According to Shakespeare, a coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero tastes death but once. Yet, nowhere in those thoughts is there any talk of fear, which makes sense. No one not even a hero is truly without fear; any person who says that is either a fool or a liar.
In the case of small boys, they tend to have plenty of fears. They loathed admitting their fears, too. After all, to show fear in the face of their friends is tantamount to death at the tender age of eight, ten, twelve, and so on. In my case, a primary fear was heights. I guess you could say a fear of falling not so much the height. I could prance across rooftops, without so much as a bat of my eye. I just had to be careful not to think about the ground below!.
If I did, I tended to see myself sort of, well, splattering all over the pavement. Yet, my father was a general contractor. He was forever doing all sorts of climbing up to do shingling and roofing jobs. When I was very young, I could stay safely on the ground and out of harms way. Then, as I got older, he started to want my help on jobs, and I had to climb ladders. Over the years, he had replaced the old wooden shingles on the many roofs of our cottage with new asphalt shingles all but the little roofs over the second floor balcony. They were very tough to get to, and had rather steep slopes.
He wanted me to tend to them.
I was less than enthusiastic about the job!.
Although unable to voice my concerns, my dad was great at picking up my reluctance. He eased me into it by first doing a simple job. The roof of the master bedroom had a very gentle slope, and it already had asphalt shingles on it, but they were black. So, they tended to absorb a lot of heat. He wanted to cover them with the white shingles, and thus cool the room off. Getting his ladders and equipment out, he put new shingles all along the bottom edge of the roof the edge, the area closest to the drop off! After that, he had me put on the shingles for the rest of the roof, and it was fun and easy.
The balcony was next. .
As it still had the old wooden shingles, they had to be scraped off first. Straddling the roof peak, I used dads tools to knocks the shingles off, and then attached the little brackets to the roof to give me a place to stand. This time, there would be no help from him. Dad was getting on in years, and his sedentary lifestyle meant he was unable to climb up and about the roof as he once had. No, I would be on my own on this job, and he would merely stand down at the street level and advise me.
Crouching on that small deck area made available to me, the road looked very faraway, and there was pretty much nothing between it and me. Yet, sitting there, I had a choice: give up and climb down and that meant disappointing my dad or face my fear, and do the job he wanted me to do. Up there, so very high above everything, I could feel and hear by blood pounding in my ears, and my breathing becoming short and laboured. The hammer grew slippery as the sweat built up on my hands. The fact that my dad said I was doing a good job meant a lot to me, and eased much of my fears.
Then, my little deck area moved!.
It shifted down slightly, and my heart leapt into my throat. I just about shot straight up in the air and landed on the peak of the roof. Had the bracket given way, was it loose, or had the plank just shifted?.
I looked down. My dad hadn't seen my mishap. He looked up and smiled, and said how proud he was of me for doing this for him. My fear eased, and I slowly settled back onto the deck.
I continued my work up the steep slope, my dad guiding me at every turn, and then he told me how to cover the peak. Once completed, I pulled off the bracket, and made my way back down to ground level. I felt as tall as a mountain, and as brave as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz once hed found his courage. Id done it. Id conquered my fear.
After that, any time I felt a touch of fear creeping into my heart, I only had to think of that little rooftop or cast my eyes up to it and I found the courage to strive to achieve more. Odd, how the little things, in life, can give you confidence. Years afterward, to stand on the street below and look up at that tiny roof, it didn't look like much of anything; not at all the sort of place you would think would be the focal point for a life-altering event.
Yeah, for a young child, that's often the case; the big battles of life occur on the playgrounds, on the school stages, at the dinner table, at a dance or music recital, helping dad to fix something, or mom to make something. We adults often forget just how important those little events can be to a child.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.