As I start to type this blog post, it’s exactly 3am on November 1, the Day of the Dead. The Dead Tired, that is.
I woke up maybe 40 minutes ago, like James Brown, in a cold sweat. How’s that for candor? The T-shirt in which I’d been sleeping was soaked, as was the sheet under me. I arose, trying not to wake wifey. In my bedroom closet hang all my large T-shirts for moments just like these – no need for the noise of our noisy credenza. I removed my sweaty shirt, put on a new one, and laid a third one on the sweaty part of my side of the bed. I turned over my pillow – thinking of the phrase “Joe Montana is cooler than the other side of the pillow” – and tried to re-enter the Land of Nod.
Instead, I entered the land of tee-tee-teeing. Dar. Making his noises. Now, does he normally make these all night and I just don’t notice? Or did I wake him and set him off? I consider earplugs. But I’m wide awake now, so I figure I may as well get up and start typing. Even though I am or was planning to drive to Modesto at 7 for canvassing this morning.
Before I open this laptop, I make time to shush Dar. Like me, he’s really, really awake; he has even turned on his overhead light. I order him into bed and “shhhhh” him for a minute. I consider turning off his light. Every night, we let him fall asleep with the overhead light on…because he complains if we don’t. And every night, after he’s asleep, we turn it off. (And leave his nightlight aglow.) And every night by 6:00am, he’s up tee-tee-teeing, often with noises that sound like squeals of protest. Sometimes I wonder if he would sleep better if we just left the overhead light on. I think about all this as I decide to leave the overhead light on.
Now I’m in the living room with the laptop asking myself…
What’s bothering Dar? What’s bothering me? Dar? Halloween?
Dar is currently wearing a non-sweaty (I checked) T-shirt of Mickey Mouse that says “Halloween.” It’s the same one he wore to school yesterday and the same one he wore on his day at Disneyland in July. I think of Disneyland because it’s one piece of evidence that we try to give Dar a childhood.
Not much of that evidence last night. Dar was tee-tee-teeing, but not trick-or-treating. We didn’t take him. Why?
Mainly because it has never worked. Dar has no interest in going house to house and asking for candy. He has no idea what all that is, and he doesn’t like it, and he doesn’t behave well or appropriately.
Maybe I’m awake because, Halloween-wise, Dar’s brother, who is 6, turns out to be more like Dar than I ever realized.
Last year was fine. Last year was Dar’s brother’s first time on Russell Street, which is Berkeley’s premier Halloween street. Last year was also the first time we met up with a friend.
In retrospect, maybe last year lulled me into complacency. This year we skipped Russell Street and instead walked to our local haunt, Mariposa St. That took us about ten minutes, but Dar and his brother walk at least 30 minutes (usually more like an hour) at Tilden every weekend, so I didn’t think a 10-minute walk would kill anyone.
Dar’s brother was scheduled to meet that same friend again, but the friend was late. Being that as it was, I texted a friend of mine who I knew would be on Mariposa. The texting went back and forth and back and forth, followed by choppy phone calls, followed by more texting. Dar’s brother got frustrated, apparently with my phone use. Finally I found my friend and as we walked down Mariposa, Dar’s brother was caught in a crunch of kids that was congested enough to make him briefly drop his bucket of candy.
I don’t think he ever quite got over that. I was perhaps five feet away, but it was like he was traumatized that I let that happen. He whined and complained for the rest of the night. We eventually met his friend. His friend’s mom very nicely asked about wifey. I said that during a previous year when we all went out, we came back to find our bowl of candy emptied. (This is true.) This year, partly to prevent against that, wifey had stayed home with Dar. Who would have whined through Halloween anyway…
…just as his brother was currently doing, I said with what I hope sounded like a humorous ironic voice.
Truth is, I love Halloween. I mean, it’s kind of my favorite holiday. And last night was gorgeous, weather-wise. There was even a half-moon. Did I put too much pressure on either kid? Or am I right to worry that Dar’s brother is having some of Dar’s issues?
