Have you reached the party?

"Ernestine, we have a problem."

My oldest called me last night to let me know he was reading my email updates about his grandfather in the hospital. He told me I had obviously flipped the switch and gone into my heavy duty Mission Control mode.

I'm a mom. I've been in Mission Control training most of my adult life. I've got badges for Time Coordinator, Planning Specialist, Logistics Engineer, Communications Hub Advanced Training, Terrain Tech, and Encoding/Decoding Operations, although not for Weightlessness Counseling. If I could just get my hands on one of those Mars Rovers, there'd be no problem programming it to sift through the debris on my youngest's bedroom floor in search of evidence of life.

My sister and I could team up to out-FEMA any Bush appointee on crisis and disaster relief. Homeland insecurity? Put the wagons in a circle! When we got word that Dad had fallen and broken his femur, we were instantly marshalling forces from all across the country's time zones, setting up communication chains, and procuring emergency transportation. She was in charge of children, pets, and paratroopers. I was in charge of MREs--Maybe Recognizable Edibles, fact-checking, and press releases. Thank heaven none of this was necessary, but we could have had banks of porta-potties set up outside any sports arena in this country AND ensured that each one would have both Northern Quilted toilet paper and a Purel dispenser.

My dad's mother worked as the night telephone company operator in a small, northeastern Nebraska town in the middle of the twentieth century. I felt Halma's presence as I did what I could long distance for her son. She might have been surprised at the technology, but not at the motivation.

I used to be phone-a-phobic, and I'm still phone-adverse most of the time. When it really matters, though, I can talk on my cellphone, check messages on the home phone, type lower case emails, and wear my Skype headphones all at the same time!

It was good to hear about my oldest's progress at his new full-time position. He turns twenty-four this week. He seemed a little down about it. Every phase of his life until now had a specific time allotted; seven years of elementary school, three years of middle school, two years of high school, two years of senior high, four years of undergraduate, two years of grad school. Now a very long road stretches before him of grown-up full-time responsibility; over forty hours a week for over forty years. He has crossed the line into the middle stage of life, where we are citizens, members, parents, and worker bees, subscribing to the governing rules for family, job, community, and nation.

At almost exactly his age, I hit an emotional speed bump. I was sitting at a table at an outdoor wedding reception when I suddenly realized I was "grown-up", but that the status did not have any of the wisdom or privileges I'd always assumed. It was like searching for nonexistent answers in the back of the math book. Shouldn't at least the odd-numbered questions have the answers?

Though the thresholds aren't as clearly demarcated, "grown-up" adulthood gradually shifts into wonderful mature stages of learning, loving, being internally governed instead of externally controlled, becoming traveling minstrels, sages, crones, and fools. Yes, Ernestine, I have reached the party. The answers still aren't in the back of the book, but I can choose my own questions.

Happy birthday, son.

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