Last night, I sat in my car as the seconds ticked by and I talked to myself. I should just drive away. Goodness knows it was cold outside and I’d already gotten in the car and it’s not like it actually mattered.
It was late and my bag of leftovers was cooling while resting on top of the Skye’s packages I was taking over for her, hopefully not moistening her Amazon goodies.
The front door was already closed and locked, the lights turned off, and I’ve been trying to give into my crazy a little less, ever since my father suggested my all-too-normal-and-reasonable fear of killers was in the anxiety disorder range.
My inner urgings to perfect an exit have been around as long as I can remember.
Every weekday morning of my middle and high school life, my parents left for work while I was still snuggled in bed. Well, my dad left while I was still in bed. Which wasn’t me being lazy, so much as him being the kind of guy who naturally wakes at 4am.
My mom woke at 5 or 6am, still long before I roused from bed, but late enough that she’d knock on my door before leaving to say goodbye and suggest if I wanted to wear coordinating clothing it’d be a good idea to start dressing. I’d mumble something, and probably snap that I was up and to stop banging.
(I was, in actuality, never up.)
Then I’d hear her walk down the stairs and I’d hear the garage door open and I’d fight with myself to stay in bed because bed is cozy and warm and is the best friend a gal can have.
But I’d always give in to the fear and I’d jump out of bed and run down the stairs and throw open the door to the garage and wave my arm above my head and yell I love you.
And my mom, who would be backing down the drive, would pause before driving down the street, roll down her window and yell I love you back.
I had to make sure the last thing I said was I love you, because I was frightened she was going to die during the day and I couldn’t handle the thought of not having I love you be the last thing I said.
(I was a strange, possibly morbid, child.)
(Who became a strange, possibly morbid, adult.)
Sometimes she would yell I love you and then add something about the day – a reminder or encouragement or comment about how I should actually get dressed – and I’d have to re-yell I love you.
It’s not like I went through my day fearing everyone I loved was going to die – just the act of saying goodbye and having someone leave made me fearful it could be the last time.
(This may or may not have its basis in my childhood weekly phone calls to my Grandma and Grandpa, which my dad would always preface with “talk to your grandparents, they’re not going to be around forever.”)
(Or it may be my own issues and unfair to blame on my father.)
(Though he also told me the truth about my goldfishes Ernie & Bert’s tragic flushing.)
(Just in case you’re keeping track.)
I did end up getting out of my car yesterday. I walked back inside my dad’s house and when he looked up with surprise I explained that I’d told Grandma I would be back after dinner and it’s silly, I’m sure she doesn’t remember and was sleeping, but I promised.
And I walked into her room and leaned down and held her hand, which took some maneuvering as it was tangled down in bed sheets. She’d stopped talking the day before but she opened her eyes as I told her that we’d come back from dinner and I was off to pet sit and I reminded her that I was looking after Monroe, Maggie’s parents’ dog and did she remember Maggie? And that dog they used to have, Stella? Monroe looks just like him and is the sweetest thing and you’d love him. And anyway, I’ll let you get some sleep. Just wanted to see you and I can move the covers up if you’re cold. Feels so warm to me in here but I’m sure that’s just my moving around. And I leaned down and kissed her cheek and told her I’d be back soon and I love her.
And then I climbed back into my car and drove to Monroe’s, all my anxiety forgotten. ‘Cause that’s almost the real truth behind my need to make goodbyes perfect – once that’s done all the fear is gone and I can just go about my day.
When my dad called me at work today and told me Grandma had passed away, my first thought was to not cry in my office. It wasn’t until about the fifth thought that I remembered last night and my dilemma and how incredibly glad I am that I went back inside.
‘Cause it turns out that if what you constantly fear is death, it’s going to eventually come true.