Foreshadowing of Fear

CathyAnne Murtha

This is a story my Mother told me when I was a teenager.  It is from her perspective because only she can tell of this experience in her life.  My Mother had a sixth sense of people.  This was her first experience with her foreshadowing.

 “It was in her eyes.  I will never forget the unearthly sparkle which emanated from the eyes of that child.  She was only a few months old but, when I looked at her, I felt a chill unlike anything I had experienced in my entire life.  She was a beautiful child with wisps of shining golden hair and eyes of cornflower blue.  Her face was perfect; I remember touching her tiny chin and marveling at how wonderful nature could be to bless one with such a miracle. Her first tooth had begun to erupt.  When she smiled, one could see the little white nub poking through the pink of her gums.  I had enjoyed spending my days watching Amanda become an individual with a real personality.  It had become my custom to wander over after school and spend the afternoon playing with Amanda and allowing her to think she was helping me with my homework.   Even though it was midsummer and the heat had been oppressive for weeks, I felt a chill to the marrow of my bones when my eyes met Amanda’s on that hot August day.  The child was happy, smiling, but the surreal twinkle that met my gaze was unnerving.  It was as if she was saying, you know, don’t you?  The frightening thing is — I did know.  I knew the child was going to die as surely as I knew the sun would set that evening.  I turned on my heels and fled to the sanctity of my bedroom across the street.  I never returned to that house — not even for the wake which was held three days later.  Many people think having premonitions is a blessing. Let me tell you that it isn’t.  Knowing that you are going to lose a loved one or friend is not something to be envied.  I have had premonitions like this all my life; I think the most painful loss was Bill.

“Bill Tuohimaa was a Finnish boy from Wisconsin and a Navy pilot.  The navy spends five million dollars to train those boys.  We had been together for two years when he was called overseas on active duty.  He had returned on leave several times and we had shared some wonderful afternoons walking along the shores of Long Island.  We would bring bread crumbs for the seagulls and gather shells along the shoreline.

“Bill was six foot four in his stocking feet and had blond hair and slate gray eyes.  Most of his buddies had a “reputation” around the base.  Bill was different.  When I was with him, I felt safe, loved and secure.  I don’t think I have ever been able to recapture those feelings in all my years of living.  When it was time for Bill to return to Okinawa, I held him in my arms and felt a dark cloud overwhelm my heart.  I trembled as I looked into his eyes, terrified that the surreal glow of my nightmares would be lurking in his gaze, ready to mock me; yet, all I saw was the love he held for me, the promise of our future, and the confidence bread of military service.  His eyes were strong and confident.  One final squeeze, a final kiss, and our customary salute sent Bill up the gangplank to his aircraft carrier.  I knew in my heart, I would never see Bill again.

“Two weeks later, while home for a visit with my brother, I received the letter from the State Department. Bill had been shot down over the sea of Japan while on a reconnaissance mission.  I was thankful Don was at my side when I received the letter.  He caught me before I collapsed to the floor.  I sometimes wonder how my life would have changed had Bill lived.

I surely would have married my Navy pilot and he would have been your Father.  You would have been a Navy brat.  Well, the Navy part would have been new anyway!  Rather than marrying my tall blond Finnish beau, I married a short dark German.  I guess there is no telling where one’s heart will lead.  I had received a premonition about your cousin, Timmy, one summer while we were visiting at Uncle Harold’s.

“It was one of our annual summer trips which you children hated.  You three would spend the entire six hours fighting in the backseat of the car.  I think that was the year Marie looked up,  said she didn’t feel well, and proceeded to throw up all over me.  Your dad had to drive another three miles to find a place to pull over.  The smell and feel of that warm vomit as it seeped into my skirt is something I will never forget.  Marie was crying, you and Danny were complaining of the smell, your Dad was shaking his head in disgust and I was sitting in a puddle of regurgitated breakfast when a woman came storming out of a neighboring house demanding we leave her property immediately.  My wet skirt was clinging to my legs, my car seat was saturated and I was near tears myself.  I finally turned on the woman and told her if she couldn’t help then she had better leave because I was going to clean up my family and had no intention of sitting in that puddle of puke one second longer.  Yes, I actually said puke.  Oh, I see you remember that moment.  Yeah, it does seem kind of funny now, doesn’t it?  We arrived at Uncle’s rather late that evening.

“I was sitting on the overstuffed green chair in the living room.  Once you settled into one of those chairs, you practically needed a crane to pull your out!  I had put you three into bed and taken shower.  It felt good to be out of that car.  I had just settled in to play penny a point cribbage with your Uncle when I heard Timmy on the phone in the kitchen.

I didn’t have to be in his presence to know that Timmy would not be with us much longer.  My heart felt cold.  Your Father was sitting next to me and must have noticed my color fail because he asked if I was OK.  I was beyond words, speechless, I knew that the young boy in the next room would not celebrate another Christmas.  I also felt I knew how my nephew would die.

“Timmy loved motorcycles.  He had owned several of them.  I remember his favorite was black and red, the sun would glint off the silver trim giving it an ominous beauty.  He would spend hours tinkering with the motor, polishing the chrome and using special cleansers on the tires to make them shine.  A few months before his death someone told him that he would die on a motorcycle.

“I never found out who it was that told Timmy he was to die.  I do know he took the warning quite seriously and sold all of his bikes.  He took the money and invested in a little Toyota.  Your Uncle still treasures that car 25 years after the death of his only son.  I wasn’t surprised when I received the phone call.  My brother was devastated and your Aunt, well she was uncommunicative for a long while after the accident.  Tim had decided to help a friend one evening.  His friend was too drunk to drive and, while some others took the friend home in a car, Timmy offered to drive the motorcycle to the friend’s home.  On the way up  a treacherous stretch of road which consists mainly of hairpin curves, Timmy slid onto the shoulder, overcompensated, and was hit head on by another driver.  His friends were not far behind and saw the accident occur.

“Several of them ran to Timmy’s side while another traveled the remaining quarter mile to the city of Anoka.  While crossing the bridge, his friend saw your Aunt in the line of traffic which had formed as a result of the accident.  After the police were informed of her presence, she was brought to her son.  She was allowed to spend a few moments with him before the coroner took him to the morgue.  He had died on impact.  There were no good-byes, no final opportunity to speak words which are held in the heart but never voiced aloud.  He was gone and I knew it was going to happen.  I had heard it in his voice.  After hearing the story of the sale of his motorcycles, I knew that the foreshadows I feel are a matter of destiny and, no matter what I do, I cannot stop the inevitable.  There have been others, far more than I care to remember.

“Sometimes I am afraid to look at my family and friends. I look back on the death of Bill and think of all that my brother and his wife went through when they lost their son in that motorcycle accident.  I grow fearful of looking at my own children or into the eyes of your Father.  When your dad grew ill with Leukemia this last summer, I avoided eye contact for as long as possible.  I was terrified I would see “the sparkle.”  I am thankful that his eyes always remained clear and strong.  Each time you children come home for a visit, I feel the familiar fear of loss.  I have never seen that frightening glow since the death of Amanda but the communication was so strong, the bond so forceful, I have never been able to put that fear aside.  I think that, sometimes, you scare me most of all;  if I ever saw that ethereal glow in the eyes of my daughter, I feel quite sure I would go insane.”