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(Don't Fear) The Reaper

I had a nightmare as a kid about the bogey man climbing up through a hole in the bedroom closet floor. He wore a harlequin suit, had a spiked nose to match the knife he carried, and cut my hand off when I turned on the light switch next to the closet. For years, I used a pencil or ruler to flick the switch from outside the room, fearing having him leave me with a bloody stump.

Then there was this crazy neighbor with red hair and freckles who had even crazier friends.  They tied me to the weeping willow tree in the front yard, put tent caterpillars all over my face and body, and said they would kill me if I cried.  My mother chased them away as they watched caterpillars crawl on my hair, lips and around my nose.  To this day, I still cringe when I see tent caterpillar nests in trees.

Besides the bogey man and caterpillars, I have my share of other fears. I HATE bridges, which is pretty interesting when participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer involves going over the Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Pedestrian Bridge to Randall's Island.  Do you have any idea how much those suckers vibrate from traffic when you're walking over them?  That's almost as bad as my fear of being in a car and having the bridge collapse under me.

Lately though, I've been thinking a lot about my "new" fears.  I fear getting sick and being a burden on my kids, or worse yet-not being taken care of by them.  I fear that my grand kids won't know me like their other grandmas who they get to see much more than me. I fear that I'm never going to find another full-time job that pays at least as much as I made in 1980.

Being alone for the past year, I fear being asked out, or being asked when I'm going to be ready to date again. That led me to check out an online dating service to see what was out there. I set up a private e-mail address, posted no picture and gave only a brief description of what I wanted in a date. When I got a hit from Moishe, who couldn't go out on Friday nights or Saturday, and Keith, who had a mullet and wanted to get together to play gin rummy, and finally Willie, the bus driver who wanted to take me for a ride on his bus, I blocked the site.  The fear of those men was much more frightening than just being alone. Besides, I can't forget what Richard Gere did to Diane Keaton in Looking For Mr. Goodbar.

My cousin lost his wife two years ago, and his kids have been encouraging him to start dating again.  To convince him that there's nothing to fear, this year for Father's Day they gave him a tandem skydiving "experience".  His kids posted pictures and videos, and I laughed out loud at the joy on his face and the absurdity of facing your fears by free-falling from two miles in the air.

For now, I'm content with being alone and having complete domination of the TV remote while eating honey barbeque cheese doodles in bed. When my friends suggest someone they know who would be perfect for me, I smile, give them that wistful, misty eyed look and demur, saying that I'm still not ready.

But if you see me post pictures of myself in a flight suit, jumping out of a plane, know that there will probably be a follow-up piece about conquering my fear of dating.  Because I've never been afraid of dying. Just of getting my heart broken.


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