Raising a child is frequently a heart stopping endeavor. Lacking a sufficiently developed prefrontal cortex the child or adolescent, risking life and limb, rushes headlong into all sorts of dangerous situations. Come on! We’ve all done things that quickly aged those charged with our safety and well being. I suspect my mother’s heart frequently stopped as my brother and I played our own game of ‘chicken’ by determining which one could move closest to the spinning blades of the windmill without getting beheaded. Since to this day both of us appear to have our heads on our shoulders clearly we were either losers or winners in our game of ‘chicken’. Her heart doubtless also stopped when we jumped off the roof of the house to see who would not break a leg or when we fell off of ladders or when scorpions stung us or when we ran from rattlesnakes or when we threw rocks into abandoned mine shafts or even when we were just plain old sick. These would be terrifying experiences for any parent. For our mother, though, these experiences doubtless became even more terrifying because of where we lived. Alice Bernice (Bunny) Latham Walker fell in love with and married a cowboy. In their ranching years they never lived in a town. They never lived near a doctor or a hospital. The first ranch of my youth was a mere forty-five minute drive from the little town of Wickenburg provided Calamity Creek wasn’t running or the Hassayampa River hadn’t flooded. If either of those events occurred the doctor or the hospital or even a place to buy gauze or mercurochrome became impossibilities. The second ranch of my childhood and adolescence was even more remote. To get to that ranch we had to first get to Globe, then a town of about ten thousand people where there were doctors and hospitals and telephones and electricity. Globe had all sorts of stuff. Then from Globe we drove about three and a half hours if the weather was good on a mostly dirt road to get to a little town of two hundred called Young or Pleasant Valley. If the weather was bad the drive could take a lot longer. Young had a post office, two grocery stores, two places to buy gas, two bars, and one school with four classrooms. What Young did not have was a doctor. It also did not have community electricity or telephones. And finally to get to our ranch house we then drove about an hour and a half more on a rutted dirt road. An hour and a half if the weather was good and millions of sheep were not being driven along the mile wide path from northern Arizona to Southern Arizona. I can’t imagine raising children in such isolation. I would have been terrified most of the time. I suspect my mother may have also been terrified most of the time. However, she understood that her job was to not inflict her fear on her children. So it was that when my brother and I were sick or injured our mother would calmly inform us that what we had was “Just a touch of the epazootee.” Our ailment had a name and therefore couldn’t possibly have been as bad as we imagined. Our fears calmed. The epazootee was completely manageable. It not only had a name it had a cure. Its cure was generally to get rest, to drink plenty of water, and to, of course, eat some made at home soup or maybe even a baked at home cookie. I raised my daughter in the comfort of the epazootee of which she sometimes had a touch. Even when I felt terrified for her safety my job was to soothe her. “It’s okay. You just have a touch of the epazootee.” I notice that now her two children also sometimes have touches of the epazootee. It is the responsibility of a parent or of anyone charged with the well being of others to not provoke fear but to, instead, instill calm and courage and hope. My mother understood and accepted that responsibility. I understand and accept that responsibility. My daughter understands and accepts that responsibility. It unfortunately appears that our current national leadership is either unaware of or rejects its responsibility to not fill us with fear and dread. We have become, it appears, a suspicious and angry and fearful people currently suffering from a touch of the epazootee. With leadership apparently determined to instill fear in us all, let us then become the comfort and the inspiration for each other. May we all understand and assume that responsibility.
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