Fear and All that Jazz
“Courage is knowing what not to fear.” Plato
In a conversation with my father this week, he mentioned he’d walked to the store in his neighbourhood to buy some groceries. He’d been to the bank and since the store was close by, he thought he’d get a few things. I’m pretty protective of my dad. He was the same way with me when I was a child. Man, I used to curse him for that. How old am I, I’d rail. You don’t have to treat me like a kid.
Now he says the same thing to me. I don’t know why. Look at the facts, I tell him. You’re 87. Your memory comes and goes. You’re frail. I don’t want anyone to take advantage of you.
His rebuff to all of this: Why do you insist on reminding me how old I am.
As he was leaving the grocery store, a woman in her mid forties asked him if he needed any help. He was apparently lugging two grocery bags. She suggested driving him home.
I listened to him with growing anxiety.
What do you mean she wanted to drive you home? Do you know this woman? Have you ever seen her before? Is she a neighbour? What did she look like? Was she rough looking? Could you smell anything on her breath? Alcohol? Drugs? Did she ask you for anything? What did she want?
And on and on my questions went.
She was very nice, my father finally said. She wanted to help me, but you know I don’t need any help. It’s good for me to walk.
I was beyond listening at this point. I hope you didn’t get in the car with her. How many times have I told you not to talk to strangers?
I’d heard those words before. He used to say the same thing to me.
It’s who you are, my dad told me recently when we were out for a walk. I’d stopped to chat with some kids and their mother in the park. I didn’t know them. I was being friendly and curious and according to my dad, me.
You’ve always been this way, he said. From the time you could talk, you would speak to anyone. It didn’t matter who it was. We worried about it, talked to you, tried to warn you, stop you, but you went on doing what you always did. So we worried in silence.
I don’t ever remember my parents fretting in silence. My father is Greek and my mom was Lebanese and French. They never did or said things quietly. Or at least I don’t recall it that way.
When I finally stopped questioning my father about what I increasingly believed to be a drug-using-and-crazed-out-to-rob-my-dad-woman, I remembered the earlier conversation we’d had. When had I become so fearful?
I don’t know, but I have thought about this question. Every time I feel insecure about my dad’s safety or feel uncomfortable and nervous in a crowd, I wonder when and where did this fear come from. I don’t have any answers.
There’s a lot of fear-mongering in the world and lots of news that plays on our nightmares. Still I’ve never bought into this stuff before. Maybe I’m getting older or just plain old.
I don’t know. But glad I’m seeing it and questioning it. At least I can do something about it. And I am. I’ve decided to be more like I used to be and less like I’ve become. I’ll try. Ok maybe not with my dad. I have to watch out for him. After all, he is 87. Oops, there I go again, mentioning his age.
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