Fighting Fear with Two More “F” Words

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We moved recently and the best feature about this house is our front porch. We installed a porch swing shortly after our move. I like to watch the cars and people go by but I especially enjoy sitting on the swing during a storm.  I like feeling the chill of a cold front rushing along a spring storm. I will eye the trees to see if the old saying is true about leaves turning over before the rain. “When leaves show their undersides, be very sure rain betides.” I love hearing the rain on the windows and the feel of the moist wind while impatiently waiting to hear a crack of thunder. But there is a limit to my love of storms. I don’t like damaging storms and I am especially afraid of tornados. I have never seen one but my childhood was full of tornado hype. Why? I had two older brothers and what kind of brothers would they be if they didn’t exploit their little sister’s fear? I admit, they were good story tellers. Everyone from Freddie Krueger to Chef Boyardee came in on a tornado to haunt my dreams. (Yes, you read that right.) The actual chances of being amidst a tornado are pretty slim but with children, facts don’t seem to matter. The idea of what to be afraid of usually comes from the first person who plants the seed of fear. My brothers were farmers with pockets full of seeds. I am almost ashamed of the many obsurd fears I had as a child.

My oldest is eight.  He often comes home from school asking if things like warewolves and vampires are real. Even with his limited personal knowledge of such things, other children seem to know enough to make him squirm. I admit, he is gullible. We limit the nightmare inducing programming, probably because we enjoy our sleep. The Indiana Jones movies were popular when I was his age. My parents didn’t allow me to watch some of the more graphic parts of these movies, if we can even classify them as graphic by today’s standards. I was exposed to the horrors of life at the times my parents felt I could handle them maturely. I was probably watching a limited amount of Rated R movies by the time I was as a fourteen. I will probably do the same with our children. (There are the fears we must explain appropriately to children as soon as possible but maybe I will further discuss those in a later post.) So as soon as I was allowed, I wanted to watch all the parts of Indiana Jones I had missed. I wanted to know for myself if there was really something to fear. I will note that I have since viewed the films numerous times and they remain some of my favorites today. I learned to fight fear with knowledge and what facts could not explain, I relied on faith.

These days I obtain a great deal of my knowledge by being a Google junkie. I am not proud to admit my vast knowledge of useless movie info or what syptoms may or may not be associated with certain ailments. During my fourth pregnancy I could be counted on to stuff my head with pregnancy related articles. I should have been an expert by then, more like a baby factory, but it puzzled me to why I still felt the need to investigate. I ended up blaming heredity. When my dad was in charge of the remote control we would be stuck watching PBS, but then again, we only had five channels. And my mom, she owned a large medical dictionary. Since we couldn’t afford impractical  doctor visits, she relied on her outdated mammoth to self-diagnose our illnesses and reassure us we weren’t going to meet an early demise . As much as I claimed that I would not turn into my parents, my viewing choices are reminiscent of PBS and I am reminded of that larger than usual medical book every time I open my WebMD app.

Adulthood reminds me of why I searched for the truth when I was a kid. I am closely effected by three incurable diseases. While I do admit my own fear of these diseases, I won’t be crippled by them. I am fighting with facts and relying on faith. I will keep searching and asking, but I will probably never be satisfied. I know all the knowledge will never rid these diseases, or even tornados, from my life but I have the power to control my fear. The control over fear must also be rooted in faith because sometimes no matter how much I dig, there are things I cannot control. So I choose to teach my children about fear in a positive manner. Unlike those times as a kid, I cannot run screaming every time the unknown jars my senses. I have to teach by example and I am frequently tested watching my son lose control to epilepsy. I don’t consider it bravery as much as necessity. Once fear comes over my face, it will soon be on theirs.

I will always be afraid of tornados but I am not afraid of every thunderstorm as I was as a child. I have educated myself and know the difference. I now enjoy what I once feared and have prepared myself for the worst.

As for the leaves turning over before a storm, deciduous trees, or leaves with soft stems, often turn over as a result of the humidity that precedes a heavy storm.

*d*

Wrapped in Rust

In four hours I will hear the familiar rumble of his work car driving through the alleyway and to his parking spot. My husband drives a car given to us by my late grandfather. We inherited what my grandfather referred to as “the sweetheart of the highway.” She is over twenty five years old and past her prime. The cloth headliner is falling down and frayed, the paint is fading, it has crank windows, my husband gets only a.m. radio, and I am pretty certain the heater only reaches luke-warm. It has been vandalized twice (egged and spray pained orange) and the backside of many jokes, but it is paid off. I have asked him to consider purchasing another vehicle once we receive our tax return and pay off our van. I worry because the gas gage plays hopscotch between E and F and we never really know how much gas is in the tank.  The only thing new on the “sweetheart” is her tires. My husband reminds me of how much money we will have once the van is paid in full and how much debt we are still trying to reduce. So he may be driving her for the next twenty five years.

I imagine my husband has been taught to see the value in something when no one else does or he knows we have no choice but to keep it. I know how hard we struggle. Each month it gets harder to pay bills and have enough remaining to purchase groceries. We both have decided to make the necessary sacrifices that allow me to stay home with the children. My son’s medical condition is multifaceted and complex. When we discussed if I should re-enter the workforce, choosing care for him would not be as easy. A caregiver would have to be trained in rescue techniques and medication. After weighing the cost of daycare for multiple children and working, we wouldn’t be making enough to sacrifice our peace of mind.

I did work part-time every weekend for five years. I really enjoyed my job but my son’s health was failing and we both knew it was time for me to care for him permanently. He has since stabilized but spending the past two years at home has been lonely. I know I contribute to our household by caring for the family but brining home a paycheck gave me a sense of accomplishment. I also had a place to socialize and  the opportunity to feel like more than just “Mom.” I had a name and I had a life. Being a parent to a special needs child is lonely. Rarely does anyone care to understand what life is really like for us. We seldomly go out and rarely get asked to do so. Babysitters, like caregivers, are also hard to find.  In addition, we are always tired. I haven’t slept for more than four straight hours in over seven years. The deprivation plays with your head and the loneliness gets to your heart.

I spend a lot of time at home. I miss having an escape from dirty diapers, screaming, autistic meltdowns, and noise. I miss conversations with people my own age. I could make plans after work or do some shopping on the way home. Sometimes when I talk about my situation, others will say, “Don’t forget to make time for yourself.” That is a nice thought but a more productive approach would be to ask, “How can I help?” But with the isolation of my existance comes  infrequent conversations.

So I wait. I wait for my husband in his little white “sweetheart.” I anticipate her rumbling up the alley and a breath of relief escapes from my mouth. I wait for his conversations. I wait for his guidance. I wait for his help. At that moment my lonliness fades away.

It’s funny to think my hero, the Prince Charming of my girlhood dreams, comes calling in a rusty old piece of machinery. He cares not of the eloquence of his arrival but about what he does once he is here. He fills in the empty parts of my heart and the loneliness of my day. He understands when I greet him at the door with my tousled hair and can still imagine what I looked like when I readied myself that morning. He doesn’t worry when I cry about the life I feel like I have left behind. He listens and asks, “What can I do to help?”

My son, like my husband is wrapped in a rough package. My husband would certainly not get a second glance in his run-down stallion. My son sometimes gets a second look, but often for his differences. He is wrapped in a disease that often covers the treasure he is inside. It is nice to know that those with true character often hide it inside.

*d*

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