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Facts and Arguments Questioning years spent at home after chance highway encounter with son

A mother sees no evidence of strong values or manners in a chance encounter with her grown-up son. Was she idealistic and foolish to stay home all those years?

Daniel Fishel/The Globe and Mail

Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

My Dearest Son,

I know how busy you are, so I'm sending you a text because it seems to be the only way to reach you these days. Texts are meant to be short and sweet, I know, but hopefully you will read past the first three lines.

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You probably didn't recognize me driving behind you on the Glenmore Trail earlier today. Your red panel van was easy to spot, especially with the little painted flames around the wheel arches.

Did you know it was me trying to merge into traffic beside you at Fifth Street? I was driving the little grey Chevy that you refused to allow to merge, edging me toward the concrete retaining wall.

Frankly, sweetheart, I was shocked at your driving! Is this how you treat your mother? Didn't you learn anything at all about courtesy and kindness from watching Mr. Dressup?

When I tried to catch up, you suddenly darted straight across three lanes of traffic – without using your blinkers!

Weren't you listening to your soccer coach, Mr. Fritzelhoff, when he taught you the importance of staying in position? I can still hear him ranting at your team during breaks. "How many times do I have to say this? STAY IN POSITION! You look like a swarm of hornets all trying to get to the ball first, smashing into each other!"

Sweetheart, it gave me the willies trying to keep up with you. Was all that lane switching really necessary just to gain a three-foot advantage? It made me tired just watching you. Doesn't so much constant striving stress you out?

When traffic slowed down to a crawl, you tailgated a semitrailer for quite some distance, your little red brake lights snapping ON! OFF! ON! OFF! Goodness me, so much drama. You'd think you were a medical emergency needing immediate attention.

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My intention was to follow you off the highway and meet for coffee, but when traffic was reduced to two lanes in a construction zone, you zoomed up the inside shoulder, cut in at the top of the line and disappeared in a puff of diesel.

It's a good thing Mrs. Buzak didn't see you do that. If you had tried to butt into the head of the hot dog line in Grade 5, she would have cracked your knuckles with her serving tongs and sent you back to the classroom hungry.

It is obvious that you've gone through considerable expense to have your company name, HOTSTUF FURNACE REPAIRS, painted on three sides of your van. Honey, please pardon me for asking a stupid question, but can it be good for business to drive like an irresponsible hothead? I'm sure you've thought this through very carefully, but if I may speak as a consumer, when my old furnace breaks down, you'd be the last person I'd call.

Years ago, I thought it was important to be a stay-at-home mom to make sure my children were raised with very strong values. We baked homemade bread and cookies to learn patience. The sandbox taught you how to co-operate and share toys, and in story time at the library you listened to tales of courage and tolerance.

Sadly, I saw no evidence of strong values or manners on the highway today. Shame on you. Was I idealistic and foolish to stay home all those years? It would seem that all I have to show for my efforts is a bullyboy son and a Canada pension the size of a Dinky toy.

Do you remember when you were 6 and got lost downtown? Those minutes before you were found in the alley were the most terrifying moments of my life. Now, I fear I have lost you again.

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The fright you gave me this morning when you pushed me toward that concrete retaining wall was nothing compared to the fear of watching you live your life as if it had no more importance than a plastic Hot Wheels race track.

You were such a creative and kind child, and so smart. As you can imagine, there are not too many kids who dress up like Albert Einstein for Halloween. I was so proud of you. Today I was not so proud. You seem so angry and impatient, almost violent. What happened?

When you were young and not feeling well, I only had to hold you in my arms for a few minutes to know what was wrong with you. You may be too grown-up to hold in my arms any longer, but I still know when you're in distress. As long as I am your mother, I will never lose the urge to kiss it better.

My darling boy, I know you stopped reading long ago, but I have one more thing to say: Be careful. If your own safety is not important, then at least remember that the roads are full of mothers just like me.

Well, aren't I silly to write such a long message? Never mind. I'm going to forward a copy to each of your sisters. I suspect they are a couple of highway hotheads as well.

Sending you a thousand kisses,

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with love from Mother. XXXXXXXX

P.S. One more thing. Grandma is still waiting to be thanked for her $10 Christmas gift certificate.

Celia Warren lives in Calgary.

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