We traveled home late one night down Southbound US-23. I sat next to Mom in our mustard yellow Plymouth Duster, and did my best to try and sleep. The black sky was spitting snow at the headlights while the heat vents blew warm stale air onto my face and chest. It was warm enough in the car, but I used my long winter coat as a blanket. Sis was asleep in the backseat and I envied the ease in which she could sleep just about anywhere.
I could feel the thick, hard vinyl of the mustard yellow seat as I shifted my weight and tried to drift off. The seat was anything but comfortable, but I liked riding up front with Mom. The radio was playing low and the AM dial glowed in the dark. Mom listened to the late night news on WJR which I have to admit even at an early age, scared the heck out of me. Maybe it was the staccato rhythm of the announcers voice or the sound of the teletype and the occasional beeping that signaled the end of one segment and the beginning of another. It seemed that the news was always bad.
There was a murderer on the loose in another state that I was convinced was going to show up at our front door. There was disaster somewhere in the world and my mind would race with thoughts of could it happen here in my state, or the city I lived in. The stories of missing children, of wars in other lands, of leaders that would kill their own people. Even at the young age of eight, I felt that the world would never be safe for me. Maybe it was because my parents were divorced and my daddy wasn’t there to protect all of us, I don’t know.
Mom’s family was located on the west side of the state. When she married my father she pulled up stakes and moved away, but our homes were always pretty close to the highway. She loved my dad, but not in a traditionally romantic way. Dad wasn’t her Prince Charming, he was her best friend. He offered security and unconditional love and the escape from the abuse she had experienced her entire life. I don’t ever remember living with my dad, which is kind of sad.
Maybe the anxiety that I experienced at such an early age wouldn’t have been so devastating if Dad had been there to fight the monsters in the closet, or under the bed. Maybe he could have quelled my fears from the horrible news stories I heard on the radio and t.v., but maybe not.
After all these years of dealing with a backwards fight/flight response, I’ve come to realize that it’s pretty much how I’m wired. Therapy and a good anti-depressant/anxiety medication have made my life better, but there’s the little girl in me that still wishes for my dad. My parents’ divorce wasn’t anyone’s fault, but I’m sad it happened all the same.
Sometimes, I wish I could take the knowledge I have now, and go back to being that little girl trying to sleep on that crappy colored vinyl front seat, and tell myself not to fear life. To not fear the unknown sounds in the walls, and not fear the darkness of my bedroom, to not fear whether or not I will be liked or loved, and to not fear being alone. There are so many things in the world to fear, but there is so much more to be experienced and enjoyed.
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