Last Friday I was in a state of limbo concerning my daughter's safety in Ecuador. I am now relieved to report that she is safe and happy. Whew!
I am generally one of those level-headed optimists, assuming the best in most situations. I may scream when startled, but in a genuine emergency I do not panic. I am calm in earthquakes. I've managed large groups of children in crowded public places with ease. When my little brother went through a glass door and had a jagged shard protruding from his lip, I pretended it was a minor cut and didn't let him look in a mirror. When I got a flat tire on the Bay Bridge, I got out and changed it because I didn't want my husband to see his Christmas gift that I was hiding in the trunk of the car. I don't see any point in getting hysterical or imagining all the horrible things that could happen. That's just how I've always been.
But last Friday I felt true fear of the unknown. It was a situation in which I could do nothing but wait to hear news, and I hated that feeling of helplessness. And having lived my life as an emphatic non-worrier, I was not used to being scared when there was so little evidence that anything bad had actually occured. While I waited, something changed forever inside me—I experienced a dread that squeezed my heart and never completely let go, even when word reached us that she was fine. For the first time I took a moment to consider what I would do if I lost my only child, and I couldn't even contemplate a future without her.
I know that in a year she will be heading off to college—which may be far away or may be within commuting distance—but I will still know she is here, alive on Earth. But to be unable to talk to her again, to never hear her laugh, to be robbed of watching her become an adult—these are things I just could not face.
So last night when I finally heard her voice on the phone from Ecuador, I almost cried. And I honestly think she sounded older to me, more grown up. I know I felt older.