Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Worst Case Scenario


Tony and I hike to the top of a hill.

We take a moment to sit on a bench under a tree and enjoy the spectacular view.

"How's the numbness in your hand?" I ask.

He tightens his fist and says, "The same."

"We should check it out or it'll get gangrene and we'll have to chop it off."

The next day we have a conversation about his forthcoming trip to Montana with our daughter's family. "Watch the little boys close. Don't let anyone fall in the fire." Only a few breaths separate my next request, "Don't let Seb get lost. He could get eaten by a bear and you'll only find his remains."

My two sons-in-law of my two youngest daughters resent me for instilling in their wives what we have deemed as worst case scenario dysfunction.

It is my fault. I mightily regret passing it on, but I inherited it from my father, who I suspect inherited it from his mother.

Worst case scenario has its roots in real tragedy; it began not in the macabre, over imaginative originator's mind, but as a result of loss. For my grandmother, she lost her only sister and her family in a car accident on the snowy roads of Idaho. For my father, he drove with his father to pick up the bodies of his aunt, his uncle, and his cousins.

When I would make the 40 minute drive to Grandmother's house in her later years, she always insisted I call her when I arrived home safe. I often forgot, and she would be so angry with me. I hadn't made the connection yet to her sister's car accident decades earlier, and it was a burden to be in so much trouble for such a small infraction. She never mentioned that my inconsideration might have taken her back when she'd planned a funeral for four. My father insisted on the same courtesy, but if I forgot, he would immediately call to put his mind at rest.

Once I had my own family, I followed in my father's, my grandmother's footsteps. The story, the graves found quatre corner from my grandparents, my great grandmother, and my aunt, became a part of my conscious, and I could hardly travel by car without thinking how doomed we all might be. Our mode of travel was mostly by air.

Then came the weekend when we needed to car caravan to a niece's wedding. We made it safely in three different cars. When it was time to return, I was unsettled.

As we said our good-byes, I expressed my over-worry for the ride home, expecting sympathy from a woman who'd had more than her share of tragedy. I included the old family narrative to justify my fears.

With love in her eyes, she grasped my by the shoulders and said, "Stop it. Just stop it. Right now."

I couldn't argue.

Tears welled in my eyes. I had the weakness to worry; I had the power to overcome the disabling thoughts. It was a choice. My choice.

I chose not to live out the worst case scenario in my mind.

There is an additional part to this story I didn't include in the beginning.

While Tony and I were sitting on the bench on the hill, after I succumbed to my worst-case-scenario impulses, we laughed. He made fun of me; I made fun of myself.

Yes, I am inclined to imagine the worst, but I combat the impulse with humor. I have a propensity, but I have a strength, a power to wrestle that tiger into a chair at the comedy club.

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