The rower has been training in Portland, Oregon for the entire summer. Before he left, I made him swear to phone his mother three times a week, and answer my texts. Not daily, I said, when I noticed the anxiety in his eyes, but mostly.
I had to be clear about my expectations because last summer he went off to rowing camp for six weeks, and I heard from him once.
This year, the high-performance rowing camp led to his selection for the US junior national rowing team, which made me just about the proudest mother there ever was. I’d love to tell him how proud I am, but I can’t get hold of him. He has now been gone for more than two months.
My sister-in-law says I shouldn’t worry. She says her mother is still complaining about her brother, saying that she has left him two messages this week and she has heard nothing. He is 42. I have now become that mother. And the rower is only 16, which means I have years of pain ahead of me. I leave phone messages for him regularly. Every now and then I get very stern and send texts in all capitals, which used to mean he would call me back. Except that now he is in Rotterdam for the world rowing championships and I usually forget to send him the angry capital-letter texts until I am in bed, which means it’s the middle of the night where he is, and he is fast asleep. Of course by the time he texts me back in the morning, it is the middle of the night here, and I am fast asleep. If I was paranoid I might think he was orchestrating this deliberately. I did send him a text yesterday, which I found very amusing.
I am following him on Instagram (honestly, it’s the only way I know he’s absolutely fine) and I saw his team’s practice was cancelled. ‘I know practice has been cancelled,’ I texted. ‘Which means you’re probably sitting around doing nothing. I happen to know what you’re not doing… CALLING YOUR MOTHER,’ (note the clever use of capital letters to denote FRUSTERATED SHOUTING). ‘See all those white texts on your screen?’ I continued. ‘Yes. Those ones. The ones from your mother. See all the blue ones? The ones you sent? No. You wouldn’t be seeing the blue ones because there are no blue ones.’
I then offered the pièce de résistance: ‘It’s like texting an imaginary friend,’ I chuckled to myself, imagining him sending back smiley emojis. I did not get smiley emojis. I got a slightly irritated text saying he was off to practice.
Happily, I am off to Rotterdam myself shortly. My husband can’t come, so I will be bringing a friend, and meeting my parents, brother and sister-in-law there to cheer on the rower’s boat. I am very much hoping they will keep me restrained.
(This article was first published in The Lady Magazine.)
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