Teddy Bear and the Nightmares

babyWhile both of my parents are significant influences in my life, I have to give the majority of the child rearing credit to my mom.  Mom fed us, dressed us, bathed us, got us to school, chauffeured to activities, read bedtime stories, fixed boo boos, and knew all the details of her three children’s lives growing up.

There are some memories I have of my dad during my childhood which stand out, like the time I ran screaming from him when he asked to do my hair during a summer trip to Colorado.  It was in fact the first and only time I can recall him showing any interest in doing my hair and it was my mom’s job…  Or so I thought, until she pointed out how upset he looked at my response.  Remorsefully I agreed to let him try to which he responded, “Nevermind.”

My dad may not have been successful at styling his daughters’ hair, though, he did have a knack at resolving my childhood nightmares.  I had a reoccurring nightmare which likely stemmed from cartoon watching and stranger danger lessons in early elementary school.  To a six year old, the Care Bears being kidnapped was a wickidly frightening dream and one I would wake up from crying.  Whether from brilliant parenting insight or just an effort to keep me from trying to sleep in my parents bed, my dad reassured me in a way I found strength and confidence.  My dad told me to fall asleep holding my teddy bear up to my head and it would scare the bad dreams away.

It was a simple piece of advice from my dad and helped me sleep soundly through my childhood.  A few weeks ago I was fondly remembering how this memory made an impression on me when the realization hit me, my dad lied to me.  The teddy bear didn’t scare anything away, it was a false sense of security which tricked me into sleeping.  Now some people might say “so what, you got to sleep.”  Except my parents raised us with the belief and my dad maintains it is important to never lie to children.  He stands by the necessity of being truthful, not misleading with fairytales or disception.  Granted, this does not mean full disclosure to kids, there are times to limit topics into adult conversation.  For my parents it was important to set the example for always being honest.

In a quiet moment with my parents I broke the silence by asking my dad if he remembered this childhood advice.  I told him how I affectionately remembered the influence it had on me and my nightmares, he closed his eyes and smiled.  “It was a lie,” I pointed out, “The bear didn’t scare anything away, you lied.”  I felt so cleaver to finally uncover the one example in my lifetime where my dad was intentionally dishonest with me and hung to the thought for only a moment.

“It wasn’t a lie,” he said softly, “I helped you to change your perception so you weren’t afraid.”

As soon as he said it I understood what he meant, since a fear of a dream is unique from real danger.  The power I was given by the teddy bear wasn’t false at all, I was able to envision the protection it served me and it did provide me safety from my Care Bear nightmare.  The change in my perception gave me the confidence to control how I felt and what I didn’t need to fear.

Our conversation was broken up by a lab technician coming into the hospital room to take more blood samples from my dad.  He laid weak under the florescent lighting on an emergency stretcher, medical machines beeping with IV fluid being flushed through his body.  Dad’s skeletal frame had been deteriorating over the past six month, starting as a back ache escalating to full blown crisis.  Knowing what we know now, I wrestled with the guilt of thinking he just wasn’t trying hard enough to get well.

Dad was admitted to the ICU and the following few days were met with a whirlwind of doctors, blood tests, CT scans, X-rays, medicines and finally a bone biopsy.  For a man who had escaped injury and illness throughout his life, it was a nightmare come to life to watch him dependent on help from others.  My mom, siblings and our significant others rallied to support Dad during his hospitalization.  After an emotionally taxing weekend, we surrounded my dad when a doctor confirmed the diagnosis of multiple myeloma.

Six days after entering through the emergency room, Dad was sent home and began preparation for cancer treatment.  Taking advice from my sister-in-law to heart, I have not looked into the statistics of the disease and only focused my attention on gaining knowledge of treatment.  I am not naïve about his frail condition or the long road ahead, instead I am making a choice not to dwell in what we cannot change.  Dad’s advice of the teddy bear and nightmares seems to be relevant even more today.  By changing our perception we can develop strength and avoid fear, keep our minds open for opportunities and be confident about handling what the future brings.

My dad continues to reinforce life lessons and bring a positive influence into my life, as does my mom.  Through all of this, my mom has stayed the consistent caregiver.  She makes meals, helps dress, chauffeurs to doctor’s appointments, and maintains all the details of dad’s needs.  Mom even helps him with his hair.


For family and friends who are interested in knowing more about his diagnosis and treatment, Dad and I are keeping a journal to document the road to recovery on Caringbridge.  You can find him by searching his full name.

Camp Of Frogs & Fish

Trying to eliminate unnecessary clutter, I began sorting through an old box of letters.  I believe I have unnecessarily saved every letter, folded school note, and card I apparently ever received, thus creating plenty of unnecessary clutter.  Going through old mail is like a time capsule of my life and while I can purge a lot of junk, some of these treasures I just can’t let go.  At least if I clutter some internet space with it, I might be able to let go of the paper.

This card I got from my brother while I was away at Girl Scout Camp.  It was a thrilling feeling to hear my name called to get mail, even if I was only away a few days.  And in his most careful cursive (probably the best handwriting I have seen from him – even 20 years later) he wrote a sincere brotherly note.
Girl Scout Camp was full of songs, hiking back and forth across camp grounds and giggling with new friends.

I remember feeling like tiny frogs blanketed the grass outside of our cabins.  If they had been crickets I might have run screaming between the cabin and the bathroom across the grassy knoll.  Since they were amphibian creatures, and babies at that, I carefully took every step to make sure they got to hop to safety before my monstrous 9-year-old foot reached the earth.  Not only was the frog population so high, I can’t forget about the sheer numbers of fish in the lake either.

For each day at the camp, our group would have a rotation at the lake for swimming.  On the first day it was required to swim from one dock to the other for the lifeguards to judge what level swimmer we were and how far we would be allowed to swim in the lake.  I was overly confident about my swimming abilities as I jumped in for my test.  Immediately I began feeling not alone in the water, one object brushing against my leg, then another and then my arm.  With every kick and paddle through the water I was feeling fish also trying to occupy that space.  My easy aquatic technique quickly turned to floundering to stay afloat, slowly making my way to the other dock disgusted by the lake and its fearless inhabitants.  Despite my uneasy approach they gave me permission to swim to a certain distance in the water to which I said “No thanks.”  And stayed on the beach.