A scream in the night

Blearily, I head up the stairs tonight to get the boys’ nighttime started. Jan has a thrown-out back and we are both out of it.

I make sure AJ is tucked into my bed with his Kindle (he reads there before bed while his little brother and I read in the other room).

“Bob*,” I call to his little brother waiting in his bedroom as I walk past my bed in my dimly lit room, “what are we reading tonight?”

And then a bony hand grips my ankle.

Now, I have a scream that is legendary. It is impossible for me to control. It is operatic. Horror-movie worthy. It is completely automatic; I have no control over it whatsoever. If you are unfortunate to startle me or be anywhere in the same house with me when I am startled, your ears are going to ring for at least half an hour when I am through with them.

This time, I am more than startled. I am scared.

I scream in horror. I shake.

I look down and poor Bob, who has been hoping for a triumph, looks like he’s wet himself.

“Haddayr?” Jan calls from downstairs.

I can’t breathe to respond, and neither can the boy.

Jan pounds up the stairs, back-be-damned, and sees Bob — still crouched and stricken, and me: frozen in place.

The adrenaline starts to leave my system and I tremble and cry. (One of my signs of concussion: increased emotionality! I KNOW. WHO KNEW THIS WAS POSSIBLE.)

“Bob, you can’t scare Mommy like that,” says Jan, rubbing my shoulders.

“I’m sorry I’m sorry!” he says.

“It’s okay,” I say. “I’m sorry I screamed.”

Jan heads downstairs; Bob and I go into his bedroom to read. I pull back his covers and he climbs in, still looking at me cautiously.

I open the book and take a breath before I begin.

“I forgot about your concussion,” he says.

This kid has been trying to jump out and startle me for years. YEARS. Long, complex scenarios and creeping across old floors that WOULD squeak at the worst moments. Lying in wait forever only to have his giggling or ragged breath give him away.

I put down the book and smile at him. “You got me good, didn’t ya?” I ask. “You got me fair and square.”

He quirks the corner of his mouth. “I did,” he says. “I’m sorry, but.” His grin grows wider. “I DID.”

*Bob is not his real name; it’s the name he, giggling, picked for my new blog and for stuff on MPR. He thinks it’s hilarious, so I have to, as well.


I type this looking away from the screen, out the front window where it snows lushly and my neighbor has parked her truck and climbed up her icy, snow-covered steps into the apartment building across the street.

My neighbor is very glamorous; today she wears a pink scarf over her beautiful red hair.

The couch I sit on is shaking from the epic battle going on between Wolverine and The Hulk — a very noisy battle that manages to penetrate my earplugs with piercing sincerity. I have no idea what their quarrel is. Perhaps they simply needed to see who would win. They wanted the challenge.

I have been unable to do much more than sit around staring into space and stewing in my own juices for nearly two weeks now.

Shortly after I delivered my most recent in-air commentary about the joys of biking in winter, I fell on glare ice on my way to work after a freezing rain so suddenly and completely that I didn’t even realize I’d fallen until I heard the sound, like a shot, of my helmet hitting the ice.

Ha ha ha. Irony is funny.

I watched the sky whiz past me for a while, lying on my back and flying so fast down the on-ramp to the Greenway it felt I was a hovercraft. All I could think of were my beautiful, brand-new crutches, strapped to my back underneath me.

Please let them be okay please let them be okay, I thought.

My bicycle slid down the ramp with me, companionably.

After we stopped, I sat up. Whew! That could have been bad! I said aloud. I’ll be more careful. Now I know the ‘wet pavement’ is ice. My crutches weren’t even scratched, the ice had been so slick. All I felt was relief and a bruise starting on my hip.

The chain had jumped and jammed; I fiddled with it and got it back on. Rode shakily along the smooth, slick Greenway for one exit and then got on Lake Street where the motorists, if annoyed by my presence, had at least warmed the asphalt.

Got to work. Ran the beginning of the staff meeting. About an hour after the accident, began to feel very, very queasy. Uh oh, I thought. I’m getting that stomach flu that’s going around.

I was not; I had a concussion.

And I still do, two weeks later.

It’s my fourth or fifth one, and from what I’ve been able to read since then (admittedly I can’t read much), the more concussions I get, the easier they’ll be to get from relatively light blows to the head and the harder they’ll be to get over.

For now, I’ve been able to tolerate very small amounts of work from home, I’ve gone into work for a few very hours (which I immediately regretted). I cannot really look for long at a computer screen. I cannot multitask, which makes me feel like I’ve lost a limb. Loud noises and light hurt my head (the battle on the couch next to me rages on). I am slow. Stupid. Irritable. Unpleasant. Things which brought me joy (companionship, whiskey, reading, old episodes of Deep Space Nine) now overwhelm me and fill me with misery.

Pretty much all I’m good for is sorting laundry or sleeping. MAN I’ve gotten good at sleeping. I am a champ.

Often, when people have something fundamental to themselves taken away, they have some sort of spiritual awakening. Some sort of self-awareness. Some deeper connection to the world or to themselves, due to enforced solitude, stillness, and a break in the routine.

Here is what I have discovered: I AM INCREDIBLY BORING.

When I am not in relation to other people, there is just not really much going on in here, folks.

The battle on the couch has been decided; I believe it was a draw. My noisy children (how did I not realize how incredibly incredibly noisy they were before, I wonder) have been banished upstairs to clean their room.

I am left to sort laundry and contemplate the gorgeous snow. Light bad. Snow pretty.