Friday, January 7, 2011
What I Most Fear
For much of my childhood, I was generally described as having much older tastes. When I was in the third grade, I recall claiming, in front of my entire class, that my favorite comedian was George Burns. How I came up with this answer at the puny age of eight I shall never know, and certainly never care to know. My tastes in movies were no different. While I was certainly drawn to Disney movies and the like, I found myself enthralled to the films of Alfred Hitchcock (films that I usually referred to as “old”, much to the chagrin of my grandparents). Around this same time, my grandmother gave me the book Truffaut Hitchcock as a gift. The book, now one of my most prized possessions (primarily because of my grandmother's heartwarming inscription inside the front cover), allowed me a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the man responsible for all of the "old" movies I had grown to love at such a young age. Although I can’t help but frown on Mr. Hitchcock’s misogynistic tendencies now that I am a bit more educated, I must still credit his work as being monumental in the development of my appreciation of film.
Although admittedly rather stereotypical, Hitchock's 1960 film Psycho is the one that jumpstarted my love affair with motion pictures. As much as I would come to adore and appreciate the picture, however, it had the capacity to instill in me intense fear. The famous "shower" scene, as you will probably recall, features an astonishing frightening musical accompaniment. I often refer to it as the “dreaded strings”. This moniker is most closely linked to my tendency to run out of the room with my ears covered for fear of hearing such wretched noises. That sound, may just be the most enduringly famous of all Hitchcock's professional endeavors. Although I am now much older, and as a result, afraid of less things, I have reached a point of being able to sit down to a viewing of Psycho, able to make it through the infamous shower scene. Nevertheless, my memories of being absolutely mortified while viewing the film as a child remain in my mind as the most frightened I have ever been. In some way, the memory of my adolescent fear has endured as my greatest fear.
I have spent a great deal of time pondering thoughts of fear, often reflecting back on my moments of terrific dread at the hands of Psycho. These reflections made me alert to a whole slew of new fears, most of which do not stand a chance of combating my earlier memory - not even the thought of death. Although I do not wish to delve into a detailed discussion of different religious beliefs, let me state, frankly, that I do not believe in any kind of afterlife. I have become resigned to the notion that "life" after death is precisely the same as before birth. An utter lack of consciousness and awareness. As a result, even the thought of death does nothing to make me tremble. However, my most fearful thoughts are, in a way, concerned with the end of life.
I fear, above all else, witnessing the physical and mental deterioration of the people I love. Although humans typically describe such gut-wrenching thoughts as eliciting fear, the thought of witnessing my parents and other loved ones wither away makes me feel a certain type of hate. I HATE the thought that I will (almost certainly) have to one day experience my parents in a permanently sickly state. I abhor the reality of today's loves being nothing but fading memories in my own mind. I am certain that even photographs of my family in today's state will do nothing but cause me to weep as a result of a longing for past days. I understand that every sunset and sunrise provides another link in the chain that will, someday, lead me to devastation.
The hate that I possess for these thoughts transforms back into fear when I acknowledge the cold inevitability of it all. My grandfather passed away in 1989. My father, who rarely ever appears anything but chipper and loving, reveals tears of raw pain and discomfort from the mention of his father. If I believed in karma, I would say that my father deserves not even an iota of suffering from the positive energy he has put into his life and the world around him. Nonetheless, the universe appeared to think differently when it bludgeoned my grandfather with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (typically referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease). As a result, my father, the man I love the most, was forced to watch the father he once knew become a faint memory. I am in tears at this moment thinking of the grief my father endured, as well as the pain endured by others of similar circumstances.
My father has had to live through what is surely my worst fear. Unlike my fears of monsters creeping into my bedroom at night, there is no night-light my father can purchase and install that will do anything to soothe or remedy my fear. All he can do is love me as intensely as he can, so that my fleeting memories of him, on that particular someday, will be just a tad bit stronger.