Summer of all fears
July 21, 2008, 8:05 am
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I spent an hour on Saturday watching videos on YouTube about how to breastfeed.

This experience brought me to two conclusions:

1. You really can learn how to do anything on YouTube.

2. People really will put ANYTHING and EVERYTHING on YouTube. I found videos of women breastfeeding their babies for the first time, recorded and published to The Internet for posterity’s sake. That would never happen in my world, not even for a second. I have absolutely no idea why anyone would put themselves out there like that, their most personal moment as a person, a mother, a family, displayed for the world to see.

And then I remembered this blog and I stopped judging.

I watched these videos because I read too many bloggers who had a hard time breastfeeding. They all seem to be able to do it for 2 or 3 months, and spend the entire time bleeding, chafing with thrush and all kinds of other awful things. Since I am completely rational, I have decided that that is going to be me, as well. And again, because I am completely rational, I turned to YouTube to teach me how to do it, so that when it is actually my turn, I will have a head start.

I am totally that girl who asks a professor for the reading list way before the semester starts so I can get a head start on reading.

I fear that I will be a failure, no matter what that is. The first weekend we had Katie home, and Bear was away for the weekend, I spent the night he came home sobbing because I was a failure as a doggie mommy.

Lucky Bear. Imagine what I’ll be like the first weekend I have a baby home.

I fear that I won’t be able to be good enough- in school, in life, in relationships, in careers. I gave up the idea of going to graduate school for a PhD in biology because I decided I didn’t have the grades for it. I graduated with a rope of honors around my neck, and a good friend of mine in the same major did not.

She just started graduate school at Drexel in cell and developmental biology. I am in library school, and absolutely over-qualified for it.

Three years ago, my dad got very sick. He had a total of 4 strokes that summer. In the course of figuring that out, they found colon cancer at a very early stage. Because of the strokes, he had a hard time healing from that surgery. He had the hiccups for a month straight. He was in the hospital for 6 weeks. It was a summer of fear. We thought he was going to die. When we knew he wasn’t going to die, we feared what life was going to be like after.

He’s fine now. Only he notices the effects of the strokes. If you met him today, you would see a older, pudgy man with an astoundingly detailed memory, and strong, well-supported opinions on many topics. You might notice that he sometimes struggles recalling a word, but you also might not notice. You wouldn’t know he had 4 strokes.

The hardest part about that summer was having him in the hospital. The next hardest part was having him come home. I woke up one morning to go to breakfast with an old friend, and found the bathroom covered in blood: the shower, the floor, the toilet, the sink. Everywhere. It looked like someone had been murdered in there. He had taken off his bandage for some reason, and was unable to clean it up. Since my parents oddly have carpet in the bathroom, I spent an hour trying to clean up the blood because I didn’t want my mom to have to replace the carpet. One of the worst stains is still there, hidden under a bathmat. It sometimes peaks out, reminding me of the summer of my fears.

We didn’t deal with it well, none of us. My dad and his sister decided early to not tell my Grandma. She took to calling twice a day, and I had to keep making up lies about why he couldn’t come to the phone. After 2 weeks of that, I called my brother in a fit and announced that we were going to Lancaster to tell Grandma the truth. Lying to my Grandma was not an option.

She still calls every day, at 6 pm. Just to make sure he’s still alive.

That summer, I was taking a class at a community college a county away. OnĀ  my way there one afternoon, the window stopped working and refused to go up. I drove there in 105 degree heat with bugs flying in my mouth. It was awful. I was stressed, tired, hot, and petrified. I called my mom and left a screaming message about how awful the car was, and how I couldn’t deal with it anymore.

I couldn’t deal with any of it anymore. I probably could have picked a better way of expressing my frustration, but it was August of the worst summer of my life.

I came home to a 2 page, handwritten letter about what a failure I was as a daughter. In her defense, it was August of the worst summer of her life, too.

I spent the night sobbing to Bear on the phone to the point of gagging. It took a half hour of gulping gasps of crying before I could tell him what happened. It hurt in a way I couldn’t verbalize. My mom was and is my favorite person. She was able to keep me in line as a child because I was so terrified of disappointing her. Now, I had done it.

I finally cried myself into exhaustion and slept. My phone decided to not work in the morning when Bear called to see how I was doing. He worried, and called the house phone. My dad answered, and Bear told him what happened. After I talked to Bear, I sat on the sofa in my underpants and a t-shirt next to a very sick Dad, sobbing over what my mother had written to me. He feared that his illness had driven a wedge between my mother and I. Normally, he was the one who sent me into fits of rage and crying. He was the one I butted heads with. Now, she and I were at odds and he felt it was all his fault.

He called her after I went back to sleep, and informed her that her letter may have been a poor choice. She sent me an email apology. It probably wasn’t enough, but
it was better than nothing. We never spoke about it. It is too much of a reminder of how awful that summer was. It was too much of a reminder of how we failed dealing with that summer, and how we failed each other.

My biggest fear is that letter. I fear getting it from her again, especially, but the rest of the world counts, too. I fear disappointing myself, and everyone else around me. I fear not being able to step up when it really matters and dealing with it. I fear breaking. Breaking up, breaking down, breaking sideways. I’ve done it before: I shattered in the crucible of that summer, and I fear doing it again.

When you’ve been through the worst, you might be stronger because of it. But you spend the rest of your life fearing it, because you know precisely how awful it is.