If you're not a mom and never will be, you will probably never know what it's like to stay up worrying and waiting for that 'I'm alright' call; that 'here I am' text, the sound of a slamming car door and 'I'm home' message of the key in the lock.
There must be stages of worry just like there are stages of grief.
Stage One--the 'Hmmm' Stage
This is the stage where something reminds you of the 'worryee'(the recipient of the worry)--it could be anything, anywhere--a song, a thought, an anecdote, the water bottles rolling around in the car...and you think 'Hmmm, haven't heard from for awhile....'
Stage Two--the 'Mild Concern' Stage
This is just a smidgen beyond the 'Hmmm' Stage. This is where 'haven't heard from for awhile' evolves into the 'really should have heard by now' phase. The visible effects of this stage are a nervous inclination to check one's cell phone at increasing intervals. This phase, interestingly, follows the time lapse of labor pains--the phone is first checked every 20 minutes, then every 15, finally tapering down to 10, 5, and 2 minutes and eventually into the next stage, Irritation.
As the hours of 'no hear from' wear on, concern intensifies into irritation. The manifestations of this are--if not physically, then mentally--an arms-folded, finger-drumming, toe tapping in impatience kind of attitude. Words like 'thoughtless', and 'inconsiderate' and phrases like 'do you know what time it is?', 'would it have killed you to...?' and 'give you a piece of my mind when you come in' creep into the thought process.
Stage Four--Full Blown Worry
Full-Blown Worry can be initiated, generally, by time milestones: 11:00 p.m. The midnight hour. 1 a.m. The sense of 'surely I'll hear by 11/midnight/1 a.m.' can drag Stage Four on for several hours depending on the age/regular habits of the recipient of the worry. At this stage, the worrier can think of little else other than what could have gone wrong to prevent the worry-ee from making contact. Emotions in this stage switch randomly, irrationally and inconsistently from irritation to anger to anxiety to bald-faced worry. Thought processes sometimes become verbalizations during which the worrier is known to pace and hold open one-sided conversations with the non-present worry-ee: "Where ARE you??? Why haven't you called? Don't you know I'm worried sick about you?" And depending on the age of the worry-ee: "I KNOW you're grown, but just because you're 18 doesn't mean I stop caring....could you at LEAST acknowledge that by letting me know you're okay!!!"
Stage Five--Worry Melt-Down
It has now been hours since a reasonable expected check-in/arrival time. This is a stage most commonly experienced between 2 and 4 in the morning. The worrier has moved well beyond concern, irritation, worry, and anger into a sort of resignation that the worst has indeed happen. Worry morphs into grief as the worrier sits by the window wrapped in a blanket, cell phone in hand, and it's a lonely vigil indeed. There are tears, self-recrimination. The sack cloth and ashes are at the ready in the hall closet. Coulda-woulda-shoulda sets in. Thought process revolves around how life will be in the absence of this person because only true tragedy could have kept him from making contact.
Interestingly enough, at any time during these five stages, should the worry-ee make that long-anticipated phonecall or, better yet, walk in the door--all is immediately forgotten and forgiven. The hours of worry, the overnight ten years of aging, the shortening of life spans, all vanish in the blink of an eye. So relieved is the worrier to hear-from/see the 'worry-ee' that it's as if it never happened. The concern, the agonizing worry, the tears, the long-rehearsed 'piece of my mind' speech are immediately a distant memory (if that). The worry-ee, in spite of his blatant, inconsiderate and thoughtless teen/young adult behavior, will be no doubt mystified by this flood of an emotional response/welcome, and when confronted by the ordeal of the worrier will, true to form, respond with comments as to how 'silly' or 'stupid' it was to worry so. And in a bizarre turn of events, the worrier actually agrees with this assessment (word to worry-ee: This would be a prime time window of opportunity to ask for...gas money, a new cell phone, a more reliable form of transportation--anything that can be perceived as increasing the likelihood responsible behavior and safe passage through a world fraught with unexpected hazards...).
And in the end, all is well. Worry-ee and worrier are reunited. Worrier may take worry-ee out to breakfast or even reward him (see above list); promises are made about 'next time', lessons are learned, all is forgiven, and it will never happen again, right? Riiiigggghhhhttt.