Deep down, sometimes we’re still just scared 5-year-olds

I am almost 40 years old. I am a strong, independent, generally happy human, who has figured out how to live solo while constantly reminding myself to ask for help, because, after all, asking makes me stronger, which I never quite understood, but whatever, I digress.

I rock. I kill spiders on my own, change my own wiper blades (with help), and walk confidently alone down most of my city’s streets, head high, shoulders back. Whatever has been thrown at me in my life, I have dealt with it largely alone (minus a huge support network, but I’m making a point here), because, well, I have no choice. I’m kind of a bad-ass in this area, if you’ll forgive my immodesty.

But sometimes, I am just a scared 5-year-old blinking away tears in the dark hours of the night.

As a young ‘un, I wasn’t scared of monsters. Quicksand, yes: damn you, A Neverending Story. Until I got older, I wasn’t too scared of looking foolish. What I was scared of, probably like many kids, was death.

Death, specifically, of my parents.

Lying awake and wide-eyed in my bed, covers literally at my chin, I would stare at the ceiling and try vainly not to think how absolutely devastated I would be if my parents were gone. But I could. I could conjure up clear emotional imprints, almost like reverse memories, of what it would feel like. It was awful, terrifying, breath-stealing. These moments didn’t happen very often, but when they did, I would wind up in quiet hysterics, gasping in tears, trying hard not to sob outright. Sometimes, I would give in and go stand next to my parents’ beds and stare at them until either they a) woke up and asked me what was wrong or b) I got tired and went back to sleep.

Today, I can have a more intellectual approach to such thoughts, more or less. Though it’s hopefully a long way off, there will come a time when my parents won’t be a phone call away, and that still makes me well up a bit, but it’s manageable.

But lately, there have been nights when I’ve found myself lying in bed, covers to my chin, having to work really hard to keep from devolving into an ugly cry.

Only this time, it’s about my dog.

Sadie is 6 years old, give or take; it’s hard to know since I got her from a shelter. Given that her breed is undetermined, I don’t really have a clue what her life expectancy is. Until recently, her mortality was just a concept. She’s still spry, still her calm, happy self. Hopefully, our goodbyes won’t happen for a while. And if they happen sooner, I will handle them in the moment, as I usually do. I’m good like that, in the moment.

It the imagination times, the quiet times when there’s nothing to do, however, that get me. Just like those long-ago waking nightmares of 5-year-old me, I feel an echo of the physical and mental hurt I will feel when I have to say goodbye to the creature that has, literally, changing my life. I lie there, eyes full, chastising myself that I’m being foolish, and thinking how parents and couples must experience some level of this fear countless times, but still I’m unable, in that moment, to shut it off.

Why is my brain going there these days? I have no idea, but I wish it would quit it. I suppose I could blame social media, which insists on showing me articles about dog euthanasia and heart-wrenching posts about beloved pets who have gone to the great dog park in the sky. Or maybe I’m just, like the Beznoska side of my family, getting more sentimental with age.

Luckily, it passes. But it leaves a mark, I think, enough so that I wanted to write about it. I guess that’s part of love, right?

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