Five Fears

Writing prompt: Five fears you have.

1. I am afraid my husband will die before me.

This terrifies me, because his death would logically mean that the only person capable of supporting me through the shattering grief would be gone, and I would have to live out all the long years of my life without him. I want us to die together in our 90s, peacefully in our sleep.

I think I must think about this because my mom died so early in my marriage, and I’ve been watching the repercussions of widowhood and remarriage ripple across my dad’s life ever since. My parents seem old to me, but mom had just turned 60 when she died. Dad’s survived her by 13 years, and he probably has another decade or so left in him.

It breaks my heart to think of outliving him by 20 or 30 years, or leaving him to that fate.

2. I am afraid we will die before our son reaches adulthood. 

It’s a tragedy of the human experience that all children must, at some point, deal with parental death. For most of us, the preference is later rather than sooner. Probably for the same reasons I worry about #1, I have a vague, ever-present fear that my husband and I will somehow both die before our son is 18.

This is exacerbated a bit because of, well, laziness on my part. See, we kinda have two wills. There’s the ones we wrote and notarized together in 2002, where each of us name my sister-in-law (husband’s sister) as the guardian of our son.

She’s fine; a great choice. Kiddo gets along with her and his uncle, he’d get to stay in-state, and he’d get to keep his dog. So, sure, his world would have completely flipped upside down in terms of being orphaned, but at least he’d be in the same state and county, with family he’s familiar with, and with his dogs. They also understand he’s been raised atheist and wouldn’t try to force religion on him– sil is religious, but tolerant, and her husband is irreligious and chill.

Then there’s the will I wrote/ notarized in 2006, when we were getting separated. I’m pretty sure it would take precedence over the 2002 wills in the long-shot event we die simultaneously, or so closely together that there’s no time for me to change my will. It gives guardianship of my minor son to an LDS family member who does homeschooling, lives in a hot desert state, is allergic to dogs (we didn’t have a dog, let alone dogs, in 2006), and is (reportedly) super duper anti-science levels of creationist religious.

I mean, the person named as guardian in the 2006 will is a nice person, and a good parent, don’t get me wrong–I’m not dogging on them on that front. I’m just saying, my kid would not fit in that household. It would be like the tragic beginning of a dramatic coming-to-age YA novel: Kid loses parents, dog, and moves to a completely new state to live in with strangers under strict, foreign rules. Cue rain dripping down the windowpane.

Also, the spouse of the individual named as guardian mocked my son’s speech impediment in an attempt to “encourage” him to speak normally a few years after I wrote the 2006 will, so … not really keen on having them around Kiddo during sensitive emotional times. 

I think I can negate the 2006 will by tearing it up, but really I just need to update my will. The biggest impediment is that it’s a giant pain in the ass, the template is all fuckered up, and I just keep putting it off. It’s a stupid fear, easily resolved by completing some goddamn paperwork.

3. I am afraid of being paralyzed. 

No disrespect to all the paralyzed people out there, but I find this scarier than dying. Probably because of all the effort it takes to find a new normal. A non-paralyzing/ disabling accident is just, recovery or death. One or the other. But something that changes everything? Man. That’s scary.

That’s waking up in the hospital with the sound of machines and the pain of the accident still stinging in your skin, and being relieved to be alive and then realizing it’s not as simple as that. That’s trying to comprehend the news as the medical team explains that yeah, you’ll recover, but you’ll never be able to do this thing that you took for granted again, and all the things associated with it are now going to be so much more difficult.

Being paralyzed would be waking up alive and realizing you there’s no choice. You’re exhausted and battered, but there’s no option to say, “Fuck it, I don’t want to try,” and just going back to sleep, you have to try. You have to try and keep trying, even when all your muscles hurt worse than the accident and you’re frustrated and feeling stupid for not being able to do the thing you used to do without thinking.

