My thoughts have still been relatively anxiety-free since New Year’s, so I’m reaching back in the memory bank to catalog this one.
My husband’s family lives in Connecticut, so we take several road trips back and forth there each year. I try to remember to say a silent prayer once we begin each journey to ask for our protection and for the safety of all of the drivers sharing the road with us. Occasionally I forget to do this until midway through the trip, at which point I freak out, and then quickly offer a prayer of thanks we made it as far as we have without our divine force field in place, and one for safeguarding the rest of the way.
The girlies are pretty good travelers (we’ve been lucky in that regard). However, every once in awhile, one or both of them will start to lose it and need some kind of comfort or offering from us. Like most seasoned road-trippers, we try to pack the car full of things we anticipate the kids might need or enjoy—snacks, drinks, books, toys, games, etc. Most of the time we can just pass these things back over the seat, but occasionally one of us—the passenger, not the driver mind you—needs to unbuckle his or her seatbelt to more fully reach around or climb over the seat to provide the attention the girls need. I’ve even gone so far as to breastfeed a child mid-drive, much to the mortification of my husband (he gets a little nervous when I do this in public, never mind flying down the interstate at 70 mph with my top-half somewhat exposed).
When Liam is the one doing the unbuckling and tending to the girls, I go into hyper-alert mode, concentrating on everything around me. I am the most defensive, vigilant driver the highway has ever known. I slow down my usual fast speed. I consult all the mirrors every few seconds, all the while hoping he finishes what he needs to do as quickly as possible. This kind of situation makes me physically uncomfortable and a mental wreck. If he takes too long, I might even scream at him to sit back down and buckle up, and leave the girls to their own devices.
During the moments Liam is out of his seat, unprotected by a safety belt, and in between suspect glances in the mirrors, I have flashes of us being hit by a car (despite my best attempts to watch out for this very thing). We wreck badly and Liam flies out of the front window. The girls and I are OK, but Liam doesn’t make it. In my mind I run through how I am going to comfort the girls in the moment, deal with the horror of tending to Liam, and then quickly—because I can’t dwell on that part too long—the nightmare of raising the girls without their beloved father. Will they even remember him? Will they understand he’s not coming back? Who will walk them down the aisle when they get married?
Inevitably these atrocious thoughts—specifically death of my spouse—always make a little space for a silver lining. We happen to have decent life insurance policies (should I be admitting this online to would be assassins?). So, while I recognize that life without Liam would be terribly sad and unjust, I always find myself thinking: Well, at least there’s money set aside in case a tragedy like this would happen. At least we are prepared.
And then I find myself daydreaming about that large sum of money and all that I could do with it (by this point Liam has usually returned safely to his seat, so it’s okay I’m slightly distracted). I wouldn’t have to go back to work…the girls and I could buy a new house…we could travel around the country—or world even—visiting spectacular places…college funds could be started. And then, I remember that I’ve just buried my dead husband and I start feeling guilty because I’d just been fantasizing about how I’d spend his life insurance fund. Despicable, I know.
In the instances when I’m the one out of my seat, usually perched precariously and uncomfortably over a car seat —often with my shirt half off to unsuspecting cars passing by, and an exposed boob (poor witnesses)—I’m running through the same scenario, but in reverse. What if I’m the one to fly out the window? What will the girls do without a mother? And I without them? Who will help them through puberty? Liam would be at a total loss with this one. Will they even miss me after a year has gone by?
These kinds of thoughts are the absolute worst. They make me so incredibly sad and can actually move me to tears (which is unnatural, right, because in reality nothing has actually happened to me); I can’t dwell on them too long. Still, I find comfort knowing that Liam would do an amazing job, even without me, and of course, he would be set financially for a good number of years. Think of all the great things they’ll be able to do together with that money.
It’s so crazy to me all of the horrors and catastrophes that my mind is capable of imagining. None of my thoughts are rational or based on anything besides my own hidden fears (quick plug here for NPR’s new podcast, Invisibilia—yes, I’ve already tuned in). And how they can bring about such emotion, when in reality all is well and good, is beyond me.