Mounting Fears

In 1964 I was a freshman at Beavercreek High School in rural Ohio. I was a lonely, introspective young girl with an active imagination and an ability to seal myself off from whatever goings on were taking place around me.

One day an announcement came over the PA system stating that we were going to practice a disaster drill in case of nuclear war. Our teacher explained the procedure to us, and then when the bells rang, we silently walked into the hallway, faced the red brick wall, sat down, crossed our legs and put our hands over the backs of our heads. We sat in that position for what seemed like hours but was probably only minutes. When the all-clear sounded, we stood and silently marched back to our classrooms. Instruction resumed as if nothing untoward had happened.

At the time I knew nothing about the effects of nuclear war for I didn’t pay attention to the news and had never had an interest in historical events. You would have thought that simply hearing about the events of World War II would have inspired me to read about it, but it didn’t.

Several months later a jet bound for Wright Patterson Air Force Base fell from the sky. The pilot knew he was going to crash and so ejected himself from the plane, not knowing where the jet would go down. By some huge stroke of luck, it fell into the U-shaped enclosure of our school, not hitting a single bit of brick. We were evacuated into the gym, the building furthest from the accident, and kept there until our parents rescued us.

On the news that evening they showed pictures. My belief in God was strongly reinforced, for how could a jet fit so tidily inside the three walls of the school and not a single person be injured?

When school ended for the year we packed up and moved to California. Our first residence was in Rancho Cordova, near Sacramento. McClellan Air Force Base was nearby, but I didn’t know that until I became aware of the bombers. One afternoon I was sitting on my mattress on the floor of my bedroom. First the floor vibrated, then the walls. Next came a drone that grew louder and louder by the minute. I went outside to look and saw several huge planes flying in V formation overhead. I stood agape as they passed, relieved when the noise finally ended.

Later I learned that these bombers were practicing for war. Night and day planes flew overhead. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t concentrate and I lived in a constant state of fear. I started paying attention to the news and everything I saw contributed to my concerns. I was convinced that I would not live to see my next birthday, let alone begin school in my new state.

And then one day the planes flew no more. I got up one morning and could hear birds singing for the first time since we had arrived. It filled my heart with joy!

Years passed before the Vietnam War loomed over the heads of my classmates. By now I was away at USC, which turned out to be a hotbed of protest. I joined the marches and sat in the rallies. I made signs and attended meetings, but I never skipped a class for fear of losing my scholarship, the only means that allowed me to be there.

The effects of the war filled the air waves. Every day images of injured soldiers and civilians distressed me terribly. We learned about napalm, snipers, poisoned sticks, the enemy hiding in rice paddies and women and children bearing bombs who approached our soldiers only to blow everyone to smithereens.

My nightmares returned. I truly believed that the world would erupt in a nuclear war so devastating that nothing would be left. There seemed to be no hope, no future, nothing to dream for and nothing to do but wait to die.

When the war ended without world annihilation, I hoped that America had learned a lesson. That we would act more cautiously, think before intervening, and never push us to the brink of war again.

Years passed. Life was good. I married, had children, became a teacher and loved every single day that God had given me.

And then 9/11 happened and my world was rocked again. Watching those planes careen into the twin towers was so shocking, so unexpected, so devastating that I was left bereft of words. What could you say to make it go away? Nothing.

But even after we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, I still felt safe at home. I did not fear nuclear war as I believed that sane fingers were on the button and that no one in his right mind would ever resort to using our arsenal to destroy another country.

Until now. Now I worry. Every night I have trouble falling asleep, my mind analyzing, in a continuous loop, what’s going on in our country. The troubling decisions being made that will hurt middle and low income Americans. I worry about backlash. About someone with a grudge walking into Target and shooting at random anyone caught in their crosshairs. Sitting in a theater, I think about how trapped we are, how hard it would be to escape, how easy it would be to slaughter innocent people.

My fears are not of foreign-born terrorists committing these horrendous acts, but of home-grown people who have no regard for life, who only live to hate, who are so filled with bigotry that they see only the color of the skin or the clothes worn and begin killing anyone who fulfills their narrow-minded vision of difference.

As a child I was taught to fear the Russians. Now I fear Americans. And with the hatred spewing out of politician’s mouths, it will only get worse. Other like-minded bigots hear the call to action. They arm themselves in preparation for the cleansing of our soil, for the removal of anyone who does not look, think or act like themselves, and not one elected official is doing anything to disenfranchise them of this notion.

What’s going to hurt us is ourselves. And that’s what’s sad. That’s what makes me anxious. It should keep you awake as well.

Happy dreams.

Internet for Me

Internet junkie, I’m not.

I do know the exact spot

for downloading my music;

soul-soothing, rhythmic tonic,

not too classic, not too hot.


