Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Only Thing We Have to Fear ...

Loud noises must have frightened me.  Strange people.  Odd smells.  The new.  None of that can I remember, though.  I was too young.  In the carriage.  My mother pushing.  Surprises were enough, though, to bring the terror and the tears.

A little later, knowing what words were, I heard my brother, older by three years, telling me with great gravity that a Man lived in our bedroom closet.  A Man Who who emerged to ... what? ... if I fell asleep.  So you'd better not fall asleep--not if you want the Man to remain in His closet and not emerge to ... what?  Did I sleep again in childhood?  Did The Man move with us to our next house?  I think He did ...

As the years slowly rolled, then accelerated to a startling speed, new fears arrived, evolved, morphed, evanesced, arrived, evolved ...  I was afraid of flying insects (especially those that bite or sting), snakes, bears, sharks, creatures that hid in my dreams, heights, of that sixth grader who said he would kill me (other big kids too), of striking out with the winning run on base, of getting caught, being called on in class when I wasn't ready (which, sadly, was most of the time), hearing the girl say No, I don't want to go to the dance with you, missing an important foul shot, forgetting my lines (onstage and off), failing my driver's test (I didn't), not getting into college, making new friends, losing old ones, losing a lover, trying out for the college basketball team (and failing), playing tennis matches against far superior opponents, finding a woman to love me, loving back--am I capable? entering the first classroom where I would student teach (West Geauga High School, January 1966), entering the first classroom where I would teach for real (Aurora Middle School, August 1966, Room 116), meeting the parents of my students (They're old--and serious!), losing the respect and affection of students, not getting my grading done, directing a failure on the stage, paying the bills, being admitted to grad school (Can I do this work?  Can I do it well?), finding time to go to grad school while teaching, meeting a woman who would love me, being a husband, being a father, sending manuscripts to publishers (Will they accept?  Reject?), dealing with editors, being alone, handling our infant son (Will he break?  Why won't he sleep?  Why is he crying?  Shouldn't he be eating more?  When will we sleep again?), wondering what my son would hate about me, teaching our son in eighth grade (What will the other kids think?  How can I be fair?), saying something I regret, regretting something I did not say, regretting something I did--or didn't do, directing that final show, retiring, going back to teach (Western Reserve Academy, fall, 2001--Can I do this again?  These WRA students don't know me at all), teaching Hamlet,  hurting Joyce, getting older, losing my father-in-law, my mother-in-law, my father (November 1999), declining health, enduring the annual physical, waiting for the biopsy results, hearing the bad news, undergoing surgery, fighting through the recovery, letting others know I'm all right--really, waiting for test results, undergoing three dozen radiation treatments, waiting for test results, seeing the oncologist, sitting in his waiting room--So many are suffering here, remembering cruelties and failures, living through a week while Joyce is away, dealing with new test results, watching the world of my once-vibrant, energetic mother, nearly 93, shrink and shrink and shrink, driving where I don't want to go, being where I don't want to be, seeing whom I don't want to see, retiring again, not teaching Hamlet, forgetting the poems I've learned, never having time to read it all--to write it all, to see it all, noticing that the lone streetlight down at the end of the block is out ... why is that?

All of this--all of this--frightened me.  Frightens me.  Fear is our father and mother.  Fear greets us at birth, walks with us, takes us by the hand--squeezing now and then, just so we don't forget.  Bids us farewell ...

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