�The little girl tries to be brave, but the fear rises into her throat until she is sure the pressure will choke her.� Mother has just told her grandpa is going to stop by while she is at work to drop off a check.� The girl nods and tries to smile, silently praying to God that her two sisters will be home by then.� When all three are home they are "safe".� Being "home alone" is not a comedic movie.� It's not the mother's fault; she doesn't know the secret held by the sisters.� They try to protect each other by being together when he comes over.� But they don't tell.� Each of the three considers it, but no one does.� It is the sixties, and the fact is, such things are not discussed.� �Much later after he is dead, the truth comes out.� The sisters would find out they were not alone, the same incidents of fear had also happened to their cousins.� I know from personal experience, I am the little girl who tried to smile through her fear.
����������� The youngest of the three, my first memory of the "fear" is when I was ten years-old.� My sister Annie, two years my senior, says it started much earlier.� At first I'm not sure we knew that the fear was shared by all three of us.� I do remember Annie asking me one day if I was afraid.� When I answered yes, we devised a plan to protect each other and our oldest sister Karen.� Although we tried, our plan didn't always work.� There were times Grandpa would show up unexpectedly.� When I was home alone, the closet was my "safe haven," climbing inside with the front door going unanswered. �I was "spared" that day.
����������� Uncle Phil, a Michigan state trooper, lived up north.� I loved to visit him and his family.� One summer day when I was eleven, there was a plan to take a trip to see them.� Excitement shot through me!� I happily packed my bag for the visit.� Then he showed up and my mother informed me I was riding in his car so he wouldn't be alone.� The fear crept in, winding its way into my soul.� I asked to ride with my mom.� She laughed and said the rest of the family would be along shortly.� Fighting back tears, I got into the car, sitting as far from him as possible.� So close to the door in fact, that the handle jabbed me in the side. As I turned my head so no one could see my tear filled eyes, I looked into Annie's fearful face.� I attempted to look confident as we backed out of the driveway.� Before long we were on I-75 heading north.� He smiled and tried to talk to me, but the fear had taken over.� Like a boa constrictor, fear was squeezing my chest, I couldn't breathe.� I answered his questions with short stilted words.� He patted the seat right next to him, and told me to slide over.� Managing a quivering smile, I shook my head and looked out the window.� It was a gorgeous summer day, the leafy green trees swaying in the gentle breeze, but the beautiful scenery went by unnoticed.� My only thought was to get this trip of fear over with as soon as possible.� Hour upon agonizing hour went by.� Finally, we turned into my Uncle Phil's driveway.� As soon as the car stopped, I jumped out and ran in the door and hugged Uncle Phil.� He scooped me up into his arms, pleased that I was so happy to see him.� He had no idea how happy.� Shortly after our arrival, the car carrying my mother, step-father and sisters pulled up the drive.� As she got out of the car Annie whispered in my ear, asking if I was alright, I nodded and gave her a bright smile.� That said we then went our separate ways.� She with Ellen, my older cousin and I went with Sherry, my younger cousin and we enjoyed the rest of the family gathering.
����������� However, that was not the last time fear entered our lives.� Another episode was lurking, waiting for us to relax and let our guard down.� And before long the evil struck again.� This time it attacked Annie, I was in the bedroom when there was a knock at the door.� Seeing him at the door, yet knowing she was not alone, fear had not let its presents be known.� So with confidence she opened the door.� However, it took me a few seconds to finish making my bed.� That amount of time was enough.� As I walked into the living room, I could smell the bitter, acrid odor of fear.� Moreover, I could see it swirling above Annie's head and descending down into her eyes as she looked at him. �Fear had returned. �I had taken to long in the bedroom. �That few seconds had opened the lock and allowed fear to escape.� He was standing much to close to her.� Believing Annie was alone and vulnerable he was about to strike!� As I swept into the room, grandpa backed away and smiled rather nervously.� Fear, losing its unholy grip on Annie, was once again contained.� She looked at me with relief and resumed her confidant attitude.� She calmly asked him what he wanted.� Grandpa said he needed to talk to mom.� When we told him she was at work, he left without another word.� As soon as he walked out the door, Annie hugged me.� She was shaking!� In contrast to how calm she looked, she had been battling fear even after I walked into the room.
����������� Karen grew up, got married and escaped.� It was then, when Annie and I were teenagers, we decided it was time to tell our mother about the fear.� At first there was no reaction.� We were not sure whether she believed us or not.� As a result, we dropped the conversation.� However, a thick cloud of darkness hung over the house for a very long time.� Was it disbelief, confusion, we were not sure.� But we dared not bring it up again.�
����������� A few months went by, the subject faded away and we again protected each other.� Not only with our fear but also with everything else teenage sisters keep secret.� Annie had a boyfriend; she would sneak out to see him at night. �Our mother discovered that fact and found out I knew, she was furious with me in addition to Annie.� Mom was so upset that she called him to come over and talk.� When he arrived, mom proceeded to tell him about the fear. �She chose that moment was because she was angry and wanted to punish Annie and me for misbehaving.� As she began to speak, Annie and I bolted from the room.� In the bedroom, I climbed into my "safe haven" and Annie sat on the bed.� Mom and grandpa entered the room.� Annie coaxed me out of the closet to face our demon.� Without admitting guilt to our mother, grandpa acted deeply hurt and cried when he hugged us.�
����������� Time marched on and we found that fear was not present when grandpa was around.� In spite of our reservations, we decided that deep down in his black soul he must have been remorseful. ��Annie and I relaxed, enjoying our new found freedom.� Though soon Annie also married and I was alone with mom.� Years went by; grandpa was on his best behavior.� Life was good!� I was nearly eighteen and my future was bright.� Still, one day the fear returned.� Grandpa stopped by, mom wasn't home from work yet.� He stepped close.� The old fear welled up into my throat.� I backed up.� He stepped closer yet again.� I felt my panic rise, not knowing what to do.� He asked me why I was backing up. �I couldn't answer.� I was the little girl again, battling the fear. I was close to choking!� Just then a car pulled into the driveway.� Mom was home!� Grandpa was the one who backed up this time.� He went to the door to greet my mother.� Relief course through me, my legs weak, I sat down as she entered the room, after they talked for a few minutes, he and the fear left for home.� Although the fear had returned, I did not tell, choosing not to fight that battle alone.�
����������� However, as fate would have it, the fear never invaded my soul again, the day after my eighteenth birthday grandpa died.� As I sat next to my weeping mother at the funeral, tears slid down my cheeks.� Not for the man in the coffin, but for the pain my mother felt.� She had depended on him so.� Sitting there, holding on to mother's hand, the only thought going through my mind was, we were at last free.� The secret fear, suffered by me, my sisters and many of my cousins, died that day.�� And similar to what had happened many years ago, once discussed, it was never mentioned again...until now. ���������������������������������������������