In my own room, I drift off, giving thanks for another day, asking for peace for us all.
The scream is like a knife in my gut. My back tenses, my jaw clenches. I check the clock. Only 45 minutes into my night. I am wide awake, anxious, and filled with dread. The screaming continues. Maddie.
I get the flashlight, pad into their room. She's not really awake. A pat on the back and a kiss soothe her. Come morning, she won't even remember this.
I'm not so lucky. I lie awake, waiting. Waiting. Chanting. My mantra? Help me, help me, help me . . .
Screams. Mama! Mommy-ahhh! Mama! Riley. Tightness. Clenching. Clock. It's been thirty minutes. Flashlight. Creeping. Hug. Whispered reassurances of love and safety, suggestions to hug Froggie and talk to Maddie. Mama will always love you, Mama will always try to help. Back to my room.
Help me. Help Riley. Help me. Help Riley. Help me. Help Riley.
Screams. The tightness never left. Clock. Ten minutes. Wait? Go? Wait for five. After three, go. Hugs, reassurances, suggestions. Departure.
Help me. Help Riley. Help me. Help Riley.
Screams. Again. Five minutes. And again. And again. Over an hour. Next time: Screams, clock, flashlight. A small, frightened boy in my arms, in my bed. Restless, fussing. Help me. Help Riley. Peaceful at last, both of us, me curled on the edge of the bed, Riley sideways, feet in my back.
Awake. Why? Clock. 3:30 a.m. Riley sound asleep, me wide awake. My mantra alternates with thoughts of John, of work, of Riley and Maddie, of anger and loss, of exhaustion, sadness, and fear. Questions: Keep Riley with me? Move him to his bed? I can't sleep with him here, I fear more screaming if I move him. I wish, I wish with all my heart, that I were not making these decisions alone.
Riley back in his own bed, asks for Froggie, gives him a hug. Me alone with my mantra. Help me. Help Riley. Help me.
Screams. Maddie. Why is she not in my mantra? Of the three of us, she is of late the best at helping herself. Clock. 5:00 a.m. Pat on the back, rescued Binky. For her, nothing but a dream.
Mantra. I doze, but it feels like I never sleep. And then come the screams. Riley. 6:00 a.m. The usual routine. But this time, sleep for the boy.
My mind is up for the day. My body resists. Shower, chores. The day is cold and sunny, bright with the promise of spring.
7:45 a.m. Sweet Maddie chatter. Silence from Riley. We need to get to school, to work, to the business of the day. I open their door, my weary heart filled with love. Maddie greets me, excited and happy. Riley rustles, stands, blinks, and extends his arms. "Mama, hold?"
Of course, sweet boy. Of course.