Losing Ethan

gate

Someone once said to me it’s stupid to worry about something bad happening, because if it does happen, you’ve lived through it twice, and if it doesn’t happen, you wasted your time and caused yourself needless suffering. On a cognitive level, this makes perfect sense, but when it comes to mothers and their children, rationality flies out the window. At least it does for me.

Some people think I’m an overprotective mother, even though my children are both grown. And it’s true: I worry excessively about something horrible happening to one of them. I still hate the fact my 23 year old son lives more than 600 miles away in another state, and drives every day. If I don’t see he’s been on Twitter in more than a certain number of hours (he practically lives on Twitter), I start to panic. Sometimes these feelings of dread get so bad I almost wish I never had kids so I didn’t have to experience that kind of intense anxiety. I know it’s neurotic as hell to fret so much about my kids’ safety and there comes a certain point when a parent has to let their children go off and be adults, but still I can’t help worrying.

They say losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a person. I don’t doubt this. I love both my children with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns and if something happened to one of them…well, I think I would probably lose my mind and most likely kill myself. How could I go on living? I just can’t see how someone could carry on after losing their child. Obviously they do though, and I marvel whenever I see a bereaved parent somehow accepting their tragedy and moving on with their lives. I’m amazed when they can talk about it without dissolving into sobs. But I don’t think I would be able to ever accept it and move on. If I didn’t kill myself I think I would cry for the rest of my life, become catatonic with unbearable grief, and the dudes in white coats would have to carry me off in a straitjacket.

Sometimes I have these dreams of something happening to one of my children. They are awful. I just woke up from one, and after breathing a sigh of relief it was just a dream after all, I decided to blog about it, before it faded away into unconsciousness the way dreams tend to do.

I had to pick up a few groceries from the store. My son Ethan, about eight in the dream, came along with me. Sitting in the front seat next to me, he chattered in his little high pitched voice about school and other things 8 year olds like to chatter about. Strangely, it was also the present time, and I was the same age I am now, with the same vantagepoint on my life I actually have now, but that sort of thing happens in dreams.

We were driving down a country road, and must have taken a wrong turn, because soon I realized the road was a dead end. At the end of the road we saw a high wooden fence, and it was closed. Past the fence was a single police car, with its blue lights flashing. But I saw no police officer or anyone else. It was parked in the middle of a thicket of weeds and wildflowers, and when I looked closer I saw that no one was in the car.

police

Ethan, being a curious 8 year old boy, wanted to see what was going on. Before I could stop him, he had taken off his seatbelt and was out of the car, running like lightning toward the gate. I called to him but he didn’t hear me. I got out of the car and began to chase him, but he had already worked the latch and was running into the dark woods beyond the meadow. The police car was no longer there. It hadn’t driven off, it simply had disappeared!

I called and called Ethan but he didn’t return. I ran through the open gate and almost tripped on rocks and a few times before I reached the woods. Running into the darkness of the forest, I kept calling him, but all I could hear was my own voice echoing back to me, as if the forest was taunting me. I waited. And waited. It seemed like an eternity but was probably just a few hours. Ethan never returned.

Weeping from panic, I walked back to my car and drove home. It was getting dark out. I’d completely forgotten the groceries, but I didn’t care. Who needed groceries when Ethan was gone?

There were people I didn’t know living in my house, but in the dream I knew them. The man who was my dream-husband listened to my story. Although I had no “proof” Ethan was dead, somehow I just knew. Still, I needed someone else to reassure me he was okay (or confirm my fears). Not knowing is worse than knowing. So hesitantly, I asked my dream-husband, “Do you think he is dead?”
He nodded.
“What do you think happened to him?”
“I think the cop did something with him,” was the reply.
I felt like I had died inside. It was horrible and so surreal I wondered if I was dreaming, and that was when I woke up.

I’m wondering if other parents have these kind of dreams or if they worry as much about their adult children as I do. I’ve Googled this problem and haven’t found much about it, so sometimes I think it’s just my PTSD and tendency to be overly anxious and fretful. I walk through life expecting disaster every moment. I probably need therapy.

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