We worry about them. We get angry at them. Our grown children sometimes do things that disappoint, exorcise or frustrate us. And then, all of a sudden, they're there when we need them. They're the caring, mature, responsible people we always knew--hoped--they would be.
Two friends just went through difficult experiences. What struck me was how incredibly helpful, caring and mature their grown children were when it really, really counted.
Here's what happened to Lucy. She and her 30-something son were hiking in Yosemite Park in California--a four day hike with overnight stays at refuges. Lucy's in great shape, though she worried that she hadn't done a big hike like this for nearly 20 years, when she'd done it with her husband. Her husband died recently so she and her son were hiking to a meadow in Yosemite to sprinkle his ashes. A hike with a purpose. Day one, 9 miles to the tent campsite. Day two, even longer and hillier. Day three was a "rest day" since day four would be the longest and most challenging part of the hike--and the spot where the ashes would be scattered. Lucy and her son decided to pack their books and spend the "rest" day at a lake that was a 3-mile climb from the refuge hut. When they got there, Lucy stepped out on a rock to get a better view. The rock was surprisingly--shockingly--slippery. Black ice slippery. Lucy fell and couldn't get up. Everytime she tried she was overwhelmed by dizziness and nausea---and pain. When her son and another hiker were finally able to help her to a rock where she could sit, the pain subsided. But walking down was not possible--the pain was too intense whenever she moved. Her son went down to the refuge to get help. By the time he got back, a helicopter was hovering nearby. EMTs carried Lucy by stretcher. But her son couldn't come with her. Moreover, he had to complete the hike back to the rental car.
Lucy was helicoptered down, transferred to an ambulance and taken to a hospital. Not only was she worried about the pain in her leg and hip, she was worried about her son making the long hike by himself without a cell phone--they had left their phones in the car. A nurse at the hospital called her son's cell phone to let him know where his mother was. When mother and son were finally reunited, the doctors at the hospital had figured out what was wrong: The femur was broken. Lucy needed surgery to put it back together again--either in California or at home on the east coast.
That's where Lucy's other grown chidlren come in. Her son called his sister, who is a doctor, who talked to the doctor at the hospital about what they planned to do, why and where it should be done (in California or at home). He then called his other sister who lived in Hong Kong to let her know what was happening. The sister knows a lot about travel--she does a lot of it for her job. She knew exactly how she could help: She used her frequent flyer miles to have Lucy's travel status upgraded to first class for her post-surgery flight home. As to Lucy's son, he stayed with her, taking his meals at the hospital with her and watching TV with her --the summer Olympics were on--for the four days until she could leave. When he finally got her home, Lucy says, "I'm sure he was glad to be rid of me." True or not, he had been there when it counted, and so were her other children--doing whatever they could do to make things go smoother and better for their mother.
LInda's experience was more mundane. Her husband, Dave, was about to undergo open heart surgery. With no warning--he had simply changed doctors and the new doctor insisted on a cardiogram for all new patients--he went from a man who seemed to be slowing down naturally to one who had a life-threatening situation hanging over him. Linda's son --her husband's stepson -- started researching and adding to the information Linda and Dave were gathering about doctors, types of surgery [robotic or hands-on], which hospitals were best. It was a comfort to have his suggestions and informed opinions at a time when it's difficult to think straight--and you absolutely need to. Dave's son [Linda's stepson] flew in for the surgery, to be with his father and keep Linda company. When Dave was finally home from the hospital, Linda was feeling depressed and shut in--Dave couldn't be left alone; progress was measured by the one or two minutes he could sit up in bed. Her son had a suggestion: send out an email to the rest of the family and friends who live nearby and ask for an hour of their time so she could get out each day. Worked like a charm. Linda would probably have thought of a similar approach for a friend, but when we're in the midst of a crisis, it helps to have someone else thinking about solutions to the day-to-day problems. And who better than her son.