Night

My wife Chris snores. Not the “isn’t she cute when she sleeps?” snores, but “truck heading up a steep road in low gear” snores. I am a light sleeper, and a picky sleeper. I like it cool, very dark, and I require a background drone. On the other hand, I can sleep anywhere, in any position, on anything and wake up good to go. I love Chrissie, and one of the great joys of my life is to fall asleep next to her.

Where I wake up is anybody’s guess.  It might be the upstairs office, in my son’s room, I may stumble downstairs and land on the couch. This night, I had lain down next to my sixth grade son Tony when I heard the scratching sounds from downstairs.  I heard that scratching, metal on metal, and I realized, “Holy shit, it’s 3.00 am and someone is working on my side door.”  My name is Kenneth Ashe, and I am a forty-six year old oral surgeon. My friends call me Kenny.

University of Michigan Dental School, class of 1985, residency training at Detroit Medical Center.  My Dad Clark is a dentist and I got pulled that way.  Like a lot of kids, when I was young, I thought what my Dad did was very cool. As a teen, it became completely lame. In college, it looked like a damn fine way to earn a living.  Oral surgery gets me into the hospital OR twice a week, and I still have a life outside my office. I have a good life.

The night I heard scratching at me door, I lay there next to Tony, and I was working hard to keep my breathing under control. I was half-sitting up in bed, and quite frankly, I wanted to pull the covers over my head. I tried to pretend that the noise was a raccoon climbing up the drain spout.  I heard a quiet thunk as the lock came undone, a slight squeak as the door started to swing open, and then something that may have been a footstep, but may have been my heart pounding.

Like I said, at night, I roam around the house. When the kids were little, it was easy. When I’d wake up in the middle of the night, I’d crash with one of them. My cousin Rod owns a furniture store. Ever since the kids were out of toddler beds, my over-indulged children have been sleeping in queen size beds that Rod traded me for a root canal and a pair of wisdom tooth extractions.  Most of the time, when my wristwatch alarm would beep at six A.M., my kids didn’t even know that I had been sleeping next to them.

My Amelie, my first-born.  Five foot two and 112 wiry mouthy pounds. Point guard. Catcher. A pistol. I have video from a U-14 softball game where her pitcher was goofing around a little too much. You can’t hear her, I was behind first base, but you sure can read her lips. Big. “Lindsay, just throw some fucking strikes, or I will…kick…your…ass.” Lindsay threw strikes.

When puberty hit, sleeping next to my newly teenaged daughter Amelie became creepy and wrong.  That happened a few years back, puberty. She’s seventeen now, a junior, and sleeping at her friend Maria’s house tonight.  Amelie, short and dirty blonde and Jewish- a hyperactive chatterbox who flies around at nearly light speed.  Lord knows Amelie didn’t get her game from me.

Chrissie has game. All our stories go like this. I have been skiing my entire life. Chris started in her twenties. I manage the blue trails, barely, always nervous about my hands. An oral surgeon with a fractured navicular in his wrist is about as good as a relief pitcher with a torn rotator cuff. Chris; she moved up into our ski area’s Elite Racing League two years after starting to ski.

In high school, when I was studying for AP calculus, she was earning ten varsity letters: tennis, track and volleyball. I was recruited for a 3.98 GPA with a 30 on the ACT by three colleges. She was receiving stacks of letters daily because of her jump serve. In college, I was Sigma Alpha Mu’s social chairman because I owned a blender and mixed a damn fine daiquiri. She was a Sigma Kappa who spent two years after graduation on the US National Volleyball team.  I’m not jealous, much, but you need to know that I am a klutz. Gross motor skills have never been a strong suit. Fiscal fitness took precedence over physical fitness.

I laid there in Tony’s bed, counting my breaths to calm myself down.

“One, two, three, four.  One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four.”

“Christ,” I think. “A plan, I need a plan.”

“Plan, two, three, four. Plan, two, three, four. Plan, two, three, my cell phone.”  “

“Ah shit, it’s on the nightstand next to Chris.”

“Okay, plan B. Tony’s phone. In his book bag.  Yes!”

“Ah shit, book bag’s downstairs in the front hall closet.”

Earlier that night, I had gone into Tony’s room to tell him light’s out, and to kiss him on the head. I remember seeing a sign over my wife’s childhood bed when I first met my in-laws. “Always kiss me good-night.” To this day, when my children are in our house, I always kiss them good night.

In public, God forbid I should do anything more than the handshake double thump on the back chest bump with my very cool 14 year old son, but tonight, when I kissed his forehead, he wrapped his arms around my neck like a tired three year old and said, “See you in a couple hours, Dad.”

“Phone plan bad,” I thought. “New plan- steal the initiative. With what? My down quilt? Sneak down the stairs and, no…  that’s stupid.”

I could hear faint footsteps every few seconds downstairs. The steps got fainter, and then stopped. He was walking from the kitchen into the carpeted computer room.

“Okay, thief, grab the flat screen, the lap top and get out the door. Yeah, you got a deal. Steal what you want. Get the hell out of my house.”

And then I heard footsteps again. Louder. He was heading toward the steps. I was trying not to head towards panic.

Amelie’s room is right next to Tony’s, and just inside the door is her gear bag. It weighs a bloody ton. Because inside the bag …

Four mitts; her practice mitt and her gamer, a first baseman’s mitt because she’s the back-up, a fielder’s glove just for fun, a mask, a chest protector, two pair of shin guards, and three beautiful and identical Easton EAL 28 softball bats.

(continue reading…)

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The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at http://dstan58.blogspot.com/

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