Thursday, April 1, 2021

Faces of Fear

I’d recently turned 8 years old, and despite my mom’s best efforts to keep me safe, that day didn’t go as planned. 

I always found strange refuges where I would hide, read, and imagine. My Greek neighbors—in their 80s—would visit with me and feed me tons of braided cookies.

They didn’t know it, but when we weren’t visiting, I loved to hide in the bushes to the side of their house. The plants grew so thickly together that I had to crawl just to get in between them. I’d push through branches and spiderwebs, then lean against the brick house and read. The sun shot perfectly through the branches and most of the time my little black cat would join me. It became my own entrance to a magical world where I could escape and imagine.

That day I didn’t read though—and my cat didn’t join me. So, I thought about my friend, Candice. Days before, our moms had brought us to pick asparagus, but Candice seemed all wrong. “I fell on the ground,” she said. “It was a really hard fall. They had to rush me to the hospital. And I got cancer.”

Cancer was previously unknown to me, and it sounded terrible. In fact, I never wanted to get cancer, and I never wanted to fall on the ground because that’s obviously how people contracted the disease. Candice seemed so tired when she talked about it...and sad. She said she might die someday—that we’d all die. I knew that! But I didn’t want to think about it.

I shook my head and decided my “magical place” didn’t seem so magical at the moment. I didn’t want to stay there, thinking about how my friend might close her eyes and never open them again.

So, I crawled from the bushes, got on my scooter and started zooming up and down the sidewalk. I’d sit and straighten my hands up so I could hold the handlebars tightly. I’d gone down a hill and was picking up speed when my old, Greek neighbor got into his car. It all went so fast. I tried to move, but the puke-green car sped—too quickly—and the bumper slammed against my forehead.

I sprawled, my scooter screeching across the pavement. I hit the ground so hard, but I felt too shocked—even beyond tears. Then my neighbor was standing over me, screaming. “Oh, my God.” His hands pulsed, up in the air. “I almost ran you over. I almost—“

I couldn’t hear him after that.... I’d fallen now, fallen hard just like my friend.

I heard my mom later. She spoke with the man. He claimed that he could have killed me. He said he couldn’t sleep anymore—could hardly live with himself. “I couldn’t see her.”

I really thought about death then. It was so strange to think about something I couldn’t begin to understand.

My poor neighbor was strained after that. He and his wife gave me more cookies than normal, but he wouldn’t meet my eyes for long. 

So, I walked out of their back door one day, crawled in between the bushes, and wished he’d never hit me with his stupid car. 

I never saw Candice again, and I also stopped going to visit my neighbor. It was just too hard, seeing all of that fear in the old man’s eyes.

Now, since I’ve gotten cancer, I see that same fear in people’s eyes. But nothing is more terrifying than seeing that look...reflected in the faces of my children.


  1. Fear is normal, how a body deals with fear differs from person to person

  2. I don't know if there are any words of comfort for this post. So I'm sending love to you, I truly am, I truly care. I know you from your posts, your book, Fran and Dee. You are such a bright light in this world -- fear in your children's eyes, there can be nothing worse than that. There really are no words...