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.”
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?