The Dune

By Lloyd Graff

The path was steep and winding, inaccessible by car. It led to the beach on the Pacific Ocean at Monterey Bay, near where my granddaughter went to summer camp. She wanted to show off the scenery to us.

I chose to stay at the car while the others in our group trudged down the rapidly descending path to the sea. I wanted to douse my memories of 8 years ago, when I was wondering if I’d make it up the sand dune at Lake Michigan where the family was vacationing right before the heart attack that almost ended my life.

For the last 8 years I’ve almost entirely avoided sand dunes and steep ascents from the water. The images they provoke in me are just too unsettling. Why look for anxiety when there’s enough in everyday existence to fill my cup to overflowing?

I thought I had buried the sand dune memory, turned it into a postcard photo after eight years, but I hadn’t. I don’t know if I can kill the scary images of the past. Maybe the best I can do is identify them and say to myself, “I know you, you annoy me, but you don’t spook me anymore.”

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

Eight years ago, as I struggled to climb the 150-foot sand dune at Union Pier, Michigan, the sweat poured from my forehead and armpits. It was as much from the fear and denial as the exertion. Was I going to make it to the street? Were they going to have to call an ambulance? And if I did make it up the dune, was I going to fake it like I had been all week on the trip, or let everybody know how scared I was?

I faked it.

Everybody else went out for lunch at the nearby burger joint, but I stayed in the car, trying to will away the pain in my left upper chest and dry the sweat on my brow.

I had forgotten that awful half hour waiting for the family to finish lunch, wallowing in fear in the Toyota, until just writing this. Maybe memories never really are buried.

Question: Have fear and denial almost killed you?

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4 thoughts on “The Dune

  1. Steve

    Hi Lloyd,

    Fear and denial killed my father in law a month ago yesterday. He was an otherwise healthy 75 year old but was showing symptoms for 2 weeks before his fatal heart attack. He refused to go to the hospital, despite everyone’s attempts to get him there. Now family is left wondering “what if”. I hope this permanently changes my behavior when it comes to treating my asthma when it is acting up. That stuff can kill you you know.

  2. Joseph


    I’m confused, as this is very foreign to me. I hope and think I understand that you are fine now. The doctors found out what was wrong, in this case your heart, and fixed the problem and have healed you. They didn’t limit you, by saying you can’t walk up and down sand dunes, so why are you limiting yourself. The sand dune was never the root problem, it was your health before it was diagnosed and you were cured of the condition. Thanks to medical science, good doctors, and God above you are fine. Go and enjoy everyday to the fullest.

    We all should be thankful for the signs. The signs that tell us something isn’t right with our body, or something has changed in our body (like when we get older) can be scary. The signs should be telling us to get help and not be afraid to ask for it, especially from your family. The family that loves you and wants to continue to see more tomorrows with you. I know you want to continue living, your family wants you to continue to live. You should let them know any time that you might feel a little off or different so that you can be helped. Why be afraid to ask for help, or reveal that something might be wrong?

  3. Seth Emerson

    Lloyd – I have noticed that, creeping up on me like old(er) age. Some people say you lose your imagination as you get older. I can imagine all kinds of things going wrong. I have noticed I have started to choose not to do things, instead of jumping in and going ahead. Not just reticence, actively avoiding. All I can think of is being scared of things – For no good reason! I am trying to actively change that, but it is a real challenge! I am still in pretty good health and I have no good reason to make those decisions. Weird!


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