Editor’s Note: Erin Donovan writes about family life in midcoast Maine. Find her blog “I’m Gonna Kill Him” online. Her column will appear in print on Thursdays.
I spend considerable time fretting over dying in a plane crash. The only other irrational concern I direct as much worried energy to is being attacked by a shark.
It goes without saying that my nightmare is swimming out of a crunched fuselage flooding with ocean water, arteries emptying into a red slick around me, while Great Whites nudge my torso. If left to ponder that thought too long my right eyelid begins to twitch in a discothequelike staccato and I have to call the Fandango hotline just so that soothing voice can restore a little tranquility.
I have good reason to worry about dying. We have three children we’d be leaving behind. They would need a mother figure to counsel them, and carry them when necessary, through the travails of adolescence. If that plane crashes or that shark snaps, I fear that my influence over what the kids feel is going to wane dramatically from my location in a DMV-like purgatory.
“Who will allow three children to sleep in their bed with them?” I groan while untangling my limbs and taking stock of a bed so littered with humans that it could only be found in a Lady Gaga video.
My husband, Greg, is not consumed with trifling conversations like these. When the plane shudders, he reclines his seat back — which fearful flyers know is like a big middle finger to the gods of aviation — and has another drink. When we swim in the ocean, he doesn’t even flinch when I scream, “I think I saw a fin, maybe nine of them actually!” And when I tell him that it’s high time we sit down and map a plan for the future of our kids, he thinks it’s absurd to consider one in which we’re not present.
He trusts that we’ll be there for every sandwich, every joke and each bout of illness. And if through some tragic fluke of fate we are not, he feels secure in the belief that each member of our collective families suddenly would rise to the occasion, certificates in Infant First Aid and Early Childhood Development magically manifesting, to take in our brood and love them exactly as we would have.
In fact, I think he invests so strongly in the adage ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ that he believes our families actually would secede from the U.S. as a new protectorate, complete with its own postal code and Subway franchise, to shepherd our kids into adulthood.
When I married a lawyer, I figured every decision would be managed with neat compacts and Last Will and Testaments. Yet somehow we do not have a will. We have no tangible directive as to the landing place of our children should we both die. Greg defaults to irritating, esoteric “Field of Dreams” mantras when pressed: “If the time arrives, the clear choice will emerge from the haze.”
It’s not as clear to me when I see candidates who are too old … too young … too settled with their own families … too unsettled … too unmarried … too committed to life without children … too living on a submarine.
In an effort to inspire Greg to codify my wishes for the family, I’ve resorted to pitiful attempts to strike fear into his mind about the fragility of life. A pulsation in my calf becomes restless leg syndrome, which morphs to a central nervous system failure and intensifies to a terminal brain tumor. All in the space of one “Grey’s Anatomy” episode. Major world events, such as the slaughter of Osama Bin Laden, become the backdrop for our own imminent death.
“That could have been us. And then what would become of the children,” I warn with a grim expression.
“What could have been us? A wanted international terrorist holed up in a Pakistani compound, shot by Navy SEALs?” my husband asks incredulously.
I remind him that my brother is in fact a Navy SEAL and probably desired to shoot me most of our childhood and that I gave a Pakistani exchange student a television once.
Every place we visit becomes a land mine ready to combust. What if this grocery store is held up and a bullet pierces us through a box of Twinkies? What if I choke on my food and you attempt the Heimlich, but I elbow you in the windpipe because I hate anyone touching my waist? What if we die from … lice. Nonprofit fundraisers. Garage sales. Silent auctions. Yams. The self-checkout line at the grocery store. Crustaceans. Holiday gift exchanges. Wearing Lycra.
Know what else is deadly?
Living without a will.
And frigging airplanes and sharks.
Erin Donovan moved with her family to the midcoast area where she constantly is told she says the word “scallops” incorrectly. She performs live and produces Web sketches derived from her popular humor blog I’m Gonna Kill Him. Follow her misadventures on imgonnakillhim.com and on Twitter at @gonnakillhim.