Saturday, September 7, 2013

I ain’t scared

Two days ago I posted the following statement on Facebook:
Seeking Advice: Finn (1-year-old) has been sleeping in our closet his whole life. We were thinking its time to move him out of the closet... And into Wyatt's room with Wyatt (4-years-old). Wyatt will not be moving into the closet just incase that needed to be clarified. This shouldn't be complicated. I know I should just throw Finn in with Wyatt and hope for the best, but SLEEP - its a precious commodity I don't want to lose any more of. Current problems: (1) Wyatt sleeps with the closet light on, Finn sleeps in the pitch black. (2) Wyatt basically jumps around his crib (yes he still sleeps in a crib) making boom banging noises for about an hour before he falls asleep. I'm not sure Finn will stay sleeping during Wyatt's reenactment of Lightning McQueen's beat down of Francesco. (3) It's not unordinary for Finn to wake up at 5:30 whaling (it's such a wonderful moment when Ryan and I lovingly look into each others eyes and peacefully decide who's getting up, NOT). Wyatt sleeps till 6:15. Any advice on making the transition to the boys being in the same room will be GREATLY appreciated.
Although there were multiple hysterical and informative replies, one reply stuck out from the rest, Cyd Franken’s who is the wife of a wonderful man, Tao “Richter” Franken – a true adventurer with a devilish smile who passed away very recently at much too young of an age. Cyd wrote:
Tao and I chucked Trina into Kai’s room early… As Tao would say, I ain’t scared.
Let’s rewind here to four years early when I probably last spoke to Richter by phone. I was pregnant with Wyatt and walking along the wooded and richly green C&O canal just outside Washington DC. For reasons I can’t remember he had a few questions about Potomac Festival, a local whitewater event  – those were quickly answered and small talk ensued. Being as I was waddling along in my oversized state, and honestly, a little scared about what was growing in my belly, I asked Richter if I would survive parenthood. “Parenthood?” Richter balked. “That’s easy.” I laughed. Richter didn’t. He meant it.

I hung up the phone a little confused. Richter for all practical purposes had earned the right to have an opinion on parenthood. He had two kids that were at the time of the conversation a toddler girl and a young son who was already boofing waterfalls. He had earned his stripes. And yet, he was the only one out of all the parents I knew that was telling me that parenthood was easy…

Cyd’s reply to my Facebook post two days ago finally made Richter's answer of four years earlier make sense. “I ain’t scared,” a phrase I heard Richter say countless times from the back of the Proctor High School kayak van where he and my brother – two wild and untamed teenagers – would sit dreaming of their college days ahead when they would run huge waterfalls in between classes.  And I’m sure as the years went by Richter said it on his approach to the world’s tallest peaks and the deepest canyons. It too became a motto of my brother’s and mine. We would often quote Richter with an equally devilish grin before we headed out into the backcountry of Wyoming for a ski adventure, or at the put in of some wild river. But as the years went by I said it less and eventually forgot it completely.

When my brother called me a few months ago and could barely talk in between sobs telling me that his best friend, his roommate for years, and his true brother had died of sleep apnea next to his son in their tent on an innocent camping trip I was shocked. I didn’t move. I didn’t talk. I just let the gushing sobs from my brother bring me into his misery. I thought about his wife, his son, his daughter and I too sobbed at the simple fact that he was gone.

As I sit here now, I realize with no doubt in my mind that Richter greeted death with his wonderful grin and said, “This is much too early, but I ain’t scared.” And thanks to Cyd, I am reminded of how powerful this simple phrase is. Fear is toxic – it prevents love, it prevents humor, it prevents the true joy that can be experienced in life.

Before I posted about moving Finn into Wyatt’s room, I was scared! I was DREADING the pure exhaustion that would ensue from potential sleepless nights of worrying over whether Wyatt would smother Finn with a pillow, or chuck a toy at Finn’s head leaving him with a gushing wound, or simply if the boys would sleep. It’s the same stupid fear that consumes me at the entrance to the grocery store with both boys in tow knowing the all-to-soon melt down from Wyatt will emerge when I tell him we can’t buy six boxes of cookies.

But Richter’s phrase, “I ain’t scared,” snapped me out of this worthless state of fear. Upon seeing Cyd’s post I immediately went into action. I took a few necessary precautions by removing from the boys’ room all pillows and sharp-pointy toys that could suffocate or impale, threw the boys into the same room, and merely chuckled when I left their room and closed the door to their first night of sleeping together. And yes, I didn’t sleep. And yes, the boys barely slept. And yes, both boys and both parents were cranky monster after a night of no sleep, but the boys did have a blast laughing and playing together, and Ryan and I did laugh the next morning despite the fact we had to call the doctor at 5AM because we overdosed Finn on Tylenol. By all means it was a miserable night, but because I wasn’t scared I could embrace humor and the love from my crazy boys and as a result have the time of my life. 

I will never again forget Richter’s phrase because when Wyatt gets his drivers license or worse his motorcycle license – I just shivered and gagged – I will chant, “I ain’t scared” and beat back fear with a whopping bat.

Richter, I still don’t believe you – parenthood is hard, but it is a lot easier, and more importantly, full of a lot more love, fun and meaning when you’re not scared. Thank you Richter for always giving me that devilish smile above huge waterfalls and saying, “I ain’t scared.” At times I thought you were crazy. Now I know you were just smarter than the rest of us. I love you and I miss you.

To dear Cyd, thank you for reminding me of your husband’s most perfect phrase. From here on out, this Mama ain’t scared!

For those of you that have been touched by Richter's life like I was a fund has been set up to help support Richter's two children, Trina and Kai. Please click here for more information.

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live the world they have been given, rather than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It is an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It is a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. - John Maxwell, Tao-Richter's favorite quote

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