Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Killjoy Villain Defeated

I’ve been awaiting an email for the last week or so. Hopefully peering into my inbox rather impatiently. I’ve had a friend for nearly a decade who had been on an adventure, and I was awaiting news of it.

I’ll call her Lydia. Lydia and I met up on a message board about a TV show long ago, and in this internet age it is not unusual to have friends across the globe for long periods of time. Lydia lives in Australia but a click of a mouse is all it takes to conquer distance these days. There have been gaps in our correspondence from time to time, but in nearly ten years we’ve discussed all manner of subjects. Work, family, food, love, pets, houses, decorating. There are hardly any areas untouched over the course of that much time. Like friends everywhere, we talk – or rather read, and write – about the triumphs in life and the troubles too. In the days of yore, I would have called her a pen pal.

Lydia wanted to take a trip from Australia to tour some sights in the U.S. and Canada, but the friend who was going to go with her was unable to gather the necessary funds. We talked that over, and as friends do, I encouraged her to take the trip by herself. To simply go for it, and form memories that would last a lifetime. Shored up by my, and others, encouragement, Lydia decided to do just that. Until an old foe of mine, and a new one of hers nearly derailed the plan.

If my life was a comic book with all the attendant heroes and villains, my arch nemesis would be named Seizure. Many years ago I had one following a brief illness, they’re quite frightening. I never had another. That isn’t why Seizure started lurking in my personal shadows. Six years ago, in a state where epileptics are allowed to drive, a man had a break through seizure that would take his life, and along with his, my father-in-law’s. I don’t blame the man, he didn’t set out to hurt a soul. I blame Seizure.

In the six years since that accident, my husband’s family has been through so much following the loss of their father. There are seven children in that family, and that one seizure had ripples that carried with them tremendous sadness, and pain. More lives than one were hurt, and it’s been hard to watch.

So when Lydia, who had never had one prior, wrote to me that she’d had a seizure that was put down to dehydration, combined with a glass of wine, and being overheated, I cursed the ripple once more. The trip of a lifetime, the one she would always carry memories of from that day forward, would be crushed under the heel of that bastard Seizure. Even though it was extremely unlikely to happen again, I knew, and so did Lydia that traveling alone in a foreign country with the possibility of Seizure poking his loathsome head out was a risk too large to take.

Do you remember when you thought your parents were essentially super heroes? That there was nothing that they would fail to handle. No way that they would be unable to keep you safe and happy? I don’t remember feeling that way, but I remember when my son thought that about me.

Years ago, when he was four, I undertook one of the prescribed measures to keep him safe; educating him about Stranger Danger. It seems that most children, when told not to talk to strangers, think that strangers wear masks, or are easily identified. Like a villain in a comic book. As we talked about it, talked about how he had to be careful, because a stranger could take him away, he answered with heartbreaking trust, “But you or daddy would just come and get me, mommy.”

He completely believed it. I had to turn away for a moment to hide the fact that my eyes had filled with tears. How could I live up to that kind of trust from someone who thought I could defeat anything? I’m still trying to do my best. He probably doesn’t remember that moment, and I will never forget it.

After Seizure, that rotter, made an appearance in my friend’s life, I waited for the email that would tell me she’d decided not to go. It made sense. It was the safe thing to do. I was prepared to be supportive of Lydia, to tell her that someday she’d still be able to go. Truthfully, I hated that brain malfunction Seizure so much, killing whatever joy he touched.

That email never arrived. Instead one containing a different message did. One that made me think back to that day, when my son expressed complete faith in abilities I wasn’t even sure I had. Lydia’s mother had offered to go on the trip with her rather than see her cancel it.

Parents. Protectors of safety, saviors of dreams. Makers of memories.

The other email I was waiting for arrived today, full of tales about grand vistas, beautiful mountains, glistening harbors, and helicopter rides over the Grand Canyon. My friend had celebrated a birthday in what was to her a foreign land. It was over-brimming with exclamation points and impossible to read without wanting to cheer. The memories of a lifetime made, fortune had indeed favored the brave.

I don’t remember thinking of my parents as super heroes, able to provide rescue in any situation. At some point we lose that belief. We know our parents are people, laid low by life’s problems at times.

But today as the proof that my arch nemesis had not been able to kill my friend’s dream arrived in my inbox, I couldn’t help but think of one mom in such terms.

And she got a couple of really cool helicopter rides out of the deal, too.


Derik said...

I think you've chosen the perfect metaphor for life, in this instance. You know, it's hard to take pride in allegory any more, but when one chooses such sweet success, well, it's hard not to savor.

PhilipH said...

Alane, that's a heartwarming story. And you told it perfectly.

I always had great faith in my Ma and Pa, especially during the blitz when the bombs, doodlebugs and V2 rockets screamed and threatened us night after night during the war.

My Pa built our Anderson shelter in the garden. Later, he installed the Morrison shelter, under our sitting room table! A few steel plates to save us if a bomb hit our house.

It was the reassurances of parents that made us all feel safe; it would never be us who were killed or injured. My brothers and I believed them.

As parents ourselves we give encouragement and undying help to our own children. They trust us. Believe us. They are still our children - adulthood notwithstanding.

Great post Alane.

The Bug said...

I'm crying at work again - because my mom would totally have done the same for me (except, really, she would have planned the trip & made me go with her). Sometimes I REALLY miss her. Sigh.

Land of shimp said...

Derik, ah yes, a bird in the hand is worth flies and vinegar. Don't count your chickens when they fall in the woods ;-)

Philip, thank you. She's a very nice woman, and clearly her mother is also. I think parents in the areas that were bombed in any war face a huge challenge. My mom was born during a blitz so she doesn't have any memories of the war. My grandmother does. She was in an area that as only bombed a few times, but the constant fear she's talked about must have been crushing. She also mentioned that everyone tried their very best not to show it, even to the other adults.

Figuring that there was no point in making a bad situation worse.

Just the thought of trying to pretend, "Oh yes, we'd be safe as houses underneath the steel reinforced dining room table."'s truly remarkable, and not any less so for what a common story it is.

The Bug, I'm sorry! Your mom sounds lovely, though, and it's very understandable that you would miss such a fun person :-)

Miss OverThinker said...

Found your blog thru Merlin's world. Loved your comment on his latest post - very heart warming story.. and so is this one.. I am so happy things worked out for your friend and she had a good time.

Jo said...

How wonderful. I used to have a friend who always said, "Never let fear and common sense hold you back."

When my daughter came home after she had graduated from high school and announced that she was taking a trip to Paris, I suggested perhaps that it might be fun if I were to go along with her. *heh* We had a wonderful time, and I felt I was keeping her safe. We have some fabulous memories and photographs that she now shows her children, and next year she is taking them to Paris.

In many ways, we do keep each other safe, don't we? My parents always made me feel very safe.

You must be doing your job right, for your son to feel that way about you too. :-)

Land of shimp said...

Thank you, Miss Over Thinker! I really appreciate knowing that, particularly since that story is rather sad, and I wasn't sure if I should tell it. It's nice to know it was well received.

I'm very happy for my friend, too. She's such a nice person, and she had such a lovely trip, thanks in no small part to her mom.

Jo, I remember you mentioning Paris before but I wasn't aware your traveling companion was the Meritorious Mrs. McGillicuddy! That's perfectly wonderful, and it touched my heart because the other thing I remember is about your mom and the far away look in her eye.

Not only do we keep each safe, sometimes we can heal the wounds of the ages to the best of our abilities.

I hope I'm doing my job well. My son was four when he believed that, and hopefully on the levels that really count, he still does.

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