28 April 2008

A shiver of fear

As I post this let me say two things. First, it was written in the middle of last week, one of those weeks during which one simply does one’s best. Not much writing. Only that which seemed essential. Second, Tal is fine, back to yard work and fishing. I don’t want anyone to have to read to the end to find that out.

We all live with it, some unspoken fear in our deep down most hidden recesses. Some of us are steadfast in our refusal to fashion even the slightest nod in that dark direction. And, some of us are aware of them, those fears, knowing they are there, all the while keeping a polite distance. No matter who we are or what our natural stance where fear is concerned, sometimes we come face-to-face.

The first thought I have when the question of fear comes to mind is a quote which pre-dates me, a quote which is a tag line, essentially, for at least a couple of generations shortly before the middle of the 20th century. As the world descended into the second world war, this country’s president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, striving to invest the United States with courage declared, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” That’s one approach. Seemingly easier, though, and at the other end of the spectrum is my mind’s eye vision of a hand, clutching a crimpled tissue, fluttering to the mouth at the briefest hint of a fear-inducing topic.

This week I have found myself inhabiting the via media, the middle way, good Episcopalian that I am, knowing and believing (two different things, by the way) that there is room for a broad range of reaction, position, response. Tal had a couple of distinctly difficult days resulting in my calling his physician on Monday afternoon when he came in from a round of golf. “Don’t bring him here. Go straight to the emergency room. We’ll call ahead for you.”

Fear. I was with FDR. The fear is the worst part. My hand, even without the requisite tissue, wanted to flutter, my prayer a “please, please not yet.”

Tests, bloodwork, hours of waiting. Not a stroke. The reeling unbalance unexplained … perhaps a result of an, as yet undiagnosed, ear infection. The dragging lethargy unexplained … perhaps something as simple as springtime yard work. Too much of a good thing.

But, the fear. It has retreated a bit. The fear. It is, in truth, an affirmation of my deciding to retire. The hours simply spent at home doing what Tal wants to do are hours of presence and joy. The fear. I refuse not to look. I refuse to cower. I refuse to descend into the dark, ceasing to live, letting the fear win.

Every life ends. Monday night was a forceful reminder to me that, while I acknowledge that truth, I must claim the present with the most real intention I can give it.

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