Thanks, GMail. Got one. It includes my entire collection of Redwall books (2.25 down; 12.75 to go. I don't own the latest four, and I haven't read any of them since 2003. Been long enough!), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Summer Common Reading book for K), and, um. Everything else in my path.
It's summertime! I've been busy busy busy. With the job at one of my three absolute favorite places in the world that I mentioned in my last post, with volunteering at one of my other three absolute favorite places in the world (the Living Arts & Science Center), with -- dare I say it? -- working out (this is a new development. I kind of like it. Shhh, don't tell. I was so diametrically opposed to it for so long that I can't just go out and, oh, blog about it, can I? Same goes for my increasing appreciation of my iPod. Used to claim I never wanted one. Once I got it, things changed. But shh. This is our little secret), with vacationing at the beach with extended family, with sleeping, with the reading, with cleaning (maybe not so much on that one)... the list goes on. I have emails that I owe people (Erin, who probably doesn't even know this blog exists -- I swear I'll reply! I keep meaning to! Before I meet you at orientation in two and a half months! Um), phone calls that I should probably make, letters that I keep intending on writing, people I want to see again... but I'm on top of it. Right on top of it, Rose (for all of you Don't Tell Mom (The Babysitter's Dead) fans out there). Yeah.
But my point isn't the excitement of summer, or the business (ha!) -- busy-ness, not corporation-business, or heralding the Glorious Fourth coming up, or the list of things that I intend on doing but haven't gotten around to yet (like putting away the half of my laundry that I just finished. Doing that as soon as this post goes up!), but something a bit more solemn.
I debated about telling people about this. Why should I? I wondered. It's not really something that people can just understand, not just something that you talk about. I told three of my closest friends at the time, got mixed reactions (from concern to utter disregard), and decided that I didn't want anyone else to know. I was thinking, telling people will be equivocal with bragging. Telling people will bring undue attention. This isn't the sort of thing I want to talk about. I don't want it to be something I use to pull over other people. I don't want to tell.
But I've changed my mind. Seeing my sister keeping it bottled up initially, and considering the ramifications of not letting it all out, has brought me to the decision of writing about it. But writing to myself isn't enough: I can't deal with keeping it completely self-contained, with it continuing to manifest in nightmares and moments of panic, with worrying about, what about when I go to college? What if something like this happens then? How will I cope? Maybe the choice to blog about it, so that anybody and his grandmother could read it, so that I'm exposed to the entire world isn't a good idea. Going from almost-complete containment to public access in a handful of words? Perhaps this isn't my brightest choice. But maybe it is. And maybe it will make no difference whatsoever. But maybe it will. People say, "don't dwell on the what-ifs," but isn't that really what life is about? Every decision, even snap ones, are based on what-ifs. People can't avoid thinking about 'what-ifs' in the other way, either. "What if this had happened instead? What if that had gone down?" It's how we function, and I choose to follow the positive ones. Also, I've managed to accept that letting people know isn't bragging, isn't providing myself with an excuse. This is just me, expressing a concern. This is me, getting it off my chest. Keeping it contained will just allow it to fester, and I don't want an infection.
I don't want to worry anyone! Seriously, even though it's not a pleasant story, it has a happy ending. It's just, okay. To convey the weight of my worries, I'll have to start with last summer, even though the event in question was one which occurred last Friday.
Last summer, I was having a brilliant amazing time at Governor's Scholars Program (the Kentucky one), when I got the phone message that my grandfather was being hospitalized for pretty severe heart issues. I ended up deciding to take the route of distancing myself from my family as best I could, so that I could continue to enjoy my time... and so that the issues wouldn't seem quite as real. (I actually wrote my college common application essay about this; if anyone wants to read it, contact my REDmail.) I carried my phone with me everywhere, against all GSP rules, in the event of an update of his health, but I didn't want to talk to my family. I was scared that I'd cry and they wouldn't; I was scared that they'd cry and I wouldn't. I felt horrifically guilty that I wasn't home for this, even though he was nowhere near home. In that instance, I made poor decisions. When I came back, my distance during that last week of GSP caused his soon-thereafter death to be a much bigger shock to me than my family, I had a harder time controlling myself... and I couldn't get rid of my regret, of my guilt.
