Worry Becomes a State of Mind

What? Me worry? You can count on it.

Show me anyone in God’s given land who claims not to worry and I’ll show you a liar. Or a cockeyed optimist.
In these troubled times, a lot of people I know worry about nothing, especially when their bank accounts are exhausted.

We worry about our income tax and we worry about our income. We worry about getting older and for what? When we stop advancing in age, it’s the end of the line so all that worry went for naught.

As a dutiful husband and parent, I’ve never stopped worrying. I worried the day I dated my wife, hoping that my parents would consent. Then I worried about being accepted by her family.

I worried the day I got married—that the bride would show and the best man didn’t forget the rings. A friend of mine gave me this advice.

“Tom,” he said. “No need to worry if you can help it. And if you can’t, no use in worrying.”

Sure. Easy for him to say. He wasn’t the one doing the worrying.

I worried when my first child was born, dashing to the hospital and pacing up and down the waiting room until my daughter came into the world. I counted the fingers and the toes. What a relief!

The same held true for the two boys, 10 years apart. I worried the day they started school and how they would be accepted by their peers with ethnic names. Their first report card had me on edge. Would they be good students or was I in for trouble?

I worried the day they went camping for the first time with Scouts and whether or not they would survive a Klondike Derby in the dead of winter.

Next came high school and the usual rash of sports and band activity. Inside an ice-cold rink, I would follow that punk every inch of the way and guide it toward the net. The day one son was banged into the boards and players hovered around, I worried about a debilitating injury. Safe to say, the kid survived.

Then came college. Would I be able to afford the private schools of their choice, especially with two enrolled together? And on a journalist’s salary? What if my wife lost a teaching job?

I worried about their welfare, being away from home for the first time, who their roommates might be, the drug scene, and what their majors might entail.  Would they get jobs? One commencement coincided with a recession. I had all I could do to cope with anxiety during the early 1990’s.

I worried about their marriages and their spouses. Would they be suitable mates? Could they afford single-family homes? Perhaps I had just cause to worry.

As I approach my 70s, worry continues to affect my wellbeing. In some ways, it’s like the exercise bike I employ every day. It gives me something to do but doesn’t get me anywhere.

Much as I’m willing to turn my back on it, worry still finds me. That qualifies me to be a worrywart, a basket case.
Just recently, I was perusing the newspaper and came across a disturbing item on the business page. Fidelity Investments announced a significant layoff. Four thousand employees were about to lose their jobs.

Would my son be among the casualties? He’s been with the company nine years, ever since graduating from Bentley. Life was good. Now, a modest home with two young children and a stay-at-home wife were suddenly being jeopardized.

I tried to read his face the last time we met, only to be reassured some. Being a high-powered agent who brings money into the company, his release was less likely than some executive making big bucks sitting behind a desk.
“Don’t worry about it, Dad,” he said. “Can’t you ever be at peace with yourself? If it occurs, we move on. It’s the sign of the times these days.”

The kid had the right disposition. We could exhaust our retirement and keep the family stabilized until restitution was met. Isn’t that what true parenthood is all about?

The day arrived for the big lay-off and I would have been better off getting a root canal. I counted the hours until he was due home when I made the call.

“Just checking,” I said, wiping the sweat.

“The house is going on the market and we’re moving into a shelter,” he told me. Moments later, I heard a snicker.
“Lay-offs are nasty business, Dad. Lost some of my friends. But I survived.”

Whew!

Just goes to show. Worry all you want. It’s one of the few things left in society we can still do for free.

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Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
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