A Quiet, Steady Hum: The Background Noise of a Mother's Fear

June 26, 2016

I recently read Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, a wonderfully rich novel about two sisters in France during World War II. They each, in their own way, become heroes. While I don't have a sister, I could definitely relate to another strong theme of this book, the sacrifices of motherhood.

One part struck me as especially significant:

"The sound of his voice reminds me that I am a mother and mothers don't have the luxury of falling apart in front of their children, even when they are afraid, even when their children are adults."

While I have absolutely no experience struggling with the hardships of war, I do know a little bit about being a mother and being afraid. And I agree. We "don't have the luxury of falling apart in front of our children..."

These past few months have been challenging in our home. The newness of my 24-year-old son being released from prison has worn off. The "settling in" period has faded. And now we are faced with the "getting on with living" part of things.

And it hasn't been easy for him. He's had trouble finding consistent work and he's had trouble readjusting to daily life outside prison. He sacrificed so much and changed so much of himself just to survive almost three years behind bars, but it seems that the man he had to become when he was inside isn't the man he wants to be now that he's outside.

As his mother, it's so frustrating to see him frustrated. And I think that's what he is. Frustrated. He's definitely grateful, sure, because he's not in prison anymore. And he's more balanced, yes, because he's being treated with more effective medication. But he's still, from what I see, frustrated.

And, as his mother, I'm afraid. It's not the same kind of fear I used to have. It's not the kind of fear I had when he was unmedicated, when he was irrational and potentially dangerous. No, this fear is muffled, hushed. It's a quiet, steady hum, a muted background noise, swimming gently just below the surface of my mind. It's always there but I try not to hear it. I try to block it out or maybe even accept it as the new normal.

When I do acknowledge its existence, I ask myself what it is I'm afraid of.

I'm afraid of what happens next. I'm afraid of what may happen and of what may not. I'm afraid of unfulfilled potential, of dreams deferred. And I am afraid I may not see that son I once knew again. I am afraid he may fear this, too.

But, I'm his mother, and although I am afraid, I can't show it because I "don't have the luxury of falling apart..."

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