Months, maybe years, of doctors and hospitals and physical therapy and chemical-y smells and maybe surgeries. Ugh. I mean, I’d accept it, because what else are you gonna do? Find a new normal, become a disability advocate, talk about what a life-changing event it was and all that sort of thing.

But I hate the idea of the journey in between. All that emotional work, all that trauma, all that growth. I’d rather not.

I think about this a lot because I ride motorcycle.

4. I am afraid I won’t get published and can’t get employed.

Sums it up.

5. I am afraid my son’s SO and I will not get along.

It must be difficult, being the in-laws. You’re older now, presumably more financially established, and your kids are striking out on their own, establishing their own households and doing things by their rules, and you just have to be like, “Okay, I hope I raised my kid well and they can do this. Fly free, don’t be a dick.”

But what if my son goes and finds a nice SO, and I just have literally nothing in common with them? Like … nothing?

I mean, I have this amazing friend that I adore, right? And we have so many interests in common, and every time we hang out we have a blast. So it seems reasonable that we would love all of each others friends, right? Wrong. Instead, every time she’s met my friends, she’s been a little kinda underwhelmed, and every time I’ve met her friends, I’ve been a little kinda underwhelmed. It’s like our friendship is the two overlapping parts of a Venn Diagram of friendship, and everyone else befriended by either of us falls outside those overlapping areas.

So … what if that happens with my son’s SO? It’s a valid fear. It’s kinda happened so far with his friends, but I figure that is because:

  • I don’t really like kids in general (excepting, obviously, Kiddo, my niblings, and a few select children of my close friends)
  • It’s been an upsetting and common trend for the boys in his various social circles to use a lot of sexist and homophobic language, like, “Girls can’t drive,” or “That’s gay,” or, “Guys can’t wear pink.” It’s not any one set of boys; it’s an ongoing issue. It happened in Centralia, it happened with the neighborhood boys, it happened with the soccer team boys, it happens with the boys he plays online with. Obviously, all I can do is keep talking to my son about the problems inherent in that sort of gendered thinking, but I dislike hearing that shit spouted off, regardless of age.

But what if my son ends up dating/ engaged/ married to someone with drastically different values/ interests/worldview from us? It seems unlikely, but I’m sure my husband’s parents never thought he’d marry someone who didn’t like animals, either. ‘Course, I eventually came around … but still. Initially, I was all, ew! dogs!

What if Kiddo falls in love with a super religious conservative mormon who wants tons of babies and thinks we’re going to hell for being atheists, and keeps trying to convert us? Unlikely, yeah, but … not impossible. Lust and love are strange things.

What if Kiddo marries someone who expects us to be the type of grandparents who are super involved with visiting and babysitting and shit, and when we don’t they get offended and say we don’t care?

What if he falls in love with a vegan polyamorous pansexual hippie who gets offended by our meat-eating ways and thinks we’re close-minded by our preference for and recommendation of monogamy?

The thing is, we get along with our son pretty well–he’s neat. We all actually have a lot of interests in common, the three of us. We all like riding motorcycle, we’re all fond of animals, we like similar video games and films and tv shows. He likes to read the same genre books that I do, and frequently borrows from my library. He’s a good artist, and likes to show me his work and is willing to take drawing tips from me. He likes dirt-riding with his dad, enjoys crabbing with us, and gets passionate when he discusses political issues with us. He’s smart and funny and witty.

We spend time with him not just because he’s our son and we legally have to with that whole “food and shelter” thing, but because he’s a really cool person and we genuinely enjoy his company.  When we’re adults, I’d like to continue having a good relationship with him, and be able to seamlessly incorporate his future SO into our family.

I think about this because, I mean, it’s not like you choose your family of origin. There are plenty of parents who’ve longed for athlete sons and ended up with theater stars, or daydreamed of little girls who love princess dresses and makeup, only to be baffled by the scientific, dress-resisting tomboy on their hands. There are plenty of nerdy parents who have tried to get their children interested in geekery, only to be dragged in shocked protest to sports game after sports game.