Find a gadget? Takes a “sec,”

because I know where to check.

MySpace is just not for me.

And Facebook, although it’s free,

takes gumption. But what the heck!


I’m not the kind to chat a spell

Instant Messenger? Oh, well.

Not for me.  Not in the least.

To me, they’re hair of the beast.

I’d rather a story tell.


So tell me not of wonders fine

or places to order wine,

clothes, gadgets, or new shoes.

I’ve plenty, in many hues.

At excess, I draw the line.


Speak to me of stories new,

Politics, and skies of blue.

Face to face I yearn to be.

Into your eyes, so I can see

you smiling right back at me.

A Lament


You loved me when I was sick.

You held my hand

Placed cool washcloths against my forehead

Took my temperature faithfully

Fed me homemade chicken soup

Until I was better

And then we returned to normal.

Me, the athletic daughter

Disinterested in things of the home

Not wanting to marry at fourteen

And then I’d fall ill again


Too weak to walk down the hall

To lift my head to sip water

And so you cradled me

and allowed me to lie, to skip school,

to lounge around home because I hadn’t

studied for a science test

But then I had to go to school

And then we returned to normal.

You demanded that I learn to cook

Said that I had to clean house,

Including wiping down every leaf of every plant

You occupied my time with busy work

Never once praised me for my grades

Even when I got accepted to a good college

With full scholarship

And then I needed surgery

To remove a section of bone that had become infected.

You sat by my bedside at the hospital

The doting, loving mother for all the world to see

A mirage, but no one but me knew that.

When I moved out you cried.

Was it because you’d miss me?

Or that you wouldn’t be able to control me?

I never knew.

But when I had my first child,

You rose to the occasion.

Moved into my house.

Took over cooking, cleaning, caring for the baby.

You criticized every choice I made.

Even tried to convince me to leave my husband.

But by then I had become wary

Of your moves, your words

And so I didn’t listen.

And things returned to normal.

Until the next disaster.

Each time you pushed aside your angry,

Jealous words

And moved into my world,

Taking over

Or at least trying to

But as I aged, I grew in confidence

And learned that I could stand tall,

Knowing that my husband was there

To support me, love me,

Always and forever

And not just when sickness or injury

Came to visit.

And so life assumed a new normal.


Restless Leg Syndrome

It’s been well over forty years since the burning began. At first I thought my legs hurt because of a lack of potassium. I played on two soccer teams, referred three to four youth soccer games a weekend, and coached a girls’ team. I was on the field five days a week, and almost all of this after work.

My legs would jump and twitch with pain. It felt as if someone was shooting an electrical current down my legs. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I could sit on the floor with legs fully extended, holding them flat to the carpet, and the pain would go away. But as time passed, that stopped helping.

I went online and read somewhere that it could be due to a lack of potassium, so I ate bananas and drank sports drinks, both of which I greatly dislike. Neither helped.

The pain worsened. I was uncomfortable sitting, stretched out on the coach, and in bed. I was unable to get a good night’s sleep, and exhaustion was taking its toll. Some mornings I drove to work in a fog, fighting to keep my eyes open. I was lucky that I didn’t kill anyone.

Then one day while reading the paper I saw a tiny ad for a medication to help with restless leg syndrome. That ad saved me! For one, it proved that I wasn’t hallucinating the pain. For another, it gave my symptoms a name. And lastly, it offered relief.

My doctor understood and gave me a medication that works. I’ve been taking it, as needed, now for those forty years.

Restless Leg Syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system that causes an intense urge to move the legs, and at times, the arms. Movement seems to temporarily quell the pain, but that relief might only last seconds before the urge to move comes again.

Symptoms come and go. Some days I feel fine and then all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, the pain comes. I have to switch positions, get up and move, and when I can’t stand it any longer, take the meds.

Usually it hits in the evenings, but if I’m in a confined space, such as on a long car ride or in an airplane, or even in the movies or at the theater, but it can occur at any time and comes on suddenly. One moment I’m at peace, the next my legs have to move.

I did some research into the disorder and found that it affects about 10% of the population, mostly women. It usually hits people considered middle age or older. There is no known cause, but they do suspect that genes could play a role. Why? Studies have found that nearly half of people with the condition have a family member with it. Which does not bode well for my kids.

Like me, many people don’t go see a doctor for fear that they won’t be taken seriously. I truly thought my doctor might laugh at me or think I was crazy. Thankfully she didn’t.

If you get the sensation like bugs are crawling inside your legs, or an intense itching that seems to be near the bone, or a throbbing, pulsing pain that runs up and down your legs, please see a doctor. It is not life threatening, but interferes with life’s activities.

Restless Leg Syndrome is real.


