Fear: Part I

Growing up, fear was the operative emotion in my family. Of course there was love. But fear was…special.

It was a game. No one kept score. But you remember the good ones.

Like my Da: Falling into the dark hallway from an even darker bedroom, right in front of me. He hits the floor hard. He’s wearing that creepy old man mask with the gaping red tongue, wretched teeth and wild gray Albert Einstein hair. He’s twitching. And coughing. Like he’s dying.

Then he’s laughing, maniacally.

“Did I get you? I got you, right?”

That happened back in the early 80's. We still talk about it.

It’s an artform, or can be, if you’re really into it.

Sure, you can go for the cheap and easy scares. Like creeping up and yelling “MRAH!” (we don’t use Boo, oh hell no, no way) when Mom is deep in dishes at the kitchen sink or when all of us are universally vulnerable, coming out of a bathroom. But the good ones take thought. And not necessarily time, but timing.

The last truly great scare happened during a visit about a year ago, when Mom was still alive.

Heading for bed, I hit the light switch on the wall just inside my room (nothing’s the same but an awesome plastic rainbow ‘Heather’ nameplate on the door; “I just couldn’t take it down,” Mom said.) And there’s Da — but for a split second it’s not him — it’s Dracula, hissing violently, head tilted back, mouth wide open, with his hands clenched, ready to grab me.

The hiss made it exceptional. I swore at him pretty good that time and could hear Mom laughing from her spot on the living room couch.

I hadn’t thought about that scare in a while, since before she died.

And now, right now, the memory of Da/Dracula standing there is so vivid, so clear.

But my memory of Mom and her little laugh, it isn’t so clear.

And I am afraid.