BOOK EXCERPT: The Way Gargoyles Play (first part of Chapt. 1 - the year I battled Fear)
The Heart of Courage
Little Miss Muffet
Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.
I’ve always been an outgoing and confident person from the time I was a little girl. As a child, I was very independent and liked dressing myself (apparently, I always wanted to wear the same outfit every day - my jeans and a t-shirt from Italy that translated to: “I’m happy, so very happy!”) and though I did tend to put my shoes on the wrong feet, I got an “A” for effort from my mom. As a toddler, I also easily engaged in conversation with strangers. This personality trait caused my parents much heartache as I would often walk away from them in public to visit with someone I had never met. According to my parents, I was quite the little gabber. I talked their ears off and anybody else’s that would listen.
One of my favorite childhood stories that I loved to hear my dad tell happened when I was four years old. My dad had taken me to Central Mall in Fort Smith, Arkansas to watch Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. After the movie was over, we were walking through the mall when my Dad noticed several nuns from Saint Anne’s Academy (where he had graduated high school in 1962) so he walked over to say hello. They were visiting and catching up, which apparently, I found very boring. Now mind you, I was distracted by the sight of a pleasant looking middle-aged woman who was sitting on a bench fifty yards away eating a double dip ice-cream cone. My thoughts went something like this:
Mmmm, that looks really yummy. I wonder where she got that? I wonder if she can get me one? I wonder if she might give me hers?
My questions were starting to pile up and I wasn’t getting any answers so I decided to take matters into my own hands.
That’s it, I’m just going to go ask her.
Without telling my dad, I walked right over to her and sat on the opposite end of the bench. I stared at the nice lady, my big brown doe eyes flitting up and down, longing for just one taste of her ice-cream. When she didn’t notice me, I flashed her my sweetest most sincere smile that said, “Look at me, lady, and give me a bite of that ice-cream.” Still, she didn’t see me. So I scooted a little closer to her smiling my prettiest four-year-old-smile. Finally! She looked down at me and smiled back . . . and then went right back to eating her ice-cream.
Okay, this is going to call for drastic measures. Quick change of strategy.
On a mission, I scooted right up next to her, wiped that silly smile off my face, looked her square in the eyes, and said with the most serious voice I could muster, “Ma’am, (pause for dramatic effect) we share at our house.” Then I shifted my gaze and locked the target on her ice-cream cone just so there would be no confusion. She smiled and said, “Oh, Sweetie, you want some ice-cream? Well where’s your mommy or daddy?” To which I quickly replied, “Don’t worry about him; he doesn’t want one.” The lady was caught off guard by my certainty of this fact – I guess she had not seen this kind of adamancy in a four-year-old before. She burst out in a big belly laugh and said, “Come on, let’s go get you an ice cream. Now what’s your name?”
But she couldn’t trick me; I remembered this from my training! Never tell a stranger your name. “Snow White,” I answered. “I’ll take one scoop of chocolate and one scoop of vanilla. Please and thank you.”
My dad and the nuns found me sitting on the bench eating a double dip ice-cream cone and laughing it up with the lady – apparently, I was a little comedian once I got what I wanted. It didn’t occur to me then that if a posse of nuns are sent to look for you, you’re going to be in big trouble when they find you. The lady and my dad quickly exchanged stories about me and he thanked her for buying me a treat and sitting with me out in the open so they could find me. Then he yanked my arm and told me we were going home and I was going to be punished when we got there.
Gosh. I don’t see what the big deal is? I WASN’T LOST. I knew exactly where I WAS. Silly parents, geesh!
I’ve thought about this story many times in the past year and a half. Mainly because I needed to remind myself that my true nature is one of bravery and courage to do things even when I’m afraid. I have to remind myself of this because in 2015 I suffered a tragic loss that pulled the rug out from under me and left me lost and afraid. In fact, at 44 years old, I was suddenly incapacitated by fear for the first time in my life.
My youngest brother Andrew and I were always extremely close – I think this was partially due to the fact we had already lost our middle brother, Dino (who was killed in a tragic accident), so we only had each other left. Even so, Andrew and I were close from the time he was a little kid which is odd considering I was ten years older.
We just sort of got each other from the beginning. He looked up to me and always supported my creative ventures. And I thought he was a cool kid who needed protection from his older brother who loved to harass him. How could I not adore my baby brother who loved his older sister and advocated for all my artistic talents and dreams? Of course, we had our spats and disagreements like all siblings do, but at the end of the day, we were always there for each other. I loved Andrew with all my heart and he felt the same way about me. It was always that way.
In spring of 2014, he was living in Sallisaw, Oklahoma and had shared custody of his two kids, Raylynn (9) and Dino (7). He had gone through a divorce two years prior and was struggling to manage his busy work schedule and time with his kids. He worked twelve- hour shifts as a HVAC technician for Nestlé. Since he worked the night shift from 6:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m., he would sleep during the daytime. He wanted to spend as much time as possible with his kids whenever he wasn’t working, which left him very little time to rest and recuperate. In the five years that he worked for the company, he never took a real vacation and only took a total of five days off each year. My mother and I secretly worried about my brother and the stress of all the obligations he was under.
Andrew, who was 33 years old at the time, told me he hadn’t been feeling well. “Hey, sis, I’m having some stomach issues,” he informed me. “Really? Like what kind of issues are you having?” I asked. “Well, it’s hard to explain. Not really pain but a lot of nausea and vomiting. The doctor thinks it might be esophageal reflux so I’m on medication for it.” he explained. “Yeah, I’ve got that too and so did dad. It must run in the family. That sucks, Brother, and I’m sorry you haven’t been feeling well. At least you’re on some medication now and will hopefully feel better soon,” I encouraged him.