It would be easy, I know, to say that the title of this post is about myself but it’s not. (See what I did there? Mislead you and draw you in . . . slight of hand . . . smoke and mirrors . . . (okay, I’ll stop now))
The song up there by the now Reverend Al Green has been stuck in our heads in my home for the last week. Not because we’re lonely, not because we seek out anything. It’s just a great song.
Still . . . something popped up in the last few days involving my son.
Some background: my late wife had an incredible fear of being alone. Not that she needed a boyfriend all the time or that she was a woman who defined herself by the people she was with. That wasn’t it. Still, there were some irrational fears that she had a hard time dealing with. Being left alone was one of them. I use that turn of phrase because it wasn’t loneliness, I don’t believe, it was being left alone. Those are two very different things.
Early in our relationship and then in our marriage this was a difficult sensation to navigate. I had to work, so did she. When she was working it was fine when she wasn’t it was easy for her mind to wander into that place and worry. We used to joke all the time that she wasn’t happy unless she was worrying about something and if she had nothing to worry about . . . being home by herself was a worry that crept into her mind.
This isn’t painting a rosy picture of her, I realize, and this wasn’t a constant, daily, minute-by-minute thing. We all have our irrational fears, I suppose, and this was hers. Some people are hypochondriacs (okay, she had a bit of that, too) and some are paranoid and some people can’t stand to sit still more than 5 minutes at a time. It isn’t too dissimilar from that, I don’t suppose. It’s a fear you face and one you conquer and sometimes you have to conquer it more than once.
I bring this all up not to shed a poor light on her, she was lovely and warm and caring and we all miss her, to this day. The little things, the small or the big problems, they won’t change that. You love people as much for their faults as for their stellar qualities. Love sees the big picture, not the pieces. I bring it up, you see, because my son seems to have inherited some of that fear.
His, though, isn’t because there’s some genetic sequence that makes him pre-disposed to this. He didn’t come out of the womb with this irrational fear or even rational fear.
Over the last few months my son has had nightmares, to the point that at their peak he would come into my room every night, roughly 2-4am and be in a near panic. He’d never tell me the full dream but the few details I could get from him painted the picture.
He’d be alone. He’d see us leaving and he’d be left by himself in a scary, dark, lonely and desolated place.
It’s easy to see the metaphor there. I knew being left behind or alone was the fear when, during Thanksgiving break, his older sister came home. The nightmares stopped. When she went back to college, albeit only for a couple weeks before winter break, the nightmares returned.
He hasn’t had a single one since she came back for Christmas.
We are a tight-knit group. That’s just how our family is, always has been. It was that way when his mother was here and it’s easy to see his fear manifested at its worst when Andrea passed away. She left us all, it seems. Then change hit . . . change in home, change in schools, change in schools again and then . . . his sister leaving for college. It’s a lot for a little boy to take.
The best thing, though, is knowing that we’re tight knit. I can tell him stories about his Mom, how he used to squeeze his little body between hers and mine to sit next to her on the couch. How I hug him and tell him what his sister is doing when she’s at college. I don’t humor him, I inform him.
He’s just not alone.
So when the nightmare comes he’s aware that I’m downstairs…or I’m in my bed…and there’s room. There will always be room.
Even when he’s at school or away from home . . . he’s never really left alone. There’s comfort in that.