me last week to wish the huz a happy birthday.
"I know, Mom. I know."
It was all I could say to comfort what has been a lifetime of loss. A dead daughter born on the same day as my husband. Her own husband passing without her presence. And her boyfriend leaving this world just a few months ago.
It's no wonder she's been having trouble sleeping, her mind weaving her somewhat rational thoughts into irrational fears and worries that have been limiting her to about two to three hours of sleep. Add in a stressful job and an empty home, save a sweet but fairly independent cat, and you've got my mother. And her anxiety.
Since my mother and I rarely talk about these sorts of things, perhaps due to the nature of our own sometimes tenuous relationship, or the fact that my mother grew up in an era where moms just never talked about how they felt, I don't know how long this has been going on. But I do know that she's like every other mother out there.
I've managed to be able to contain my own tendencies toward irrational thinking by sheer will. It grows increasingly difficult for me when my husband is away and I'm alone at night.
If I lock the gate at the top of the steps, then if someone breaks in, I'll hear them struggling to get through and I'll run to grab Drew, and then grab Quinlan, and then lock her door and then climb out the roof over her window.
It's one of many plans I've hatched on those long lonely and sometimes scary nights.
I turn off the violent movies and the news. I've learned my limits when it comes to reading about the tragedies of others. And sometimes I have to almost physically stop and shake my head in order to reorganize what could become uncontrollable worry.
Of all the things I've learned about how to deal with when it comes to mothering, I've found little, if anything, about how to deal with the anxiety. We giggle at the helicopter parents, and we chuckle at the germaphobes.
But how far away from overprotecting our own children are we?
With all the amazing developments that the 21st Century has brought, I tend to agree that there is definitely an innocence lost. While we would roam freely through the malls and ride bikes at night through our neighborhood, I'm not sure my daughter will have that privilege, at least in the capacity that we had as kids. I'm not being overprotective.
I'm being realistic. I'm parenting in the current state of our world.
I encouraged my mother to get help and I shared my friend's story with her. When it comes to a point where I can no longer shake my head and make it go away, I too will reach out for assistance. And when I find myself unable to parent my children without suffocating or smothering them, I will know that it's time.
Until then, I'll watch reruns of Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, and I'll stock my diaper bag full of antibacterial wipes.
And I'll hope that moms everywhere won't be afraid to share their worries and fears. Because sometimes typing it out and saying it aloud can be a powerful remedy.