I have an irrational fear, but you will not catch me showcasing it on Jerry Springer or Oprah or Dr. Philgood. I can promise you that. But I do sympathize with these people. Irrational fears are horrible, horrible things. They are, well, irrational.
When I see/hear my irrational fear, it is like the feeling of sheer panic. That’s because it is sheer panic. You want to run, but you can’t. Your heart accelerates to about four hundred beats per second, you start shaking all over, a wave of nausea sweeps over you, and sweat pours out of every pore in your body. Meanwhile, everyone else is looking at you like you are nuts, and you are fairly confident that they are correct. Actually, I have had people laugh at me while paralyzed with this irrational fear.
So here, I confess to you my fear: I have an insane, irrational fear of small children choking. I also have a nine month old son who puts every thing he finds into his mouth. It is like God testing me hundreds of times a day.
What sets off this fear is children coughing. The sound of a small child coughing sends me into immediate fight or flight mode. Not given to flight, I tend to want to fight. So basically, if your child starts coughing around me because he jammed his finger too far down his throat (WHY DO THEY DO THAT??!!) you may find me dangling him upside down by the leg whacking him on the back. Not too hard. Just firmly and with determination. Or, I may just stand there nearly catatonic. I can never tell which will happen.
Let me tell you the true story of how this awful nightmare began. I was around twelve years old and was visiting with my grandparents for the day. My brother was there, and at the time he was around nine. My first cousin was also there. He was about three years old on this day of infamy where his utter disobedience and sheer stupidity would scar me for life. I am being particularly harsh because he not only scarred me for life that day, but even though I literally saved his life he does not even have the courtesy to read my blog.
My grandparents had gone outside to pick some tomatoes out of their small garden in the backyard. I, even at this tender age, was reading a novel. I have been a nerd since day one. I vividly remember laying across the bed, minding my own business, and being engrossed in my novel. (It was a book by Terry Brooks, who wished desperately that he was J.R.R. Tolkien.) As I was reading, I became aware of another person in the room. They had entered silently. I would soon find out why.
My goofball cousin, the little three year old, was the one who had entered. His face was as red as a beet and his hands where clutching his throat. I believe that his eyeballs were also bulging out. He was not coughing; he was not gasping for breath. The boy was dying right before my eyes.
I freaked out. I mean I mad freaked. I started screaming like a banshee and running about like a total fool. My brother, who had been doing who knows what who knows where, came running into the room as fast as he could. We he saw my cousin, he dead stopped and stared. His mouth gaped open in shock. He stood staring, I was running around screaming like a madman. My cousin was standing between us, silently strangling to death.
It is in moments like these that we are defined as people, I think. Providentially, just a couple of days before, I had seen Batman demonstrate the Heimlich maneuver on Robin while watching Superfriends. I am not kidding. (This is why Batman is the greatest hero in history. At least for my cousin.)
So, I grabbed him up from behind, and started yanking his guts out. My little brother, who had recovered from his torpor, began to yell and holler and run around like a maniac. It was utter chaos.
On about the fifth yank, a projectile fired from the mouth of my cousin and bounced across the carpet. I’d say it went about three feet. It popped out like the cork from a champagne bottle. My brother stopped screaming and stooped down to look at this little curiosity like it was some sort of odd insect. He said with wonder, “It’s butterscotch.” My cousin, the little miscreant, had gotten into the butterscotch when he had been told not to, thereby almost killing himself and scarring me for life.
Now, while my brother was surreally gazing at the piece of butterscotch, I had hit panic mode again. My cousin had passed out. He went as limp as a dishrag. When I sat him down, he just flopped down on the floor. I thought he was dead. So I did the only thing a sensible twelve year old would do. I screamed in his ear for him not to be dead, and then I pried open his eyelid to check his eyes. Sure enough, they were rolled up in his head. This confirmed my suspicions. He had died.
At about the same time, my brother and I realized that there were some adults just outside in the garden. Adults could fix anything. And these adults were special, they were grandparents. We both bolted out of the house and down to the garden as fast as we could run, screaming and hollering like idiots the entire way, “Chris is dead! Chris is dead! WWWAAAAHHHHHH!!!”
Needless to say they freaked out too. But they did so on a more adult level. My grandfather and grandmother charged the 100 feet up to the house like Teddy Roosevelt’s Roughriders at San Juan Hill. We all piled in the door at the same time, and we all stopped dead in our tracks the moment we got through the door.
There was my idiot cousin, smiling, laughing even, standing in the middle of the living room and sucking on his finger. I looked at my brother in bewilderment. My grandparents looked at us in anger. They thought we were lying. We pled with them that we were not kidding, all the while my cousin kept trying to dig his fat little hand back into the butterscotch jar.
Ever since that day, I lose it when a child coughs. It is completely irrational, I know. I further know that if they are coughing, then they can still breathe. This head knowledge does not help me with my panic.
Now I have a son who sticks every conceivable object into his mouth that he can fit into his hand. Today he strangled on a leaf. It made him vomit. It made me faint…almost. I hope that God cures me of this ridiculous phobia soon. I am turning into a paranoid nut. I already chop the boy’s food into microscopic sizes before feeding him. He has six teeth, and he hasn’t gotten to use them yet.
And Chris, if you are reading this, you still owe me big time.
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