Jocelyn’s Story

Jocelyn never knew her dad. When she was tiny, her mom told her that he was away at work, but when she got old enough to understand, she found out that he died. Not in a glamorous way, like fighting for his country, but to cancer.

She knew what he looked like, for her mom kept pictures on the mantle. One on their wedding day, one when they were on vacation to Yosemite when Jocelyn was a toddler, and one taken at a family reunion somewhere down in New Mexico.

Jocelyn loved to look at the photos. She tried to see resemblances between her and her dad. The eyes. The chin. The color of their hair. Those were there for anyone to see. But what Jocelyn really wanted to know was what her dad was like as a person.

Her grandmother said he was kind, athletic and smart. Her mother thought he was a gentleman and a hard-worker. Those things helped, but what Jocelyn really wanted to know was what his voice sounded like when he was happy and mad, how did he laugh, and what he smelled like after a shower.

When Jocelyn was twelve her mother got a new job and they moved out of their apartment in a tiny country town and into grandmother’s house in Chicago. Jocelyn hated leaving her friends, but she loved spending time with her grandmother. No more before and after school childcare. No more being shuffled from one friend’s house to another while her mother worked.

Things were going along nicely until her mother started bringing Mark into the house. He was kind to Jocelyn. He smiled a lot, gave her big hugs, and like to rub her on the back, but Jocelyn didn’t like his touches or smiles. He didn’t seem real. More like a mannequin in a store window, posed to look friendly but would shatter if someone moved the limbs a little too far.

Mark insisted that Jocelyn go everywhere with her mother, making a threesome. That part of it was kind of fun. They went to the zoo, to the theater, to see movies and to the park. They ate fast food and in fancy restaurants.  They went swimming at the pool in Mark’s apartment complex and went walking along Lake Michigan, Jocelyn always between her mother and Mark, Mark always holding her hand.

When she pulled away, he grimaced like the Grouch in the cartoon and quickly reached for her hand, squeezing it tightly, sending the message that he didn’t want her to let go.

After several months of this, her mother called her aside. “Honey, we need to talk,” she said. She ran her fingers through Jocelyn’s hair, which always felt good. “Mark and I have been seeing each other for quite a while now.”

“I know.”

“He wants to make our relationship more permanent. Last night after you went to bed he asked me to marry him.” She leaned forward and pulled Jocelyn to her chest.

“Do you love him?”

“Yes, I do.”

“But you love my dad. How can you love two men?”

“Your father’s been gone a long time now. He’ll always have a special place in my heart, but it’s time to move on. Mark’s a good man. He loves both of us and wants us to be his family.”

Jocelyn stood up and walked over to the front window. She ran her fingers down the cool glass, pretending to write her father’s name, over and over.

“Well,” her mother said. “What do you think about that?”

“I don’t like it at all. Mark is not my father. He likes to touch me and hold my hand. It gives me the creeps.”

Her mother stood behind her and pulled her against her chest. “I’ll always love you. That will not change. But I love Mark and want to bring him into our family.”

The wedding was two months later. Jocelyn and her mother moved into Mark’s high-rise apartment, on the fifteenth floor, high above the city. Jocelyn  changed schools. Mark enrolled her in a private academy close to where he and her mother worked so that he could walk Jocelyn to and from school every day.

He held her hand tightly in his own hand. He bought her gifts almost every day. Toys. Dolls in fancy dresses. Clothes much too fancy and in styles that Jocelyn didn’t like.

After school they were alone in the apartment until her mom got off work. Mark made her get dressed up and sit on the couch next to him. He put her hand in his lap and held her tight against his chest. So tightly that she could barely breathe.

He fixed her special treats and insisted on feeding her as if she was a baby. Jocelyn complained, but Mark didn’t stop. Instead he demanded more a more of her time.

“Mom,” Jocelyn said one night when her mom came into her room. “Can I stay at school until you can come get me? There’s an after-school study group that I’d like to join.”

“Why? Are you having a hard time in your classes?”

Jocelyn shrugged. “Not really. But I’d rather be with kids than her alone with Mark.”

“But Mark loves you. He’s changed his work schedule just so he can see you safely too and from school.”

“I don’t want to be alone with him.”

“I don’t understand. I thought you like Mark.” Her mother sat on the edge of her bed and rubbed her daughter’s feet.

“No, I never did. You liked him.” Jocelyn pulled her feet away and wrapped her arms around her bent knees. “Can’t I go live with Grandma?”

“Honey, Grandma lives too far away.”

“I’ll go live with her and go back to my old school.”

“I’m sorry, but no. Mark, you and I are family now.”

Jocelyn refused to say any more, so her mother left. Jocelyn wanted to tell her mother about the way Mark looked at her, at the way he held her hand in his lap, about the special clothes he made her wear, but she didn’t say any of those things.

