Falls the shadow

“I’m scared, Mom and Dad,” exclaims Eli, our four year old, who’s standing on the landing outside his room well after his bedtime. “I’m scared of the monsters.”

Sometimes Sally looks in on him, but tonight I’m the one to amble up the stairs from the living room. As I tuck him back into bed, I assure him he’s safe and remind him that his mom and dad are here in the house. I leave the dogs to comfort the boy and walk back to the living room.

I don’t mention monsters when I talk to Eli. Perhaps I should. Perhaps I should console him by explaining that monsters aren’t real, that they don’t exist.

But that wouldn’t be honest.

The truth is I believe in monsters. And I believe in the Bogeyman.

I keep thinking about Kimberly Saenz. You know about her, I’m sure, the nurse in Lufkin who injected bleach into her dialysis patients, burning them from the inside out, telling jokes as she ignited her patients all along their veins.

No doubt, you know about lots of other monsters, too.

And if you’re honest to the bone, you know that they’re not just out there. They’re in here, in our thoughts and dreams; in our monsterous urges to be cruel, ruthless, and violent; in that savage hiss that instructs us to leap from the ledge.

But how do you tell a four year old and his little brother that the Bogeyman lurks in the park and at the church and on the computer? How do you explain that an invisible beast hides in their heads?

You don’t, I suspect.

You warn about stranger danger. You remind your kids to be smart in the streets. You teach them to fight when they have to fight.

But you don’t mention the shapes without form, the hollow center in the stuff of us. You don’t tell them about the Bogeyman, slouching in the woods, lean, empty, waiting. And you don’t tell them that one day, the Bogeyman will come. One day he’ll come for us all.

An hour after putting Eli back to bed, I make my way up the stairs to check on him. Asleep in his Power Ranger pajamas, the boy spoons with his favorite blanket, blameless and perfect.

Gazing at this fragile child who is part Sally, part me, and all himself, I’m flooded by emotion. I want to linger in this instant, to hold on to this feeling that’s as profound and inscrutable as a river, to always remember this blond-haired boy sleeping in his bed.

And then my mind drifts, and I think about Eli going to kindergarten in the fall, about the hard years ahead for him, about the Bogeyman skulking in the shadows. And standing there in his room with the Matchbox cars scattered on the carpet and the dogs sacked out on floor, my heart starts beating fast and strong, and I clinch my fists.

Thugs. Pedophiles. Monsters. I’ll gut you if you hurt my sleeping boys, I promise to myself. I’ll paint my face red and stab you right in the throat.

I bend down next to Eli to pull the covers up, and I consider murmuring something about protecting him from the monsters.

Instead, as I often do, I whisper, “Sweet dreams, Little Dude. Your Mom and Dad love you. Your Mom and Dad love you very much.”

A fragment of a poem repeats in my head.

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

I close Eli’s window to keep the night out.

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

I shuffle down the hall to go to sleep.


6 Responses to “Falls the shadow”

  1. 1 D S Gardner April 21, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Wow, Craig. That was beautiful and haunting.

  2. 2 lesleyfamily April 22, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Thanks, Dave. I appreciate the kind words. Truth be told, I almost didn’t post this. It’s mighty hard to share personal narratives, especially ones that are borderline sick and certainly sappy.

  3. 3 feeddunk April 22, 2009 at 10:40 am

    You paint such a poignant scene, one I have found myself in many times! I do not have the capacity to verbalize my emotions as you can. Well done.

  4. 4 lesleyfamily April 22, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Thanks, D. and congrats on the new car. I bet it’s got more giddy up and go than the ol’ Jeep.

  5. 5 Laura April 23, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Thanks for sharing.

    It really casts our job as parents into the harsh light of reality. And that’s why we have discussed sending G to a nunnery until she’s 35!

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