May 29, 2017 by Ray Yanek
Originally posted November 2011 —
It’s been raining for two straight days. Rain drips through a hole in the gutter outside to ping against the down spout by my window. Darkness crept in early and the temperature is in the lower 40’s. Occasionally, the heater clacks to life.
Down the hall, my wife snores softly. She’s warm and sleeping on her side under the comforter that’s been only a decoration for months. Upstairs, my son sleeps too and my daughter is reading Percy Jackson in her bed. The dog is in the kitchen, dreaming of chasing rabbits. The cat is asleep in my chair.
And I’m here, kept company by a keyboard and a glass of red.
Tonight, I’ll sleep well.
In truth, these days I sleep well often. The weather may change, but the comfort remains. Still, my mind wanders.
* * *
Somewhere is a wife just like mine, curled in her own bed. If she sleeps, it’s only half-halfheartedly. She suffers with the fact that tonight, like the many nights previous, no one will be joining her under the covers. Children turn somewhere in their beds too, still waiting, still hoping, even though they know that hope is dim, that their father will come home and kiss them goodnight.
Somewhere that father and husband sits on the sand, like those before him that sat on jungle or mud. He trys to stay alert, but thinks instead about his wife, and about how not even the heat of the desert sun can match the warmth of her body next to his. He dreams of his children, tries to remember his daughter’s profile in the shadows cast by the night light. He imagines the stories he would have read to them, stories filled with talking animals and princesses. Maybe one with an elf or a wizard. Anything other than the stories that play through his head continuously now, the true stories of loss and blood and violence.
He wonders, for a moment, why he traded all of that for all of this.
* * *
Somewhere another wife, just like mine, huddles in her bed. She doesn’t even pretend to sleep. Her husband is pacing in the kitchen again. He hears the screams from both the innocent and the guilty, from both the enemy and the friend. She wonders if he’ll ever be alright again, will ever be the happy man drinking a beer and letting the steak overcook on the grill as he plays catch with his son.
He wonders that too.
* * *
Somewhere else another mother sits with her knees tucked to her chest in the dark of her living room, wondering why she doesn’t feel the same attachment to her children that she once did. She wonders why she doesn’t feel anything anymore.
Her children wonder that as well. So too, does her husband who lies alone in their bed, wondering if the rest of his wife, all the parts that are not scared of a car’s backfire or the wandering eyes of stray dog, will ever come home to meet the rest of her.
* * *
It’s getting late.
The wine in my glass is gone. My eyes are drooping. Thoughts come slowly. I heard my daughter brushing her teeth and then climbing back into bed.
All is still well, but I’m wondering if I’ll sleep now after thinking all these thoughts.
I think I will. I think it would be wrong not to.
It would be like throwing back the gift someone sacrificed so much to give.
I’ll sleep, but I will not forget.
So to the Veterans—thank you. May God bless you and help you to find your own rest.