Wednesday, September 26, 2007

False Evidence Appearing Real

"You're coming up to kiss us goodnight, right?"

This was my 9-year-old daughter's plaintive query last night. We had just finished snuggling in my bed for a few minutes, and it was now time for bed. It's a routine that we've had, nightly, for more than three years: they get their clothes out for the next day, brush their teeth, and then we snuggle in my big bed for a while, sometimes reading if there's time, but always snuggling and talking. And every night, for more than three years, I send them to their bedroom, then come in and kiss them good night.

And every night for three years, my daughter asks the same question:

"You're coming up to kiss us goodnight, right?"


Sunday nights are in a bit of a flux right now. There is conflict over what we as a family should do when we get home from church (one of the things I like is that the church we go to is run by a group of thirtysomethings who aren't early risers. The service is at five, and there's a meal afterwards). Especially since we ended up watching two of the weekend movies on Saturday night. My daughter wanted to play a game or read. My son wanted to watch Torchwood. Last weekend, we did what he wanted, so I told him that he could watch until his sister got out of the shower, and then we'd turn it off.

When that time came, he threw a fit. He went upstairs to his room and wouldn't take a shower screamed and cried and banged against the wall. Suddenly he was quiet, and a few minutes later he came downstairs.

"I've cracked the wall," he said.


Wendyno, my old cat, has been a finicky eater all her life. If it's not mouse-flavored, she'll take it or leave it. So, I don't really know how long she had gone without really eating. It was Friday night that I noticed she was licking her mouth excessively, 'chomping' her mouth, and generally acting miserable. Is this a dental problem, or something worse? Whatever it is, it's going to require a visit to the vets. I'm four years, nine months, and twenty-five days into a bankruptcy, and I've just spent money I don't really have on my divorce. Vet bills? Imagine strapping weights onto the ankles of a marathon runner three miles from the finish line. That's how I felt.

When the phone rings at 3:41 am, it usually means trouble. This time, it meant Lt. Trouble. He programmed a special song for my cel phone to play when it rings. So when it went off, I knew it was him. His hand was tingling, and he had a headache earlier in the day, so he went to Webmd and decided he was having a stroke.


What do all of these events have in common (other than really preventing me from having a good night's sleep)? They're all reactions based in fear.

Fear-based reactions are an easy habit to get into, and are hard to break. Voice of experience here on this, trust me. The real trick about dealing with fear is that often what makes us afraid is rarely the source of the fear.

When I asked my daughter why, after three years of me kissing them goodnight after snuggling, she was still asking the question, she dissolved into tears. I don't think that was a bad thing.

The fear my two little ones have are similar: He's afraid that I love her more than I love him. She's afraid I don't love her at all.

Lt. Trouble's freak-out, I suspect had nothing to do with his tingly hands. He's 25, a 1st Lieutenant, and on Wednesday he's taking a position traditionally held by a senior Captain, in a west Texas town where he's going to be living for the next two years without his fiance. All that anxiety that he's shoved down below his consciousness needed to bubble up somewhere, and it did it at 3:41 am on a Tuesday morning.

Me on the other hand...well, my fears were a bit more on-target. I don't have a lot of money. What I do have is a fairly extensive support group, and the newfound ability to--gasp--ask for things. Sometimes I ask for what I want. Sometimes I ask for what I need. This weekend, I needed help.

So, at a 12-step meeting on Saturday morning, I talked about my cat, her needs, my situation, and my fears. A woman I don't know--who had just recently started coming to this meeting, caught my eye and mouthed "see me after the meeting." While the next person spoke, there was a meow from outside, and a cat leapt up onto the open windowsill, and jumped into the room and wandered around for a bit.

After the meeting, I spoke to the woman, who gave me information about a program that's just started in my town that offers one-time grants to people in financial trouble who have pets that need medical care.

