As I begin to relate the tale of how the smoke alarm woke up my son at 2 AM and how he came downstairs to check upon us I’ll share the current song playing on my headphones.
It feels so very appropriate for oh so many reasons as it asks and answers questions while closing and opening doors.
Sirens In The Night
My parents have been in Texas since Christmas day and have both remarked how bitter some of the days/nights have felt.
I smile and tell them all those years of Chicago winters did a lousy job of preparing them for Lone Star chill.
Dad and I banter back and forth and I get the standard response about how much fun winter can be when you are a kid.
I smile and tell him it must be a Virgo thing to talk like that.
They head back to the hotel and I do a proper job of getting to bed at a decent hour, 12:30 AM.
“Dad, don’t you hear the smoke detector?”
It takes a moment to recognize my son is standing in my bedroom and not part of my dream. But only a moment because the howl coming from the smoke detector refuses to let me relax.
I roll out of bed and get hit by a massive wave of arctic air.
It is unspeakably cold in the house and I can’t tell if there is a fire or if the smoke detector has decided it wants to audition for a job on a fire truck.
My son says he hasn’t spotted a fire in the house but that he heard about a space heater that caused one.
There are only two here and it takes less than 10 seconds to confirm neither unit has launched a mutiny or joined forces with a serial killer.
I climb upon a chair determined to remove the offending alarm from its ceiling perch figuring I’ll carry it with me through the house as I confirm whether flames or mechanical failure are to blame for its caterwauling.
Tired eyes and cold hands don’t cooperate and for a moment I wonder if I am going to rip the unit off of its ceiling mount because I can’t take the noise.
It feels like it takes forever to take it down but by the time I have disabled the unit and climbed off of the chair the clock confirms two minutes have gone by.
The Roof Isn’t On Fire…Right
While I am working on the smoke detector my son wanders through the downstairs looking for smoke/flames.
“Dad, I haven’t found anything but I am still concerned.”
I smile and tell him I think we are ok and mention the dog seems unconcerned.
“Animals are pretty good at noticing this kind of stuff. He stopped barking when the siren stopped. What is your sister doing?”
He says he thinks she might be asleep and we run upstairs to check. I really am 98% certain all is fine but I won’t relax until I see my baby girl.
I figure I’ll poke my head in, confirm nothing is out of the ordinary and go back to sleep–except it doesn’t work like that.
Her door is locked and she doesn’t respond to a knock.
I look at my son and tell him to get me a paperclip so I can pop the lock. It won’t take but a second but for a moment I feel this sick sensation and fear comes to visit.
What if I am wrong about it all? What if something bad has happened? Should I kick the door open? Time matters in emergency situations.
I take a deep breath and ask myself if I want to pay for a new door and frame.
“The dog isn’t going nuts. You don’t smell smoke, see flames or feel heat anywhere…relax.”
The silent talk doesn’t take the edge off but the moment the door opens I relax. She is wrapped in her blanket, her sleeping face providing a faint hint of the baby she used to be.
She feels me standing over her, “Hi daddy, I am tired. Good night.”
I watch her roll over and head back to my bed.
Sleep doesn’t come as easily as I hope and so I find myself cursing my alarm a few hours later.
Ma and Pa Wilner head back to LA tomorrow which means it is time for another goodbye. Given the nature of certain things I pay more attention to these things than I once did.
Most of the time there is no conscious thought in this but there are moments when my mind wanders through darker fields.
I blame age and dialysis for such things but am generally pretty good about not focusing upon the what-ifs.
Some of it is based upon training from my dad and grandfathers and some of it is just standard male compartmentalization.
Certain things will happen and there is not a damn thing I can do to prevent them.
Hell, I can’t do much of anything to slow some of them down and given those constraints I have gotten pretty good at not wondering or worrying.
Some of these goodbyes are new to my kids and they are still adjusting to not having their grandparents within a short ride.
But as it happens this particular Winter break has been punctuated with not one but both sets of grandparents here so we still have another week of visitors.
Since the holidays are behind us my work schedule has accelerated tremendously so I won’t be around as much during the latter half of the trip so the family will have to experience Texas with me playing a much more limited role.
Got Elton John singing The One as I stare out the window thinking about possibilities, opportunities and how very strange life can be.
I can’t say where 2018 will take me but I know I am going to close and open a series of doors.
The great game started and the pieces are moving from place to place.
One song ends and another begins, it is Tom Petty singing Runnin’ Down a Dream and isn’t that exactly what I am doing.
Runnin’ down a dream, or at least doing my best to do more than spend my days lost in fantasy and devoid of action.
And I’ll keep it up provided the damn smoke alarm doesn’t keep wrecking my sleep. Don’t need or want sirens at night or during the day.