fear in the way

I should be writing about our lovely Christmas, and how well the kids are doing on vacation week without classes and therapy. They have held it together, and for the first time in several years, Christmas has really not been stressful. Hubs and I are beautifully in sync, which is awfully nice. We have pretty polarized roles in the family, and I will admit personal struggles with co-parenting. He travels a lot, works long hours, and I am Queen Bee, buzzing around the hive with lots of moral but distant support. This sounds tiring in theory, but in practice, making decisions sans input from another person is quite simple. I do my thing, in my way, and much of the time, it works. On vacation weeks, or heck, even weekends in the past, we have our clash moments. When he is being a (wonderful) father and I try to steer the wagon because I don't know how to let go of the reigns.

But this week has been nothing short of relaxing. We are a team, a good one. The girls' first Christmas with our family went off without any large hitches. Well, almost. Remind me to write later about how I accidentally gave away one of the kid's only Christmas gift and discovered my mistake at noon on Christmas Eve and spent hours calling stores trying to find one and couldn't.

Last night, long after the children were in bed, Hubs and I lounged on the couch, touching hands, cozy and drowsy. Hey love, our tenth anniversary is coming up. We need to make it happen. Let's do this. He wants to go to Puerto Rico, Key West. Something warm, something soon. I was about to entertain the thought of going...

All of a sudden, I was seventeen again. I stood in a room, holding the hand of a little boy, about five years old, while he explained who the woman in the picture was. This little boy, and his younger sister were my weekly babysitting gig. And the woman in the picture on his dresser was his mother. He looked just like her, they both did.

She and their father had gone on an anniversary trip to Hawaii, and she never came home. There was an accident. Like-from-a-movie tragic horrible accident, except it was real. Nauseatingly real. These babies never saw their Mama again. Their father remarried, fairly quickly, a sweet, first time wife and mom to this greiving family, and she was doing an awfully good job of filling empty shoes. She was Plan B for all of them, but this was her life, her Plan A. And I loved her. She was a wonderful mentor and example to me of how to step in, love, make broken things whole. She was a tough cookie and a capable mother. And though way back then I had no idea about kids who have experienced pain, trauma, there was a seriousness about that house, about those kids that I now recognize in my own house. Underneath and behind the giggles and love, in the corners and shadow of stillness, there was loss.

They were a wonderful family. Yet I couldn't help but experience my own second-hand grief every time I saw that picture. That mother did not get to raise her children. Another woman was doing it. She left on vacation and she was gone. The experience working with this family changed me. It planted a seed. A paralyzing fear within me that has only been realized fifteen years later.

It happened in a flash, remembering my need to go vomit every time I went into those kids' room and saw the picture of their mother. But now, I was back on the couch, with Hubs, wiping tears from my eyes. Hot, unbidden tears I tried to scrub away before Hubs noticed my Insta-Freak-Out. He throws out key trigger words like beach and getting away and in seconds I am beating away memories and pushing sobs back down my throat.

I am terrified of leaving my children. I dread something happening to me, and them losing me. Even now as I type I choke down horror. The only time I have been apart from my kids for more than twelve hours since becoming a mother six years ago is when I went to Ethiopia to bring more children to our family. And the only way I could stomach that separation was believeing that God could not let something happen to me on such an errand; that in my act of becoming a mother to children who'd already lost theirs, they could not also lose me, the universe would implode with unfairness or something. I told myself it was impossible.

Of course, it wasn't impossible. I could have died. Certainly on my first trip there while six months pregnant with a risky pregnancy was an act of aggression against the odds. But I willed myself to believe that because what I was doing was not selfish, because it was for my children, I would be protected. I held onto all the mysticism and faith I could muster to get me through those weeks away from the children at home.

But a vacation? There is no mysticism there. Faith flees. All bets are off. There is no universe imploding threat. And every time I contemplate plane tickets, white sand, lotioned legs and me alone with Hubs, who is so very dreamy and fun, something happens: I instantly see the woman in the picture frame. And her fate comes between me and the jet way. I don't know how to get on a plane and leave my children.

Here we are in Grand Cayman, from this year. We brought the four kids we had at the time, and my lovely mother so we had extra hands. Photobucket

I don't fear much, almost nothing. If anything, I walk this earth with too much confidence. But it is with a small, pitiful, cowering, soul-wrenching truth when I whisper I don't want to be her. I don't want to be in a frame on a dresser.


Daija said...

I have the same fear, but I blame stupid Nicholas Sparks books/movies. I can imagine that fear would be much stronger if it was based on a real life experience.

karen said...

I am the same way, for similar reasons. It's hard to explain how real that fear is. Let me know if you get over it long enough for a trip. I haven't yet.

Jamie said...

do my darling friend and inspiration I pray for peace and comfort for you in this fear, blessed peace knowing our loving Father will protect them and care for you in all His ways.
I fear this too, but fear more the loss of a child, I began praying, earnestly a few years ago "Lord help me to move on, find life and joy again if I should lose one of my beloved children. I know they will be with you, and safe from fear and hurt, so please give me the strength to go on with living. Please, please never make this necessary, but give me comfort and peace in this."
This has truly helped me, it does give me peace, and while it never leaves my mind for long, the fear loses its grip.
Try going someplace close, like NYC for an overnight, get a room that is lovely and has a hot tub, and try to find yourself, and Hubs again, under the "momma". You can do it, I know of noone stronger, and you really do need this.

Autumn Jibben said...

This beautifully written post hit me like a ton of bricks .... So much truth being said here. So much exposure in to the "Real". Thank you ... Thank you .... your love a nuturing and realness will surely be passed on to those beautiful little ones.

Rachel said...

I totally understand. I almost lost my parents at age 1. :( They wanted to go on a trip but they didn´t because I got sick that morning. That plane crashed and everyone on it died. :( :( So I "saved" my parents with my sicknes and got a lifetime fear of planes.

findingmagnolia said...

Your fear is understandable, but I hope you'll still be able to take a trip. I know what that kind of fear feels like, rising up into your throat, cutting off all sense. Tragedies happen, and if it happens to someone you know, it makes it harder to look at statistics and say, "I'll be fine." But you'll be fine. Really. You will.

Barb Aloot said...

Could you start small with an overnight away somewhere not too far? See what you can tolerate, take it one little step at a time? I hope you can find a way to take some kind of break that really is relaxing for you.

Mere said...

Heaven knows I've thought of this several times, seeing as how between business and pleasure, Brian got on and off airplanes 79 times this year. He's been traveling for 7 years now like this, so I could spend my life worrying away, or I could trust that as he's doing the right thing for his career and our family and let God control the rest. I take comfort in the fact that very rarely do commercial airlines crash (in the grand scheme of things with how many planes fly each day). We had a couple of commercial airline pilots in our last ward who assured me that more people die in car crashes than in plane crashes (true!)

I've also thought of this in regards to us traveling as a couple. It's something we love to do and it's something that really strengthens our marriage. I could do some serious worrying about what would happen to our kids if we both died. Instead, we made a will, listing our 3 choices for parents and stipulations that must occur for said people to become parents to our children. Having a will doesn't make the worry go away, but it does help (a little).

Burgess said...

I definitely have had this fear myself. Something struck me recently as I was watching a talk from the April 2012 conference "How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration in your Personal Life." -- he made an off handed comment "We will live for our appointed life span" -- wait......what? I vowed to not live in that fear anymore because I'm going to die when I'm meant to die. Whether that's on the couch, or on the beach. but I still understand that you wouldn't want your last days to be on the beach, but rather with your kids. So take from that what you will.....