Through this group, I was able to find a vet, and I've got an appointment with them tomorrow--with any amount up to $300 guaranteed to be paid. I don't know what the diagnosis is going to be (I'm hoping it's just a bad tooth), but at least I won't have to think about having to put her down for something that could be easily treatable.

The woman's name, by the way, is Kitty. I'm not making this up.

Trouble was pretty agitated. His Da had had a series of strokes that, along with renal failure, were the long, drawn-out cause of his death. Trouble didn't want to go that way. I wanted to point out that, among other things, his Da smoked a pack of Camel unfilters per day, and drank four cases of Genny Screamers per week for most of his life, and still, after all that, the strokes didn't start until his late sixties. But I didn't. I listened to his fears, told him it was OK to be afraid, and if he really thought he was having a stroke, he should go to the base infirmary. He conceded that it might, at worst just be a mini-stroke. I suggested that perhaps even that was a bit extreme, and--although the tingling was something to have looked at--perhaps the bigger issue is his anxiety, and to just sit with his fear until it went away. We talked for a half an hour, and I think I convinced him that the best course of treatment would be to get some rest, and see what happens in the morning.

His youngest brother and I had a bit of a talk. There were many tears, and I confessed that his behavior angered and frightened me. Next weekend, we're going to move his bed, and he's going to buy get some tape and joint compound, and repair the cracks.

I let his sister cry in my arms for a good long time last night. Sometimes that's the best thing to do. No talking, just love and understanding. Tonight, after we snuggled, and I started them off to their bedroom, I stopped my daughter. "I'll be up in a minute to kiss you goodnight," I said

I'm only one man. It's hard to deal with two kids who both think that the other one's getting the better end of the deal, but I don't have a choice--or much chance of success. I'll just love them both and let them know that the love that they get will be enough.

And I need to let myself know that I, too, have enough as well.



Blogger ell said...

you are a wonderful father and person and i'm sure you'll make it through all this just fine. your kids are very fortunate to have you.

don't forget to take care of yourself, too.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

Anxiety is very sneaky. I thought I was having a heart attack- my arms were numb and everything.

I hope he finds ways to dispel it.

I have to say that I think you're really finding solutions to the difficulties in your life. A lot of people would just piss and moan but you're dealing. I know it's not always easy. Never give up.

I'm also a big believer in having a good cry. Thanks for letting your girl cry, on behalf of all crying people in this world, y'know?

One more thing- your boy is way ahead. He's already learning to recognize his emotions instead of blaming everyone else. Plus he's learning how to use drywall compound. All good stuff for a young fella to know.

I gotta go. Might go have a good cry. Heck why not.

10:36 AM  
Blogger cadbury_vw said...

you are a good dad


i hope that at the right time someone will hold you and let you know that you are not alone


the stroke thing - tension can easily cause temporary vascular constriction - ischemia

which can result in numbness and tingling

so he was potentially half right

it just won't be permanent


the father of my old boss [J] (the one that gave me good advice about my stbx) was an alcoholic.

his father has passed away now. J's younger brother is a mentally challenged adult. when J is supposed to pick his brother up to go do something after work, the brother will start phoning him about a half an hour before to make sure he is still actually coming.

J says that even though he has never missed an appointment/pick-up - well he has, but he contacted his brother that one time several hours before to tell him he would not be able to make it until later - and then arrived exactly at the rescheduled time - his brother is still afraid

J says his brother is afraid because he had an alcoholic parent - and that anxieties like that about reliability are common in adult children of alcoholics...

"You're coming up to kiss us goodnight, right?"

1:28 PM  
Blogger terry said...

man. you made me cry with this one.

i think you show remarkable compassion and grace in the face of all the troubles you have to deal with. and your kids are very lucky you're their dad.

1:51 PM  
Blogger GC said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:58 PM  
Blogger GC said...

and then I read your post more carefully.

hope it was just a case of your cat sneaking some bubblegum or something.

2:59 PM  

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