Monday, January 05, 2009

Children, Sadness, and Worry

There has been a lot of news over the past 5 days about the death of Jett Travolta. He is the son of actor John Travolta, and according to published news reports, his death was due to a seizure that was described as being particularly lethal.

It has been reported that he contracted Kawasaki Syndrome as a young child. Also, there were reports of a seizure disorder as well as speculation that he was Autistic. His father denies that, and the cause of the seizure disorder, as far as I can tell, has not been published.

While it is sad that the Travolta family lost their eldest child (and it truly is sad), that's not why I'm writing about this. I have been reflecting on this young man's age since not long after the reports of his death - he was 16 years old. That is the same age as my youngest child, my daughter Nancy. She is a vibrant, intelligent, funny, lovable human being who has turned into a beautiful young woman, and it happened so fast that I almost didn't see it coming. It was, in fact, like she went from being a "little kid" to being nearly grown up at the flick of a switch.

The main thing, though, is that as I've pondered Jett's death, I've thought to myself, "what if he were my child? Or, what if something like this were to happen to my child?" Understand that Nancy has none of the health problems that Jett had; in addition to the other qualities that I've mentioned, she as well as Kerry, my older daughter, and Jon, my son, is blessed with good health and no issues that could potentially be catastrophic. Being a parent, though, doesn't stop me from ruminating about the things that could go wrong. I worry enough - probably needlessly, but I still worry - that if I were female I could almost be viewed as a Jewish mother, and I think most of us know how much Jewish mothers worry.... With that said, however, I don't let my kids know that I worry about them as much as I do; if they knew, I suspect they'd all tell me to knock it off.... But I think about that, and I know there is no way that I would ever stop worrying about them, even when they have families of their own and they've chosen my nursing home.

My mother, whom I spent some time with today, is 77 years old. She has all of her mental faculties, is very much aware of what's going on around her and out in the world at large, but she is coping with health problems of her own, plus she is dealing with diminishing strength which is likely due to the health problems she has. I worry about her as well - another person who has told me to knock it off..... At the same time, I know that she worries about her 5 grown children (4 are biological and 1 emotional) ranging in age from 45 to 56. Have we told her to not worry about us? Personally, I have, and I'm sure my siblings have at times as well. Has she stopped worrying about us? I know that she hasn't. It's one of those things parents never stop doing, regardless of their age or the age of the children. And I believe it is not possible to stop worrying about our children - it's part of that instinctive love we feel when we see them for the very first time. The worry comes not long after that - we don't want anything to happen to them, and that feeling just never goes away.

The Travoltas are grieving over the loss of their child, and my prayers go out for them. Their son, on the other hand, is in a better place; I truly believe that. On the other hand, the Trachims and Jacklins are accounted for. And I won't stop being the instinctively worrying parent. I can't. I love my children too much to give that up.

The video I posted below is from an Eric Clapton show where he performs "Change The World." This song is part of the soundtrack from the movie "Phenomenon", which, incidentally, was a John Travolta movie - a moving story about a man with a brain tumor that ironically makes his brain work better but which ultimately kills him.... When I heard about Jett's death, I thought of this song.


Rogue Medic said...

I saw that it was a Clapton clip and assumed it would be Tears in Heaven.

You give a nice perspective on things.

Karen Brook Westhaver said...

Oi! You mamele you! :-)[yiddish for Jewish mother who is dear...not the gossipy yenta type woman]. So much pain for the Travoltas which reminds us that we are surrounded by grieving people who've lost children. Ironic that even the composer/performer of the terrific song from equally good movie "Phenomenon" himself tragically lost a son while just a toddler. Hard...hard...hard. We who love also worry. I, too well also know that parenting worry thing. Part of the equation, I guess. Thinking about your profession, though, and staying within the yiddish/Hewbrew mode, here's a Jewish proverb to maybe help with perspective. Won't cure worry, but perhaps might add a smidge of balance for the worrry. "He who saves one life, saves the world entire." -- Talmud (Mishna 4:5)