Monday, April 29, 2013

Power Outage

"Mom, the power's out," Nick said after stomping into my room. He shined a light into my face that I could see through my eyelids. Ah, that was why my phone had buzzed to wake me up for no apparent reason.

"Okay, go back to bed," I mumbled into the pillows.

"But Mom," he said, "it's dark." No it isn't. Some kid is shining a flashlight into my eyes. Isn't this how they torture prisoners of war?

"It's supposed do be dark. It's the middle of the night." I tried to sound patient. I'm pretty sure I didn't succeed.

"But Mom, I can't find my flashlight."

"What's that you have in your hands?"

"It's the night light from the bathroom, but I can't find my flashlight."

"You don't need a flashlight. You need to get back into bed, close your eyes, and stare at the backs of your eyelids the way I'm doing."


Heavy breathing, then more silence. I can feel him staring at me.

"Okay, I'm coming. You get into bed. I'll be there in a minute."

Now, who is asleep in bed and who is sitting in the dark, playing with her phone?

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Insomniac, Part 24

Harold realized that he'd forgotten his keys just when the door clicked shut. He didn't really need to get inside, but he reached into the slimy place at the top of the fence post and found the Ziploc bag that held the spare key. Thank God Victoria had put it back this time. She had a habit of using it and dropping it on the dining table instead of putting it back. Hilly had gotten locked out of the house for an hour once when a kid at school had taken his key, taunted him, and then flushed it down the toilet.  After that lecture, from Alexandria, Victoria had been a little more reliable. Harold never lectured her, no matter how much she needed it. Hilly never seemed to need to be lectured. Harold wished he'd need to be lectured, at least he had until he found out what happened when he fell.

Harold had been surprised most by changes in Victoria's behavior after he fell. She'd hovered. She had even made him toast the morning after he'd gotten home, but mostly, she had hovered. One morning, a couple of weeks after he'd fell, he had woken and found her sitting on the edge of his bed, just looking at him. He had wanted to get out of bed, but felt too shaky to stand up. He'd felt this way for a while and had figured out a way to keep going while it passed. He hadn't want her to see him grab for handholds like a drunk, so he'd stayed in bed. She'd sat at the edge of the bed like a mom ministering to a sick child. All she needed to do was put her palm to his forehead to make the image complete. It unnerved him even though he'd been sleeping on and off for days. He remembered that he'd snapped at her.

"Don't you need to paint your toenails or go to the mall or something?" he had asked.

"Dad, it's three in the morning," she'd said. She'd turned away from him, trying to keep him from seeing that tears had sprung to her eyes. He'd seen them anyway, noticing at the same time that she looked tired. The silence in the room had begun to expand, to bloat, to pulse.

"Vickster, what happened in that room?" Harold had asked, pointing to his bathroom door. The silence gave one more long beat.

"I heard a thump even though I was drying my hair. I stopped what I was doing and put on my jeans and a T-shirt. I didn't bother about which shirt to wear. I just grabbed one. My hair was still wet." Harold had wanted to stop her and ask again, but this was the way she worked, he had realized, and he let her get to it in her own fashion.

"When I ran into your room, you weren't there and I heard Hilly yelling 'Dad! Dad!' from your bathroom. Then, I saw Hilly in there with you. There was blood on the floor all around you. You were lying on the floor and he was kneeling over you, right in the middle of the blood. He yelled at me, Dad. Hilly yelled at me."

"What did he yell about?"

"He had to tell me everything, Dad. First, he told me to call 911. It took as long to call them as it took for them to get here. Then, he slid a towel under your head without even moving you. He yelled at me to set my stopwatch on my phone for one minute. He took your pulse, Dad. He took your pulse. I remember him saying, 'Eighty-eight, good,' and then the doorbell rang. He even had to tell me to go answer the door. Dad, I didn't even know to go answer the doorbell when the EMTs rang it. I was so pathetic."

"Wow, Hilly did all that?"

"Dad, the EMTs didn't even bother talking to me. Hilly gave them your pulse, showed them how he'd slowed the bleeding with the towel. One of the EMTs leaned over and told me he was a pretty smart kid. I think he was flirting, but he was serious, Dad. I didn't do a thing. I was frozen. Useless."

That pulsing silence began again as Victoria sobbed. Harold had started to pat her shoulder. She hadn't wanted more contact than that in at least a year. She'd leaned forward and knocked him off balance as she fell into his arms. His stitches had ground into the headboard but he'd tried to ignore it. He'd reveled in having his daughter in his arms, tears in his owns eyes, and was reminded of when she used to bounce into the bed every morning between him and Alex.

"Oh Sweetie, you did fine," he had murmured into her hair. Victoria had sat up, looking a little embarrassed. He'd handed her a tissue and she'd honked into it. Funny, how she could be so demure and still make that noise.

"Did Hilly really do all that?" he asked, trying not to laugh at her and failing.

"Yeah, Dad, he did. He was amazing. I never thought the dork had it in him." Harold hadn't said anything about calling him a dork. It just didn't seem the time.

Harold stood at his front door, laughed out loud at the noise Victoria had made, noticed that the neighbor who was backing out of his driveway looked at him as if he were a loon, and then he swooned just a little. Harold did that now and then when he thought about the days after he'd fallen.

He unlocked the door and walked back inside the house.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, April 8, 2013

Honking the Horn

"I don't want you to chat until you're ready. Can you feel me getting angry?" I was trying to be patient with him as he told me the story of his dream, but one thing - watch this - led to another - let me tell you that - and now I'm frustrated because I need to get out of the house with this boy on time for his eye exam.

"I love you, Mom," he says in reply.

"I love you too, Honey. Now, focus on the next thing and get ready." I hate how my words come out as an 'I love you but...' I keep trying to tell this boy that I love him even when I'm angry or frustrated with him. The more frustrated I get, the more he says, "I love you, Mom."

I'm failing as a parent. Am I supposed to get all melty and forget that we have some things to do and let him go back to being zoned out in front of the television?

I'm going to go sit in the car and resist the urge to lean on the horn.

Thank you for listening, jules