What really makes “family” more likely to get along than anyone else? Shared DNA? Ha. Why should that matter? Humans genetically differ an average of something like one in 1300 DNA base pairs … so any two humans, anywhere on earth, are about 99.9% identical, in terms of DNA sequences.

DNA isn’t exactly a predictor of personality type–and that’s just considering intergenerational, which is already fraught with issues. What about siblings!? Hell, you don’t even get a say in whether you want siblings or not. It’s the parents who always say, “Oh, I want them to have siblings so they have someone to play with!”

Although, if people were honest, they’d say, “Oh, I want them to have siblings so they have someone besides me to entertain them!” because young children are very exhausting and energetic and have high demands of energy and time.

Assuming siblings will be friends because they share some DNA and the same house is super optimistic. It’s kind of akin to getting pregnant at the same time as your closest childhood friend and assuming that your kids will be best friends–or even better, fall in love and get married and join your families!

It’s crazy. Because even within families, people are so unique and different in personality, and once they hit those teen years and get that hormone-dump that kick-starts along with the cerebral development, it’s just damn. A bunch of angry, moody, depressed, competitive teenagers trapped in the same space and hating each other.

I’m not talking about high school.

As adults, it seems like the average sibling relationship falls into one of three categories:

  • Friends! (rare) They actually like each other, they get along, and they talk and hang out frequently, voluntarily and completely on purpose. They seek out each other’s company.
  • Tolerating/ co-workerish! (most common) They talk a few times a year, mostly out of guilt/ sense of obligation. Privately, they find their sibling tedious or offensive. They probably wouldn’t socialize with them if they weren’t family.
  • Disowned! (rare) Maybe there was sexual or physical abuse from a sibling during childhood. Maybe a sibling is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Maybe as an adult, a sibling joined/ left a cult or found other extremist political/religious views. Maybe a sibling married a jerk. A lot of people just cut ties instead of dealing with relationships where every interaction is toxic and upsetting.

And that’s just family of origin, right? I mean, we can’t even guarantee we get along with the family we’re born into, that we grow up with. Like, we know their personalities, we know their quirks and attitudes and preferences and ways of handling them, and the majority of these relationships are still fraught with tensions and communications issues and personality/ value differences and weird power dynamics.

Now add spouses.

In-law relationships are so difficult. I never realized that as a kid. I used to daydream about the second family I would get when I got married; these magical people who would welcome me with open arms and accept me wholly as I am, out of choice–not because they were forced to, because I happened to be born into the situation without anyone’s say-so.

I mean, it was pretty idealistic and I recognize that, but I think I’m getting along all right with my sil and her husband these days, so that’s all good.

When I was a kid, I thought my parents had a good relationship with my grandparents, because we visited every summer. It wasn’t until I was an adult and my mom and grandparents were dead that I put together a lifetime of little hints and phrases–birthday cards and checks, admonishments not to spend this gift on the kids’ school clothes; puzzle pieces of class and economic differences that pointed to a long-running subtle rift of financial tensions over what I suspect was my grandpa’s belief that dad was an inadequate provider.

I haven’t gotten to the in-law stage myself, yet, obviously. I mean, I have in terms of being a daughter-in-law and a sister-in-law, and I don’t think I have an exactly stellar record in those departments. I could have been more compassionate, more patient. Maybe more clear about my health issues, or set better boundaries, I dunno. Luckily, life is a journey and the path is still going.

There’s maybe another year or so until Kiddo starts dating? I hope? He’s 14 now, and I’m hoping he doesn’t feel inclined to date until he’s 16 or 17, hahaha. Anyway, I’m thinking there’s maybe another 5-10 years before he brings home his first “serious” SO, which is so weird to think about.

At some point, any relationship he has with us will be completely voluntary and entirely on his terms. It will no longer be based on needing our financial support or advice, but on whatever relationship bonds we are forging together right now, as a family–and someday, how I manage things with his SO will be another factor what kind of adult family relationship we have.

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