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Warmest regards: Where did my bravery go

Oh where, oh where, did my bravery go?

From the time I was a kid people have often commented about how fearless I am.

But if my father had the power to change one thing about me he said he would install a greater sense of caution.

I wasn’t afraid of anything, even when I should have been.

“How many times will you get bitten before you learn some caution?” he asked after another major episode.

That time, though, it wasn’t a dog that bit me. It was a reindeer, or a donkey masquerading as a reindeer.

I was 5 when my mom took me to a Philadelphia department store to see Santa and his reindeer.

I kept staring at the “reindeer,” wondering if they really were reindeer.

When I tried to pet one of the animals, it clamped its teeth onto my hand, refusing to let go. I was screaming like a fire engine and my mother’s screams echoed mine. No way would the donkey let got of my hand. Now I know why they use the expression stubborn as a donkey.

Finally, a trainer offered it food and it released its bite on my hand.

That should have tamed a kid’s fearless nature. I should have been traumatized enough to stay away from petting strange animals.

I guess I’m a slow learner because another dog bite followed.

The incident that caused my father serious concern came when I was 14 visiting the New Jersey shore. Some neighborhood kids offered to take me to the beach, promising my dad they would look after me.

That was the same group that dared me to jump off the roof of the pavilion that stretched over the water.

Up I climbed and down I jumped. It was then that I learned the higher you climb the deeper you go in the water.

It seemed like forever before I resurfaced. By then I was breathing heavily. I remember grabbing a pole and hanging on to it.

That day I learned something new. No, I didn’t learn caution. I learned about creosote, a chemical they use to preserve poles.

When I wiped my face after I surfaced I must have smeared a bit of creosote on my face. It was like acid burning my skin. To this day, if I look closely I can still see the faint scars.

Again, I didn’t get any smarter from the experience and I doubt that I learned more caution.

I remember our version of neighborhood fun when we kids curled ourselves inside truck tires then hurled ourselves down a hill.

We were heedless of safety or how we would stop.

I often thank God for taking care of me in my childhood because I sure needed a guardian angel or two.

Some say they don’t believe in miracles. I certainly do. It’s somewhat of a minor miracle that I grew up.

On occasion my daughters and I drive over a narrow mountain road when we travel to the coal regions to see my brother.

There are spots where there are no guide rails, and if you go off the road it’s a steep drop off the mountain.

I really hate driving on that road, especially when it’s icy or foggy. Yet, when I was in high school I thought it was fun to ride with classmates racing each other on the narrow mountain road.

Now I would elect to take the long way rather than traveling that dangerous road.

OK, so I gained caution as I aged.

Unfortunately, I lost the gumption I used to have. Where once I had courage, now I have little or none.

What I do have is fear. The older I get, the more unwanted fear I have.

It was never a problem before COVID-19 turned life upside-down for so many of us.

At first, I vowed not to drastically change my lifestyle. I knew I needed to adopt more caution in many aspects of my life, and I did.

I listened to the experts telling us to social distance, wear masks, disinfect surfaces and continually wash our hands.

But I wasn’t consumed with fear because I live in a small-town environment where we don’t have much problem with the virus.

Until we did.

While we have a few hundred cases in our county with many of them being in nursing homes, our numbers weren’t alarming.

But now I’m watching the COVID-19 numbers grow at a scary level.

No worry, we are told. No one is at risk unless they are 65 or older or have a compromised system due to health conditions. Hey, that’s me and much of our population.

After I sheltered in place for three months I was a little bit stir crazy.

Now, I’m big time stir crazy. I need to reclaim my life.

I’ve had to stop going to church, grocery stores, dancing, social activities and anywhere I might encounter groups of people.

I see my braver friends on social media boating and dining together.

So far I can’t even bring myself to allow a close friend to swim with me because she’s around too many people with risky behavior.

There is a big difference between fear and caution, and I’m struggling to get a better balance.

Meanwhile, I miss the kid who wasn’t afraid of anything because now I’m afraid of far too much.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at newsgirl@comcast.net.