We are afraid. When we see the email heading, the name of someone we have loved, we are afraid to open the link. We hope, in fact, that it is a scam, a mean trick that will destroy our hard drive, blow up our own email accounts, even dissolve the just-finished book. In that moment it is a bargain we would make.
We are afraid that he might be gone already, or that he may be going soon, when we didn’t even know anything was wrong. We are afraid that we did not tell him how much we thought of him, sorry that we didn’t stay in touch better, sad that we were so constrained by the complicated connections and disconnections between us. We are afraid that we have acted too much out of fear and not enough out of love.
Their daughter and our son were married just before 9/11. My husband and I, and our new daughter-in-law’s parents, then became machatunim, a Hebrew/Yiddish word for that describes this unique relationship. There is no English equivalent.
When our children divorced after two sons, many tears and not quite a decade, it was a time of suffering for all of us.
We are afraid to ask if we are still machatunim.
We are afraid to hope, when we learn it is not a death sentence, not necessarily, not yet. Maybe he can beat it, maybe he will. He is researching the disease, they are going to Sloan-Kettering, he will have the treatments, he feels a bit better now. It is very survivable. We are afraid to think about the fact that when he does have the treatments he will not feel better. We are sorry to think of his pain, and now we think of her fear. We wish there were a way to reach out to her, too, across the complicated history of the last decade.
We are afraid it might not be possible. It was our son who left their daughter, and for a long time we were afraid that they hated the young man we love so. We are afraid that there may have been too much damage to repair.
We are afraid that the grandsons we share may lose their other grandfather, their younger grandfather. We are afraid that they will not have the chance to follow him again to the woods, once more to the lake, help paddle the canoe, climb another Adirondack peak. They are not grown, they are not done with him. Not done helping him with his bees, not done with the Cub Scouts and the Eagle Scouts and the annual cardboard boat race.
We are afraid when we realize that we ourselves are not done with him. We are afraid that we took for granted his good humor, his resilience, his willingness to forgive. Once his daughter and the boys were settled again, once the years did their healing work, he didn’t hold it against us. He was glad to be friends whenever we had a chance to meet, and we were grateful each time.
We are afraid that we may be letting go of him too soon, afraid that if we do not ignore the worst possibility, ward it off with enough determination, we might somehow invite it.
We are afraid that we did not deserve him. We are afraid that if we do not lose him now after all that we will go back to other things. We are afraid that we will again forget to think of him, that we may forget the gratitude that our fear brings now.