Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fear and Friendship

Last Sunday, when I returned with Sicily from visiting my best friend from medical school, Ike looked down at my legs, startled.

"What happened to you in Jonesboro?"

Sicily and I were greeted the morning before in the driveway by Alyssa, her husband, and their beautiful two year old daughter Ainsley, whose golden curls are so amazing they almost took my breath away.  I can't believe it has been two years since I have been to see them.  I am remembering her a lot this summer, since I am the woman of honor (that is what I finally settled on, as opposed to matron, thanks to the help of Dr. Styles) in my sister-in-law's wedding, and was the same for Alyssa about three years ago.

As we walked in the house, their 2 year old, 30 pound dog Miles, all muscle, greeted me a little too enthusiastically.  They had taken him to the vet the day before, but concerns over possible eye trauma had trumped their remembering to get his nails cut, and I was the unfortunate by product.  I ultimately regretted my loud reaction more than the aesthetics and pain; I set up a cycle of fear for Sicily throughout the weekend, which she ultimately couldn't shake.  Not that she didn't put forth every effort - she was so brave and even became friends with Miles at one point until the cooing that was so effective in lulling Ainsley into a happy state of  co-existence with my daughter sent the dog into an ecstatic frenzy, which in turn sent Sicily running into a bedroom and slamming the door, screaming my name in terror.

No amount of rationalization on my part could get rid of her fears.  I held her until she calmed down and then tried to explain that Miles was just excited, that he wouldn't hurt her.  That he hadn't even MEANT to hurt me.  I even compared the dog's manic state to Sicily's actions in the pool earlier as she tried to entertain Ainsley - Sicily was rushing away and toward Ainsley on the steps, yelling HILARIOUS, a tactic that had delighted my brother-in-law's 5 month old a few months earlier, but was currently causing Ainsley to react with confusion between excitement and sheer terror.  Sicily got it all, appeared to understand with my assurance that she wouldn't be left alone with the dog, then stared at the long red cuts on my legs that were already forming blue and purple outlines.  When I tried to open the door to the bedroom, she rushed into the bathroom and slammed the door.  "No mom, I'm not ready yet.  Make him go outside for a little bit, please."

Alyssa understood, and the perfectly harmless dog went outside for a couple of hours.  Alyssa and Chris had apologized profusely to me earlier, but I waved them off.  "I am more worried about what this will do to Sicily for the weekend.  Don't worry about me.  Cuts and bruises are edgy and cool.  I can make up fascinating stories about what people do in Jonesboro on the weekend for fun, and brag about my participation."

As I was trying to talk Sicily out of her fear, and getting slightly frustrated, I had to check myself.  Our gut fear reactions are good for us, evolutionarily protective, even.  And she had witnessed the dog cause trauma to me, so she had good reason to be worried.  She didn't have the same experience as their two year old, who had been living in the house unharmed for two years.  She only had a few hours under her belt, and she had every right to be wary and demand protection from the adults around her.

On Monday morning during a break, I called Alyssa to tell her:  "Sicily wouldn't wash her hair last night and wore the french braids you did for her to school today!"  I also told her that when I went in to wake Sicily up for school, she had picked out the picture of Ainsley from the 100 or so kid pics I had cut from Christmas cards that year and pinned to the billboard right outside of her room, and fallen asleep with it next to her.  It almost melted my heart.  Alyssa reported that Ainsley wouldn't go to bed without the stuffed bear that Sicily had made earlier in the year and gave to her as present, and Ainsley sadly noted Sicily's absence in the seat next to her on the way to day care Monday morning.

Alyssa was my benchmark in medical school.  We studied hard together, and she always did a little better than me, which frustrated me but kept me going.  Now she is an ophthalmologist with a state-of-the-art building filled with high tech equipment, providing an endless source of entertainment for the kids and I when she got called in to see patients over the weekend.  As I think back on our friendship, we have shared lots of fears, most of which have melted away.  But we are still here for each other.  Hopefully we can set up the same relationship for our daughters.


rlbates said...

Just wanted to say hello. I just got my copy of the "Medical News of Arkansas" edition with the article on medical bloggers in Arkansas. Nice to "meet" you.

Gizabeth Shyder said...

Oh my goodness! My first MNA-related comment. By a dog! You look very handsome in that yellow bandanna.

Seriously, thanks for the hit to my site. Nice to meet you, too. I haven't received the article yet - I need to search the web.

Gizabeth Shyder said...

OK, so I just read the article and figured out who you are. Can't wait to check yours out!