June 13, 2014

FREY: Being a son's exciting companion a tough job


---- — While watching “60 Minutes” a number of years ago, I remember being quite taken with former President Jimmy Carter’s comments about his mother, Lillian, who died on Oct. 30, 1983, after a long bout with breast, bone and pancreatic cancers.

Carter said that he missed his mother very much. Carter reminisced about the times he would rise early in the morning, visit his mother at her home, and just talk about things like politics and family affairs until the sun came up.

“Mother was an exciting companion,” Carter told reporter Mike Wallace.

I never forgot the eloquent words Carter chose to describe the relationship be had with his mother. What a wonderful thing it must have been to have a mother who was also an exciting companion. What a tribute to one’s mother.

“When I have a son,” I remember thinking to myself, “I also want to be remembered as an exciting companion.”

But how exactly does a mother and son relationship become exciting?

When my son, Charles, was a boy, I think I was more of an exciting companion than I am now.

We spent hours on the living room floor playing with Hot Wheels, Thomas the Tank Engine trains, and miniature Star Wars characters. There were carefree days spent at the library, always on the hunt for the next great book. We snuggled on the couch and watched “Mr. Rogers,” our favorite television show. I can still feel my son’s little hands holding on to my neck while we splashed in the pool on hot summer afternoons. I can still see his little fingers moving chess pieces and practicing the piano.

Life was good.

Middle school years were spent in the sitting room reading books together, feet touching on the ottoman. It was around this time that I introduced my son to the joys of drinking cups of hot tea. Sometimes Charles, who stood six feet tall in seventh grade, would plot right down on my lap, just like he did when he was a little one. We would laugh together while my legs went numb.

Life was good.

It seems that as the years progressed, however, something changed. When Charles began high school, I became the worry-wart companion. There was so much happening, and I constantly felt my mind was working on two levels.

There was no excitement in asking if homework was finished (grades in high school are important) or trying to get to swim practice on time (a swimming career in college perhaps?). There was no excitement in asking if final projects and papers were completed (final grades end up on transcripts) or keeping up with classmates and what they were doing (choose wisely when making friends). There was no excitement in making sure Boy Scout merit badges were on task (Eagle Scout rank in the future).

So much to worry about and so little time.

Quite frankly, it was exhausting.

When I shared some of these worries with Charles, he paused, and then said the following: “You don’t worry all the time, Mom, just some of the time, and you are the only one who could change the worry-all-the-time mind set.”

He reminded me that we still do have exciting times together, such as when we drink cups of tea on cold days in the sitting room, listen to songs, look at the clouds, and talk about religion, music, politics and education.

This, as my son pointed out, makes me an exciting companion.

Life is good.

Alvia Lewis Frey is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at