Last Friday, I was at the beach with my family, and there was a freak ripstream. Both my father and my sister were caught in it. I'm still unclear as to the exact events -- I'm pretty sure that they are, too -- but I have a pretty decent gist. I was at the beach, in a chair, using the Redwall book I was on (Mossflower, which (I regret to admit), I haven't gotten much further in) as more of a sunshade than reading material, when my sister came up, and walked past me to Mom, crying. I sort of assumed that she'd come in contact with a stingray, which she was terrified of, but suddenly there were people yelling for the Coast Guard and cousins crying and Mom running out into the water and my sister just totally breaking down. My dad, you see, can't swim. I freaked out (and broke my promise to myself that I wouldn't get another swimsuit wet -- it was the last day and they would be a hassle to dry), shouted for him, cried for him, couldn't see him. A stranger, a lady, hugged me told me that it would be okay. Stranger lady, if you ever come across this: thank you. I don't remember anything about you besides your gender, but that grounded me. I was still panicked, but my youngest cousins were in a worse way. Externally, at least; I'm pretty sure that I was more freaked out inside than they were (but who can really tell?). Comforting them, apart from being second nature (spending the majority of my past year with a 6-12 yr old set, teaching and helping them, spending time with them, having fun with them, has gotten me in the habit of being closer to and more likely to interact and connect with children, sometimes over adults. I welcome this), was a way for me to distract myself from my own worries, from scanning the ocean and trying to spot my dad, so I did so.
It turned out okay. Some guys with a boogie board (seriously how are those things spelled. I can never figure it out) managed to get him out of the ripstream even as the Coast Guard arrived. I learned later that he was minutes, maybe even seconds, away from drowning, but he didn't, and that's what really matters. My sister, too, was caught, and she tried to save dad before she tried to get herself out, and she was just as exhausted as he was at the end of it, but she was unharmed, too. They swallowed, and breathed in, a lot of the water, but they didn't go into any sort of physical health issues after. I am so, so grateful for this. I realized then that I took my family;s lives for granted; I don't, anymore. They both could have died; neither did. The what-ifs inherent in this are what-ifs that I work extra-hard on not dwelling on. It's hard, sometimes.
Since then, I've been a lot more caustic towards statements indicating that people are taking another person for granted, but my anger levels, my temper, has been sedated. It hasn't even been a full week since the ripstream, and this may not (probably won't) last, but it's interesting right now, while I have it. I usually get angry quick and easy and get over it just as quickly and easily. Since that occurrence, I haven't been. Less (try: not at all) likely to become angry, but less able to forgive people whose views haven't changed similarly. The latter is probably going to end up being a problem if it continues on. I'll try not to let it become that. I've become more focused on spending time with my family, and less with other people. I'm not sure if this is because my family is more important or if it is because my family is what I almost lost. It's probably a combination of both. Maybe this means that I still take my friends very much for granted, but I don't think that that's the case.
At first, I was hurt by the friend that didn't show any empathy, but I'm beginning to realize: why should they? They don't know what it's like. Some RED writers do. I know. I've read the essays, read the blogs. I'm sure a lot of other people out there (maybe people reading this. If people read this, haha) do. Most of my friends, I am confident in saying, do not. They've never had the feeling of, one minute more and you wouldn't have a father. They've never woken up crying from a nightmare that things had turned out differently. They weren't exposed to twenty-four hours of constant fear that something would happen, that there would be belated drowning, residual water slowly collecting in lungs and slowly, slowly beginning to kill (does that even happen? I'm not sure, but that didn't stop me from being terrified about it).
