Monday, December 10, 2012


At midnight tonight Eldest's two final projects are due. We haven't heard from her in a week; she's pretty much incommunicado in times of stress. I doubt she's had much sleep, and she's a kid person who needs her shut-eye.

A while back I read Dreamland by David Randall, and learned all kinds of tidbits about sleep. There was a whole chapter on insomnia, another on the relationship between sleep and aha! moments, another on apnea and sleep disorders. Apparently the research shows that the number one factor in how many fights a couple has is how much sleep the wife got the night before. And the number one cause of friendly fire in battle is sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep affects our judgment in significant ways. But apparently the professors at Eldest's prestigious institution haven't read up on this particular body of research.

There's not much a mom can do to make life easier for her stressed-out offspring from a distance of several hundred miles. I've been thinking of her for days, knowing... well, knowing that I don't know how she's doing, and praying for the best.

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Not-knowing is a maddening thing. Then again, there's a lot less uncertainty in life these days than there used to be. When people left Europe to immigrate to America, the family they left behind didn't know for months, perhaps years, what became of them. If someone headed west to the prairies, there was no way of knowing how they fared. Goodbyes in those days were truly goodbyes; you didn't know if you'd ever see that person again.

Last week I went somewhere with Snuggler and Little Guy, and forgot my phone. Snuggler wailed, "But what will we do if..." I looked at her kind of oddly, realizing that being a digital and cellular native has its drawbacks. "We'll do what we would have done 15 years ago," I replied, "We'll figure it out. If we need to."

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Dancer called this morning at 7:50; her express bus broke down on the highway, leaving the passengers stranded on the desolate fringe of East Harlem. I told her that as long as she stayed with the other passengers while walking to whatever other bus route was nearby, she'd be safe. It was inconvenient and scary, and she was likely to be late for school, but hey -- she was safe.

Dancer was already walking with other people. In truth, she would have been okay even if she hadn't been able to call me. She's resourceful and sensible, and I think being in this kind of situation is how one becomes resourceful and sensible. Travel is one of the very best tools there is for learning how to come up with a Plan B. Buses and trains break down, get delayed, cause missed connections. It's nice to be able to call Mom, but after you've gone through that kind of thing a few times you stop calling and just figure out how to handle the situation. You realize you can deal with that level of uncertainty.


  1. I missed my train the other day, and left a message on Doug's voice saying I wasn't going to be able to pick Zeke up, and never heard back from him, and got more and more nervous while I was stuck on the later train, until it dawned on me that Zeke is a resourceful kid, and if no one showed up, he'd have asked someone to call -- probably first Doug, and then me -- and we could have made a plan.

    Doug and I used to meet on the A train. I'd call (on the office land line, to our home phone) and say I was on my way out the door, and a few minutes later he'd go and wait at the front of the platform, and when he saw me in the first car, he'd get on, and we'd go to Chinatown for dinner. People we baffled that it worked.

    All that said... my moment of greatest anxiety during the Sandy blackout was when my cell phone ran out of juice, as we no longer have a land line.

  2. I know the feeling of wanting to call the college students only to have them ask what? and answering, I just wanted to hear your voice. Those long sighs are still audible. Praying she makes it home soon for some long overdue hugs and chats-no matter how long or short. Enjoy every moment!

  3. Not sure if that will make you feel better, but for the time I was at Eldest's college, I slept an average of 5 hours/night, took 2 hour naps from 2-4am on the couches of the math lounge and the physics lounge many a time, ate in class to save time and I don't think I ever took a full weekend break. I survived. Wouldn't do it ever again though! Having a newborn is a breeze compared to that! She'll be fine and will learn tons from it. I'm not talking about the math and science, but things like you can do crazy hard things and be ok! And yes, my parents mostly had no idea whether I was alive...