I feel guilt over friends who passed away. The more tragic the passing, the more guilty I feel. Those who left by their own choice, I blame myself for not doing more to help. Those who left in other ways, I blame myself for not spending more time with when I had the chance.
Although it happens quite often, I don’t talk about it much to others, but only to me. Actually, I’m not the only one talking to myself about it. The internal monologues usually come with their familiar voices saying things I don’t want to hear or reliving past memories in the most hurtful of ways. Those ghosts visit me when I’m most alone and, afterwards, I feel even more alone than I did before.
There’s worry about my kids – both of them – which I don’t vocalize much. I watch as my daughter grows up and every single misstep or familiar action that I remember in my younger days fills me with worry that she will feel some of the pain I did. Watching your child be just like you used to be, even in sporadic moments, is a detrimental concern. It’s scary. It’s real. It’s something I don’t often share.
For my son, the worry is one that I have heard from other parents in similar situations to my own. As a ten-year-old non-verbal boy with special needs, he has a world to navigate that seems impossible for any man or woman at times. Starting at a disadvantage and working his way against the grain, he has a long road ahead. I fear for him on that journey and want to do everything I can to carry him on my shoulders.
One day, though, those shoulders will be gone. Life doesn’t last forever and I’m no exception to that rule. He will have to walk that road without me and, honestly, it scares me beyond words. One day, the two sets of footprints that he and I make will only be one. It won’t be from carrying him. It will be because he’s the only one still walking.
That’s something I talk about even less than anything else. It’s almost so chilling that to say it out loud would be to give it life. We think about other things, talk about other subjects, and pretend like it won’t happen. The first rule of worrying about leaving your special needs child on the Earth without you is that you don’t talk about it. But, on a long enough timeline, the survival rate of everything drops to zero.
If we’re putting it all on the table, there’s a lot to unpack here. The things I don’t talk about greatly outnumber the things I do talk about. It’s a laundry list of pain that, ironically, I know people will share in with me if I only shared it with them.
Plenty of people had childhoods with violence in them. They saw things they want to forget and made promises to themselves about how they would never live that way. They swore they would never strike the people they love or put their own needs above those of their children. On the day they finally escaped it all, they never looked back although the poison voices of days gone by still sometimes haunt their imagination. They might even find themselves seeing those who hurt them in random places. A stranger walking out of a supermarket could cause a heart-racing double take. Could that be…? No. It’s not. It can’t be. They’re gone. I would imagine it could happen to someone multiple times in a day.
I’m not sure, though. Like I said, I don’t talk about that stuff.
Why would I? Why would I ever talk about a person who might experience fear over starting life over? I’d probably never examine how betting on yourself at 43 is much different and far-scarier than doing so at 21. There’s real terror in walking the tightrope of life without a safety net there. Meanwhile those who once were there, promising to always catch you from below if you fall, have all gone off to do other things they found to be more important. But like Frankie said, you do it your way. It takes power and pride – two things we all like to think we have, but are never truly sure until the time comes. Then again, that too is often left unsaid by all involved.
After all, who has time to address subjects like that openly when there are the possibilities of returning heart problems to think about? A quintuple bypass at 35 doesn’t fill one with long-term confidence, even when they do every healthy option along the way. One day that person might leave behind their special needs child with no true advocate. That person, for all their attempts and triumphs, might even die alone.
As I said earlier, there’s a lot to unpack there. Should we talk about that? It just makes you sad, right? Yeah. Me too. It might help, but who knows? Where’s the time and the place for such things? I’m not sure, but when you find it, take it. Sometimes saying them out loud helps the process move along. I know it did for me.