What were your childhood fears? Did you fear the monster under the bed, the Bogeyman in your closet or other things that went bump in the night. My friend, Ronald, feared the Frankenstein Monster.
Ofter the fears had some basis for existing. Perhaps the lose of a parent or parents getting divorsed. Certainly some of us feared the bully at school.
So many things we might choose to spook us and in many cases our worse fears never came to be.
I certainly had a collection of such things, fear of heights and fear of the dark, but one of the specific fears I had, and almost forgotten about, was something I saw at the Carnival.
Circuses, Fairs and Carnivals were popular diversions back when I was a child. Some were big affairs, like Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey that traveled from city to city on a circuit each year, others were simple town fairs sponsored by the American Legior or Kiwanus Clubs. My nightmares started at a large Carnival, perhaps in Reading or Allentown, Pennsylvania and I was very young. It was either the late 1940s or early 1950s.
Carnivals had their own sideshows and oddity displays. I remember this was a trailer sitting alone
I am not sure why such a contraption was on display at a Carnival. My guess is it was because on the then very prevalent Polio epidemic. The Salk Polio vaccine had not been developed yet. Its discovery came in 1952 and it was announced to the population in 1953. Prior to that their were many people confined to an Iron Lung, the majority being children. Perhaps this display was to bring Polio to the public attention, although I doubt such attention was needed. It was a dreaded disease, much feared. The President in place when I was born had it, but he wasn't confined to an Iron Lung. His case of Infantile Paralysis. or Polio, put braces on his legs and sat him in a wheelchair, but did not cause him to be unable to breath on his own.
After I went through that carnival exhibit I had nightmares that went on for weeks, months. How horrible to live like that, locked away in a great tin can unable to walk about or anything. This idea of confinement became one of my greatest fears.
This fear never really left my mind. It did expand beyond the Iron Lung, a device you'd be hard pressed to find today. But the idea of paralysis did merge with that earlier sight. People sometimes broke their neck and couldn't move. I met such a fellow in my twenties, almost taking an offer to be his companion.
These earlier fears traveled to the back of my mind as I grew older.
The old images came flooding back after I saw the film, "The Diving bell and the Butterfly". This 2007 movie was based on the memoir if Jean-Dominique Bauby. He had been the Paris editor if Elle magazine, but he suffered a masive stroke that left him with Locked-in Syndrome. This meant he could move nothing, except his eyes and a bit of his face. He wrote his memoir by using a letter board. A person would call out the letters and he would blink when they called the one he wanted. By such a method he wrote his book. It took him ten months working four hours a day to accomplish it, but he did it. Unfortunately, he died only a couple weeks after the work was published. He was 44.
I though about this when my mother had her stroke. It hit her in a portion of the brain stem that could have possibly caused Locked-in Syndrome. It was bad enough. It made her left side of no use and left her unable to swallow.
What horrible fates, I thought.
Now here I am with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Lockein Syndrome is most likely my fate, if something else doesn't kill me first. This is the state Stephen Hawking is in. Yet, oddly, I have no fear as I had after the woman in the Iron Lung. In the movie. The Theory of Everything", young Hawking was depicted as depressed and distraught after his diagnosis, at one point smashing chair against a wall. I fell no such depression and I have smashed nothing, not yet anyway. I'm not happy about it, but figure I will just live my life best I can. They only part that really bothers me is the possibility I will lose the ability to swallow. My mother did and she had a feeding tube. I am not fond of that idea.
I seem to have been lucky. Below is a clip, a trailer for the movie. I wanted people to notice how he walks with his toes pointing inward. The clip below it is of me walking and my toes point out. This is a blessing for in pointing toes make for easy falling; out pointing give me more stability, for now anywa
The realities have chased away the fears. We only deal now with what is.