Thank you, dear mothers who worry about your children from their birth until the day you die. Even though we sometimes find it worrisome and, well, at times embarrassing, deep inside we appreciate it. Maybe not so much when we’re teenagers and college age. But eventually, we do.

When people praise me for being a “good son,” my first response always is to take credit/blame for every platinum-silver hair on Mom’s head.

I’m not a parent, let alone a mother. I don’t want to sound sexist, so I’ll throw in I know fathers worry as well. But the link between mother and child is by its very nature a different relationship.

I noticed this statement in a post on social media a day or two ago by my friend and former co-worker Marci Gore: “Motherhood is really about accepting the fact that you will be permanently worried for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.”

Marci’s mother, Joyce Byrd McConnell, was among the first to comment: “I approve this one. And yes, you never stop worrying. When your children have children, you have more to worry about.”

I read the post to Vicki Cooper Trammell and almost before I got the whole sentence out she said, “Ain’t that the danged truth.”

Vicki and I grew up a street apart, and one grade level separated us through Lincoln, Sevier and Dobyns-Bennett. But we didn’t become close friends until later. By then, Vicki was a mother and I was most impressed with her devotion to motherhood. Nothing was more important to her than her son, Nicholas.

It was clear she worked hard, at work and in pursuit of a college degree, to make sure Nick lacked nothing. Her parents, Bill Cooper and JoAnn Hall, had her back and Nick’s, too. Nick in return didn’t give them much to really worry about. He did great in school, finished college, and went on to law school.

That’s where Denver came into the picture. Nick adopted Denver the dog from a local shelter just before starting his first year at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia. Denver went along to live in Grundy until Nick finished first in his class that year and transferred to the University of Tennessee School of Law. Denver moved to Knoxville for the next two years as Nick finished law school at UT. Vicki worried. Nick worked hard.

Law degree in hand, bar exam passed, Nick enlisted in the United States Air Force, following in the footsteps of his Grandpa Cooper. In the years since, Nick has risen in rank to major while serving as an Air Force JAG at multiple to-me exciting posts. Vicki worried. Nick worked hard. And Denver mostly moved along with Nick. When that wasn’t possible, he would come back to Kingsport to live with Vicki and husband Phillip “Tiger” Trammell.

When Nick was stationed in Las Vegas, Denver went along. When Nick’s next stationing was Hawaii, he put Denver on a plane to Knoxville, where Vicki and Tiger picked him up at McGee-Tyson airport.

When the car door opened at home in Kingsport, Denver made a break for it and Vicki was worried sick for 16 days until someone brought him in to a local vet’s office and his microchip got him home.

It wasn’t his only solo adventure.

“We nicknamed him Houdini,” Vicki said last week. “He wasn’t a frequent runaway, but when he did get out, it was like magic the way he disappeared.”

Denver did become somewhat of a frequent flier, ultimately going international — with Vicki’s help.

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There was a time I’d never have thought I’d see Vicki get on a plane and cross the Atlantic. But then Nick got posted to Italy. He wanted his mom to see some of Europe. He also wanted Denver to come live with him there.

A lot of planning went into the trip. Dogs fly in cargo and only certain planes have cargo areas pressurized such that animals will survive the trip.

Vicki and Denver left Tri-Cities Airport bound for Atlanta, transferred to a flight to JFK in New York, where they had a connecting flight to Amsterdam. It was at JFK that things went awry.

“I was already buckled in, they’d closed the doors, the engines were ramping up,” Vicki said. “And then they came onboard looking for me and removed me from the flight quickly. I felt like a terrorist. When they got me on the jetway and were re-closing the door to the plane, they explained Denver couldn’t fly on that flight because the cargo wasn’t pressurized. We had to wait a few hours for another flight.”

That delayed departure meant they missed their original connecting flight from Amsterdam to Venice, Italy, where Nick would be waiting. It was a long layover and Vicki was worn out already. But finally she boarded the flight to Venice.

When she arrived in Italy, a woman with an accent was holding a sign with Vicki’s name and softly calling out “Ms. Cooper? Ms. Cooper?” as passengers entered the terminal from the jetway.

“I raised my hand, wondering if Nick had sent a car,” Vicki said. “She walked to me and with a completely blank face said, ‘The dog.’ She sounded distressed. I immediately thought Denver had died. I was about to burst into tears when she finished up with ‘Your dog has been here four hours.' "

Turns out the woman’s distress was due to having to monitor Denver’s needs while he was in a holding area waiting for Vicki to arrive. No one ever offered Vicki and explanation of how Denver got to Italy while she was trying to sleep upright in the Amsterdam airport. She was pretty sure he was involved.

“Houdini at it again,” Vicki laughed.

Back to Marci’s comment about motherhood including a lifetime of worry: Vicki and the rest of our class of 1980 and ’81 friends have turned or are turning 60 this year or last. Vicki’s turn was last week. She’s 60. And still worries about her children and grandchildren. (Nick was the first, sorry the rest of you, I’ll let Vicki embarrass y’all in another tale.)

Vicki’s birthday and Mother’s Day gift from Nick: a ticket to come spend two weeks with him in the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal consisting of a series of volcanic islands in the North Atlantic, about 870 miles west of the mainland.

Sadly, Denver won’t be along for the trip. He died in March, about two weeks shy of his 16th birthday. I asked Vicki to send me some pictures of Denver, sampling all the fabulous places he lived: Vegas; Alexandria, Virginia; Italy; Charleston, South Carolina; and more.

She sent several. None from Vegas. Apparently that city’s “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” slogan is true for dogs, too. Or at least for “Houdini.”

I will probably continue saying “don’t worry” to mothers I know. But I accept now that it won’t mean a thing other than what it is: an effort to comfort.

Happy Mother’s Day, all you mom’s out there. As for their children and grandchildren, please don’t worry your mother today.

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