Maybe that’s overstating it. Dar’s brother doesn’t have autism. But he does have issues. And maybe those aren’t getting the attention they should, because Dar sucks up all the attention and blog posts?
I just spent 15 minutes looking at y’all’s cute FB Halloween posts. Totes adorbs.
Okay, it’s now 4:00am. Dar is still tee-tee-tee-ing. I now predict the school today will tell us that Dar seems ill because he’ll want to spend half the day on a beanbag. I’m going up to his room.
Now it’s 4:04. I’m typing this in Dar’s room as quietly as I can. Overhead light is now off. I shushed him. He seems to have received the message that he must try to quietly sleep.
When do I get to receive that message?
Dar’s brother told me that the kids at school made fun of his costume. I wasn’t honest with him, but I’ll be honest with you…I didn’t love his costume. He insisted on dressing as a banana. It’s a costume for a toddler. One thing I love about Dar, he’ll wear anything we want him to wear. His brother complains about half of his clothes, so we let him choose whatever.
Wifey and I think that Dar’s brother is having trouble making friends during this, his year of first grade. The costume is just a one-day symbol of a larger problem. He’s a misfit. He’s maybe too smart for his own good, and he’s also whiney. As his kindergarten teacher put it, he has lots of big emotions. He hasn’t been taught to hide them.
Damn right. I took advice from Jane Fonda (deal with it), who said we need to teach boys of 5 or 6 that it’s okay to be emotional. I certainly don’t want Dar’s brother to have that alpha energy. But…the alternative, at least in this case, is a little like Ferdinand the Bull. We went to a birthday party last weekend, and the other 6-year-old boys chased each other with a soccer ball while Dar’s brother played on the play structure. Later, he insisted on doing a show for me.
I wouldn’t worry if Dar’s brother were gay. That would be fine. This feels like something more difficult.
I look at Dar’s brother having a lot of the same issues I had, and just typing that, here at 4:15am in Dar’s room, breaks my heart. You’d like to think you can make a better life for the next generation, right? I’m thrilled that he’s got the scarecrow’s brains and the tin man’s heart, but he doesn’t have the noive. The nerve. The courage. The courage to relax and be chill with people.
Speaking of Halloweeny things, I used to spend a lot of time watching my DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Specifically, there was this one scene that I watched again and again. This scene never comes up in film class (mine, anyone’s) or in any normal conversation. It doesn’t even make sense here. It may not have made sense when Tolkien wrote (most of) the words. Elrond is telling Arwen not to think so much about Aragorn. The scenery is haunting, as civilization goes from gleaming to gloaming; autumn leaves blow past Aragorn’s body as it transitions from sleep to stone. Elrond (Hugo Weaving) says:
Whether by the sword or the slow decay of time, Aragorn will die. And there will be no comfort for you, no comfort to ease the pain of his passing. He will come to death an image of the splendor of the kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world. But you, my daughter, you will linger on in darkness and in doubt as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Here you will dwell bound to your grief under the fading trees until all the world is changed and the long years of your life are utterly spent.
I used to listen to that line and watch that scene all the time in summer 2003. I’m not sure I really understood it. “The breaking of the world” gave me chills. I think I felt the scene as part of a sense that I was in an unhappy, indefinitely extended transition from one life to another. Like, I was done with childhood, but still not an adult. I think I wanted a better career and a wife and kids.
Well, now I have those things, sort of. Meanwhile, for the first time in a very long time, I watched that scene again. It was the other day, with my father. I got chills on my chills. And I have to say, 15 years later…I’m still in transition. I still feel, and maybe fear, the breaking of the world. Living in nightfall in winter that comes without a star.
Maybe the transition never ends. But I was hoping for more for Dar’s brother. And now I’m worried that he won’t have it. That despite all our efforts, he’ll be miserable as often as I was when I was growing up. And Dar is…Dar. World or no world. Star or no star.
It’s 4:45. I think Dar just fell asleep.