And then the what-ifs come back full force. Less than an hour before it happened, I'd been making strawberry pancakes with my middle cousin. We put chocolate sauce in the batter, which we weren't supposed to, and ate more than we'd been told we were allowed, because that's the job of the Older Cousin (and I'm the oldest): to break harmless rules like that. He went ahead to the beach. I went because I promised him I'd follow. But what if I hadn't promised? It probably would have been another GSP thing. I wouldn't have gotten the magnitude of it. What if they'd died while I was at the house? I'd never have been able to forgive myself. Granted, if that had been the case, I probably wouldn't ever be able to forgive myself for not being able to go out there and save them... but I stop myself, tell myself, "this didn't happen. Don't dwell."
The nightmare I had on Sunday, the one that I woke up crying from, the one that made me find my dad and hug him and cry and not want him out of my sight for as long as possible, brought upon a fresh wave of panic. I'll copy directly from an email to a friend regarding plans that evening:
- and i think i'm just going to spend time with my family because i keep
having moments where i freak out about half of them almost dying and
wondering what will happen when i'm in college and i have more
nightmares about it and can't see them to know they're okay and what if
they die when i'm there, too, because i'll be too far away to help and
what am i going to do and stuff and i really don't want to be away from
them right now
The worry is that I'll be away and something will happen like it happened to my grandfather, that I'll be 400 miles away from home and something will happen to one of them, and I won't be able to get back and it won't seem real and then suddenly there will be a point of no return and I'll. I don't know. I don't want to think about it, but I can't help it. It's not just waking up from a nightmare and not being able to see them (but I have told them that if I call in the middle of the night wanting to hear their voices, that's why, and I think that might be enough). I'm terrified of losing them, more than I ever have been, and I'm more terrified of losing them when I'm too far away to miss them going. I don't know what I can do about this. I realize, logically, that it's unlikely that something will happen. I hope that it's unlikely that something will happen. I'll probably continue having nightmares about this, probably continue freaking out. I wasn't the one in the water. There was no threat to my physical well-being, and I'm sure that my dad and my sister are having a much harder time of it emotionally, too, but I don't know. It's hard being the one on the shore, too, and when I'm away at college next year, I won't even be near the figurative shore. I won't have the option of running out into the surf and doing my best to save them. I have to come to terms with this.
I have to come to terms with this.
Going to a college so far away was my decision, and I do not regret my choice. I didn't realize that these worries would be something to consider, and suddenly, I have to consider them. The closest college that I applied to was about an hours' drive away, though, so I'd still be distant. There'd still be the separation. I guess this is a part of growing up: you have to grow out, too, even if you're not ready. Even if the terror that, when you come back visiting, there won't be people to visit (or that the people are hospitalized, or. Anything like that), is plaguing you, you have to keep going away, you have to keep visiting. There isn't any turning back from this, and I don't really mind. I can hope with ever fiber of my being that nothing will happen to them, and that's really all there is to do. They'll probably be fine, and that's all I can console myself with. I'm going to have an excellent time at college: I can sense this. I won't be able to work past this fear all the way, I think, but knowing me, I'll be able to push it to the back burner quite effectively once I get there. And this time around, I'll know: if something happens, I won't become unavailable. I'll ask for a plane flight back, maybe just for a weekend. But I'll be fine, and they'll be fine, and even though they'll still be on the figurative surf and I'll be, like, in the Arctic, we'll still be connected. Even if it takes messenger pigeons, we'll be connected. We're family. And that's how it is. I'll spend as much time as I can with them until I cannot spend any more time with them, and then I'll go on. Because I have to. Because I can. I might not necessarily want to, at the moment, but that's likely to change. I'm ready for college right now. I could go right now, if it started right now, and I'd enjoy going. I'm not just saying this -- I mean every single word of it. I'll keep being terrified for a while, until I stop being terrified and start being just worried. It's manageable. I can overcome it. It will just take time, and I have a lot of that. I hope.
On another note, there should be a facebook application that notifies people when REDblogs go up. Someone should get on this. ETA: Never mind! Found one.
PS: This is cool.