Waiting For The Proverbial Shoe To Drop

by Cara Paiuk
Originally Published: 
A man and a child holding umbrellas on a rainy day, blurred out in the distance.

Death visited me early in life. My father died when I was four and my grandfather died six months later. Phone calls in the middle of the night always meant someone was sick, dying, or dead. Maybe because of this I am always expecting the worst or for the proverbial shoe to drop. I am finally in a good place with a loving husband, wonderful kids, a new home, and a community we’ve embraced . . . and yet it all feels so tenuous.

In an instant, a terrible incident could pierce my bubble. Car accidents. Bus accidents. Plane accidents. Bike accidents. Trees falling down in a storm crashing through our roof. A slip in the bathroom. A tumble from somewhere that didn’t seem too high. Random acts of violence.

It’s almost as if I have flashbacks for stuff that didn’t even happen to me. In fact, I am plagued with recurring daydream nightmares of gruesome images I’ve seen on the news:

  • A bus with its top half sheared off – along with its passengers’ heads.
  • The woman who drove the wrong way down a parkway and killed herself and a gaggle of kids.
  • A car accident in Texas that killed the parents and left their children in wheelchairs.
  • Babies left in hot cars to die.
  • A toddler run over by grandma in the driveway because she never saw him.

I am one of the most laid back moms I know and this paranoia seems a complete contradiction to that. I could go on and on about the stories I hear that leave an imprint on my brain. What I conjure up on my own is usually worse. Decapitations, loss of limbs, broken bones, brain injuries, sicknesses, diseases, death. Blood, guts, blue lips, death eyes. These visions haunt me. Every. Single. F^&*ing. Day.

Now, before you tell me I need to go straight to a therapist and not pass go to collect my $200, these images do not cause panic attacks or make me unable to function. They do not debilitate me or consume me for every second of every day. They pop into my head at random times and I acknowledge the thought, tell myself to get on with the day, and move on. I don’t really have time to ruminate over them.

I also keep a mental list of all the places metaphorical lightning has struck nearby. Between one thing or another, many moms I know have serious medical issues with one of their children. My heart aches for them. I see their struggles but can’t possibly know their depth. And yet, a part of me is relieved that it wasn’t my child. It’s not schadenfreude, it’s just a kind of superstitious belief that if it happened to someone I know then it can’t happen to me. Because lightning can’t strike the same place twice, right?

And yet, worries infiltrate my thoughts at the most inconvenient times. I get into the car in a sleep-deprived state knowing my reflexes are slower, and images of horrific car accidents flood my brain. The girls had a fever and I pray with all of my being that it will pass because a trip to the hospital could expose them to a deadly disease. Every time my husband goes on a bike ride with our son I have scenarios play in my head of errant drivers plowing into them. I see an ambulance in the distance and a horrific image enters my brain of a loved one in a mangled wreck.

I wonder if I am the only parent who thinks these things. I am pretty sure I’m not. I think we just don’t talk about it because we don’t want others to know how neurotic we are or get labeled as a hypochondriac.

Or maybe we’re just superstitious that if we reveal our deepest fears out loud they might actually happen.

This article was originally published on