I drove Ed to school the other day, which I haven't done in a while. We were in no hurry for once -- I was early. So we got a chance to chat. I like time in the car with my kids. It's special time, separate from real life time - - a kind of lazy emotional backwater away from daily stress. This was a gray morning with a bit of light rain, and we were stopped on Ontario Street, waiting for a freight train to pass, talking about -- I don't know what. Fractions, friends, snack foods, that kind of thing. Not memorable but important. It started to rain harder. To pour rain, in fact. I turned to Ed, who was dressed for sunny Southern California.
You want an umbrella? I said. I think I have one in the trunk.
Nah, I'm okay, he said. I couldn't help thinking back a generation, to conversations with my parents. On a day like this one, there was no way I would have got out of the house without looking like the kid in the picture there. My parents worried -- bless them, they really cared -- if I was dressed to deal with the weather. Snow boots, rain coats, sensible shoes ... I can not tell you how many hours I spent banging my head against the cement wall of their concern. If I didn't wear a raincoat I'd get wet, which would lead to a cold, which could turn serious enough to keep me out of school on the day we were doing something important, and I'd never really catch up or understand the subject, and maybe fail that year. And so my university career -- my entire life -- would be in jeopardy because I did not wear a raincoat. I am not making this up. My parents and I did indeed have these discussions. A generation later I am not worried about Ed's lack of rain protection. I never have been, really. I don't worry if he's wet or cold or late coming home. I don't care if he watches a lot of TV, or eats cereal for dinner. He'll be fine. Am I smarter than my parents? Not hardly. See, there's always going to be something to worry about. Life is worry. I worry about Ed all the time: will he be happy? Will he get a chance to do what he wants to do in life? Thing is, I can't solve these problems. My parents worried: will he be wet? And that problem they could solve. The train was a super long one, and by the time it passed and the barriers lifted, I was back in normal commuting mode -- that is, late. With the wipers going full blast I tore up Ontario Street and skidded around the corner onto Elgin. Take it easy, Dad, said Ed.