I think back to one Halloween—thirty-eight years ago, while walking
through the woods and talking about candy and mud pies—my little
sister and I were chased by a man on a motorcycle. We cracked the
sticks beneath our feet with the weight of frenzied confusion.
We jumped over streams of murky waters, leaving all the tadpoles
in our wake. In fear, I ran so fast, I left my terrified sister
begging for me to wait. All I could do was pray that my sister would
be able to keep up, stubby legs and all. All I did was look back and scream,
“Stephanie, run faster, please keep up!”
Now, as a much bigger me, I feel less like a coward, but I sometimes
awaken in the darkest part of the night. I’ll freeze and shake, like a
thawing statue, thinking my son woke up in a manic state again. I
become like ice, frozen with fear. In this, fear is clear. It sees right
through me to magnify every flaw, and everything going wrong. It’s in
the dolls and horrid images that haunt me until dawn.
Ever since my son’s diagnoses, fear continues to take me into the
future to exhaust my days. It’s the lack of progress, no growth, it’s my
wasting away. Fear is the attempt to take the pain from a loved one
even when you know they’ll never be the same. It’s a first cry facing life
and it’s in the last breath facing the unknown. It’s in every syllable
against deaf ears with violence and shouts begging others to hear. It’s
in the static lost in translation and in those distant, muffled cries. It’s the
thoughts of tortured souls right next door and in the ghosts that have
lost their way home.
With the arrival of Halloween, I find myself reflecting about
that day long ago when we wanted nothing more than to be and to play.
Think about how I was the protector, I was like Sheila the Great, but I let
fear dictate another fate. If I could do it all over again, I’d stop and wait.
Plant my feet in the muddy waters, before the ledge of rocks we had to
climb. Take Stephanie’s small hand in mine and declare,
“Fear, you’re no friend of mine.”