She wished she had as it only got worse. One day Mark took her to a shop for young women and asked the clerk to pick out bras and matching panties for her. They were very pretty, very expensive, and very fashionable, but Jocelyn would rather have gone shopping for these things with her mom. And when she and Mark got back to the apartment, he made her try on the underwear and model them for him.

Jocelyn didn’t want to do it. “No, Mark,” she said and went into her room.

“Yes, you will. I spent quite a bit of money on these things and I want to see how they fit. Put them on,” he said as he tossed the bag on Jocelyn’s bed. “You’d better be in the front room within ten minutes or I’ll come dress you myself.”

Jocelyn opened the bag and pulled out one set. It was a pretty purple, her favorite color, but she hated the color now. She didn’t want to model the clothes for Mark. She didn’t want to parade around in her underwear, so she stuffed the bag in the back of her closet and went into the bathroom.

“Jocelyn,” Mark called. “Come out. Right now.”

“No. Not until my mother comes home.”

The doorknob turned and Mark stepped into the room. He grabbed Jocelyn’s right arm so hard that it hurt, pulled her to a standing position and drug her into her bedroom. “Change clothes. Now.”


Mark’s fist punched her in the stomach, bending her over. “Do it. Now.”

Jocelyn stumbled over to her closet and opened the door. She bent over to reach for the bag, but then Mark leaned over her, pressing himself against her back. “Now you’re being a good girl,” he said as he smoothed back her hair. He reached into the closet and pulled out the bag. He took out the purple outfit and handed it to Jocelyn, all the while holding her tight against his chest. “Put it on.”

Jocelyn stood frozen. When Mark held the garments before her, she refused to hold them.

“So, you’re going to be that way,” he said through gritted teeth. He turned Jocelyn around so that she faced him and unbuttoned her school blouse with his right hand, never letting go with his left. He slid the blouse off her shoulders, exposing her naked chest. He handed her the bra. “Take the tags off and unsnap it.”

When Jocelyn refused, he put the tag between his teeth and pulled. The cardboard easily tore off. Then he put one end of the bra in his mouth and unhooked it. He placed the cups over Jocelyn’s barely showing breasts, then turned her around. He fastened it, then pulled off her uniform skirt and panties.

He handed her the matching lace panties. “You do it.”

Again Jocelyn refused, so Mark did it for her. Then he walked her into his bedroom and stood her before the floor-to-ceiling mirror.  “Look how beautiful you are,” he said as he rested his chin on the top of her head. He ran his arms down hers.
“Stop or I’ll tell my mother.”

“No, you won’t. Your mother trusts me. She knows how much I love you. She approves of the time we spend together. She wants us to be closer. I want us to be closer.” He turned her around and touched her belly button. “You have an innie.” Then he bent over and kissed her, right there.

Jocelyn wrenched free and ran into her bedroom, then into her bathroom and locked the door. Mark pounded on the door, making it rattle. “Open this up right now.”

Jocelyn sat on the floor and made herself as small as she could. She heard Mark leave and sighed, thinking it was over. But then he returned and she heard scratching sounds coming from the other side.

“When I get this open, you’ll do as I say,” he shouted.

Just as the doorknob fell to the floor, Jocelyn heard screams.

“What are you doing?” her mother said.

“Jocelyn locked herself inside and can’t get the door open,” Mark said.

“Move away,” her mother said as she opened the door. “What are you wearing?” her mother knelt before her and touched her on the chin. “Look at me. Tell me what’s going on.”

“Mark bought these for me and put them on me. He touched me, Mom. He made me uncomfortable.”

“Oh, my baby.” Her mom pulled her close. “How long has this been going on? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I tried to, Mom, but you wouldn’t listen. You said you loved him and he loved me. You made me spend time with him even though I begged to stay at school.”

“I’m so sorry, honey. So very sorry.” Her mom wrapped Jocelyn in a towel, sat on the toilet seat and pulled Jocelyn into her lap. Tears poured down both of their faces. “I should have listened to you, but I thought I was in love. Now I see that it was too good to be true. I’m so sorry.”

Jocelyn got dressed while her mother packed their suitcases. Before they left the apartment Mark was sitting at the kitchen table. “Whatever she told you was a lie,” he said.

“My daughter doesn’t lie.” Her mother took off her wedding rings and placed them before Mark. “Don’t call me, write to me, or text me. Don’t come near us or make any attempt to be near us. It’s over.”

Jocelyn smiled when the door closed behind them. She walked as close to her mother as she could all the way to garage. They got into the car and headed out of town. “Where are we going?” Jocelyn asked.

“Back to Grandma’s. We’ll live with her. I’ll get a new job, close to home.”

“What about Mark?”

“He’ll never bother you again.”

And Jocelyn believed her.