Fear lurks in the furtherest corners of my mind, in the darkest hours of the night and in the deepest heaves of your ragged breath. Most of the time I can push the fears back, hold their heads under water until they stop struggling to manifest themselves in my over-active brain. With a final whimper, they surrender. But they aren’t gone; they merely retreat to gather strength until they can torment me again, and again, and again.
Some say that to overcome your fears, you must face them head on. So here I am, trying to verbalise something which, until now, has been a visceral reaction to your inability or refusal to change your destructive habit. Every year you have another bout of bronchitis and I wonder what kind of toll each winter is taking on your lungs and your ability to breathe. You’ve been told to stop smoking, but never seem to be able to get beyond a few days without your pacifiers. I’m not afraid of you getting sick every year. I can cope with nursing you for a few days. I’m afraid of winters and summers trapped at home because you can’t breathe enough to go out and walk about. I’m afraid of being forced to live life at your pace and not mine, and of resenting you more for it with each passing day.
I’m not afraid of you dying and leaving me before the appointed time, I’m afraid of you getting cancer. I’m afraid of having to watch you die a slow and painful death because of something you chose to do to yourself. I’m afraid of you not dying, but living on in limbo after a stroke or a heart attack. And I’m afraid of hating you for making me go through that experience.
I’m not a weak person. I’m strong. I’ve lived a lifetime with you and weathered many tears and fears. But this, this is my secret fear. And I’m afraid of the strength of my anger and resentment towards you for not taking care of yourself, for not caring that every little puff you take on those cigarettes is impacting on my life and my future as well as yours. I pray every day that I will never have to face these fears in reality, but I wait with a trembling heart.