As my husband prepares to leave for a business trip, I pepper him with questions like, “How can I reach you?” “What airline will you be flying?” “Which hotel will you be staying at?” “Who’s the contact person at the conference?” etc. My husband takes it all in stride and patiently answers my questions. He is aware that I’m on a need to know fact finding mission. I’m like this all the time with everyone in my family. Even my parents can’t go on a road trip unless I have their itinerary first.
My daughter, who is seeking her independence daily, rolls her eyes at me whenever I ask her questions about her travel plans. “Do you really need to know this, Mom?” she impatiently says to me. My reply is, “Yes, I need to know and this is why I need to know: If something happens to you on your trip and I don’t have a clue about your whereabouts, there will be no way of retracing your steps.” Inevitably, I get the information I need to satisfy my overactive imagination.
I need to know my kids are okay. I started “Sunday Night Check-ins” when my oldest child went off to college. Primarily, I wanted him to stay in touch with his siblings and to not lose track of what was happening in their lives and to share with the family what was happening in his. Basically, it was just good to hear his voice. I figured Sunday was a good choice, because if he had gone out of town or if any part of our family had gone away for the weekend, we’d all be back by Sunday evening. When my second son went off to college, he rightfully assumed he’d be making Sunday night calls. To this day he checks in with me whenever he’s been out of town for a while to let me know that he made it back safely. He knows I just need to know.
Apart from being a mom, I can attribute my “need to know” behavior to one particular event in my life. When I was in my twenties, I went home to visit my parents for a weekend. One morning my parents went out to run errands while I stayed behind. The phone rang and I answered it. A voice pleaded to me, “Where’s my brother? . . I need my brother . . . .” My uncle was on the line, but this was not the voice of the intelligent and funny man I knew. His son, my cousin, was a freshman in college and had become seriously ill. Because this happened before the invention of cell phones, there was no way of contacting my parents directly. As I tried to remember everything my parents had told me about their morning plans, I frantically called store after store and had my parents paged. This proved futile; I could not find them.
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.“ I can’t really recall my uncle’s exact words, but I will never forget the overwhelming cries of desperation, fear, and sadness in his voice that morning. I learned many life lessons from my cousin’s tragic death, but the one that surfaces regularly is how important it is to know where your loved ones are – so my dear family, please indulge me.