Before dad died life was grand, or so it seemed that way. I was scared of my own shadow but my dad had a way of pulling me back and lifting me up. My first memory of a ‘fear’ was when my parents were trying to teach me how to insert a plug into an outlet properly. I remember crying and fretting that I was going to be shocked or electrocuted, how could a 5 year old even have those thoughts?
Mom was very nervous but her nervousness came off as anger. When my parents were trying to teach me how to properly insert a plug into the socket my mom became increasingly upset with me as I cried, my dad had a soothing voice, he used humor when I became upset and he was able to guide me to insert the plug into the socket. Fear over!
For whatever reasons, my mom never seemed as approachable as my dad. I remember my dad asking me if I would go to the store and pick up some bread and milk for mom, I told him no! I remember dad begging me in a very kind voice and I told him no again and said, “Tell Andy to go to the store!” Andy is my brother and my dad told my brother he had to go to the store for our mom. My brother didn’t argue and I sat there feeling like a princess because I got my way.
We went camping a lot and I remember one incident when my mom told me to do something and I shot back with a big NO, I don’t have to do that. Mom became angry and went to slap my cheek but I moved and her hand hit my lip. My lip began bleeding, it swelled and I was hysterical. My dad looked at my mom and said, “I’m running home to get a few things and I’m taking Lisa with me.” When we arrived home, he ran to the fridge and pulled some ice out and put it on my lip. Again, dad was my hero and I feared mom.
Dad had a workshop in his garage and many times he would ask if I wanted to go with him to his workshop. It was just me and dad, I was a chatterbox and dad either had the patience of a saint or his love for me was so profound, he enjoyed listening. Looking back, I think dad had more patience because he wasn’t home 24/7 taking care of 5 children. He was able to pick and choose when he wanted to spend time with us. Mom didn’t have that luxury since she was a stay at home mom.
I have many fond memories of time spent with my dad and the last few I had were of my brother and I going ice fishing with dad on Lake Erie and boating on Lake Erie with my dad and his friend. Yes, dad was the fun parent but I can’t fault my mom for that because their roles differed.
Life changed in a Millisecond
When I was 9 years old my dad wasn’t around as much. He was either working or in bed, spending more and more time in bed over the months. I remember one particular day in January, it was dad’s birthday and I brought his present up to him while he was lying in bed. I bought a saw for him with the intention that he would be back out in the garage using it, of course I would be there with him! He opened up my gift and said, “I love the saw, I can’t wait to go out to my workshop with you and use this!” My reply: “Yea, if you ever get out of bed again!” I sounded like a brat when I spoke to him. Hell, I was a brat because I knew I could get away with it.
Less than 3 weeks after I purchased the saw
My father passed away when I was 10 years old. I had no clue that he was seriously ill. My mom tried to tell us, she said that dad was very ill and may never get out of bed again. Dad passed away in the 70’s when talking about death and dying was fairly off limits. There wasn’t hospice back then, no grief support for children or the spouse. In February of 1970 life changed forever as I knew it.
After the funeral
We were surrounded by my parent’s friend up until the funeral ended. Once the funeral was over and we returned home on a cold, blustery, sunny, winter day, we never spoke of our dad again. My memories of that time period are very sparse. My brother developed night terrors but I didn’t know what they were, I would just hear him downstairs late at night screaming in terror. I remember coming downstairs one night to find out what was going on because I was scared. Mom told me to go back to bed and not to wake my brother because he was having nightmares. I just remember going back to my room feeling very distressed, scared and bewildered. I had no idea what a night terror was.
Life as I knew it had forever changed
I found myself becoming more fearful of everything and as a child I had no idea that it wasn’t normal to be so fearful of life. I figured everyone had a ton of fears. It wasn’t until I became a teenager that I realized I was different but I wanted to fit in so I would hide my fears. Sometimes my deep fears would surface and my friends would make fun of me. Somehow, I found ways to stifle my fears, I didn’t want to look like a wimp and I longed for others to really like me.
I feared death at a very young age. I began working at the hospital at 18 years old and learned I wasn’t invincible after seeing more death and dying. I began to fear that those I loved the most would die and I would hyper focus on death instead of loving life. I even feared I would die young and that fear held me back from doing things that were supposed to be fun. I remember my fiance asking me to go boating and hesitated but went. Once we were in the water I began to freak out and begged him to get us back to shore. He tried to calm me but it didn’t work. I could tell he felt defeated and frustrated with me but he brought us back to shore. He must have really loved me because he continued to date me and we eventually married each other, he also had a great deal of patience and my anxiety disorder(which I wasn’t aware of the actual term at the time) didn’t scare him away. I never realized it but he was similar to my dad in many ways and his love for me had a calming effect when I was unable to be rationale.
My dad was my rock and I will never know if the loss of him and not having closure after his death caused my Anxiety Disorder to reel out of control. I will never know if life would have been different for me if he had not died when I was a child.
You never fully get over the loss of a loved one. I moved on but after my mother passed away a few years ago, I began thinking of my father again and all the memories we didn’t share after his death. I once again, thought of us as the family we used to be but never got to experience life as a family after I turned 10 years old.
I honestly believe that if there isn’t closure after the loss of someone you love, it can affect you in many different ways. I was told by Doctor that it’s been proven many people are born with a gene that makes them predisposed to Anxiety and biological events can set the pattern. I think dad’s death, mom’s fears which did spill over onto each of us and not having closure after I lost my dad set the pattern in motion for my Anxiety Disorder to become full blown as a young adult.
Do I blame anyone?
No, I don’t blame my mom, she did the best she could with the tools she was given. I feel bad for my mom as well because she didn’t have closure either. She was only 32 years old when dad died and was left alone to raise 5 children 10 years old and younger. I don’t blame anyone but it would be easy considering my teachers were aware of my dad’s cancer before he died and fully aware I lost my dad but never said one word once I returned to class within less of a week of losing him. I blame the era, not the people. That’s just the way life was then, hush… if you don’t talk about it, well… it never happened, right?
There are many fears I’ve overcome through therapy but I still have a lot of fears that I’m not even aware of to this day that I have to work on. Having Anxiety Disorder is like the weather, it’s unpredictable and you need to have the tools to survive before the weather changes again.
This story is just a blurb that began years ago and I can’t blame my entire existence on my dad’s death or my mom’s fears. Mom used to tell us after my father died (many years later) that he suffered from Anxiety attacks and I’m sure he did. But, as I grew much older I also realized my mom suffered from anxiety as well as OCD… another story for another day.
Piecing together your life’s circumstances is harder than a complicated puzzle but it’s vital to your well being to work on that puzzle. Little by little, as you begin to visualize the pieces by putting them together, you find out more about yourself. Blaming is not part of healing, focusing on your well being and being mindful is tantamount to healing.