February 19, 2008

Both sides

When With-a-Why was a little kid, he'd wake up with night terrors. He'd look around the room with these terrified eyes and sometimes pace the room — scared, frantic, talking gibberish. I had night terrors myself as a kid (and I still wake up with nightmares) and so did my youngest sister, so I didn't find his behavior unusual, although I have to admit that it can be creepy to talk to someone who is not really awake and who is acting kind of possessed. Well, I don't think I've actually ever seen someone who is possessed but his eyes would roll back in the manner of possessed characters in movies.

I'd just point out reassuring things in the room: "Here's the lamp. Here's the blanket. Here you are in your room." Usually my familiar voice and the sheer monotony of what I was saying would lull him back into the normal realm.

Once he was awake and talking normal, I'd try to get him back to sleep. It would be a relief to have my little boy back. I'd get in bed with him, hugging him and talking to him.

"Sleep on both sides of me," he'd say. So I'd put my arms and legs all the way around him, encircling him the best I could so that he would feel surrounded.

Today, With-a-Why has been asleep most of the day, his usually lively thirteen-year-old self felled by some kind of sickness that includes a high fever, a bad headache, and a hacking cough. He woke up early this evening with what seemed like a night terror. He began pacing the room with wide open eyes, but I could tell he wasn't seeing me. He was muttering gibberish, and his clammy skin was wet with sweat. His long hair was soaked.

Shaggy Hair, the only other person home, regarded him with interest. With-a-Why's eyes were kind of bulging out, and he was muttering, "Horrible. Horrible." At first, he wouldn't respond to anything I said, but I finally got him calmed down and snuggled onto the couch, drinking ginger ale. By then he could answer simple questions, but couldn't even articulate what had just happened. I sat on one side of him, holding his glass of ginger ale, and Shaggy Hair Boy sat on the other side, so that he could feel loved from both sides.

14 comments:

my15minutes said...

My son used to have those too. I was just thinking about that last week, when he left for the Marines... left home for good, my boy did. I still remember the last time he had a night terror. He was 14 years old, and whereas all his previous terrors he'd woke screaming and I'd had to talk him down from (as you describe), this time he was cognizant enough to wander in to my room. In his deep voice he asked if he could lie down between us in bed, like he did years before. My boy, taller than me, crawled in just shaking with fright. I kissed his head and rubbed his back and talked quietly to him. I remember thinking at the time that this was a gift to me ... it was the last time I'd comfort him as a child. And of course, it was.

Jenevieve said...

Whatever he has, Hosea has the same symptoms. Boo.

And My 15minutes, I teared up thinking that there might be a last time I cuddle my baby to comfort him! Say it ain't so!

Nadine said...

Oh, so sweet your family is.

Madeleine said...

My daughter hasn't had those sleep-wake terrors, but when she has strep throat with a fever she is scared of the dark, scared of monsters, won't go upstairs alone or in the basement alone. Fever must do some crazy things to the brain.

zhoen said...

One day, instead, they will comfort you.

Kathryn said...

Poor love - hope he recovers fast,as its scary for all of you, even when you've been well prepared.

YourFireAnt said...

Wow. Good writing, Jo(e). I'm in tears at my desk. In my grown-up job.

FA

liz said...

Yourfireant, I'm so glad I'm not the only one all choked up.

celestial opus said...

Wow - I didn't realize this was so common. Someone at work gets night terrors and from I always thought it absolutely fascinating to hear that she truly still believes things from them (like a bomb has gone off or such) and just can't make herself get over it after waking. Perhaps I need to suggest being loved from both sides.

I hope With-a-Why is better soon. Sounds awful for him!

susan said...

You are all so sweet. I hope With-a-Why is better soon.

Yankee, Transferred said...

Just knowing them through the computer, Shaggy Hair is the one that has stolen my heart the most.

Sue said...

I'm glad your son has such a supportive family around him to help in the wake of night terrors. They are truly awful.

Hope he feels better soon.

Twice said...

Recently, a similar virus made its way through our whole household. I hope With-a-Why feels better soon.

adjunct whore said...

my daughter also had night terrors--i was a young mom and they terrified me at first--but i remember so well the talking to the waking asleep, pointing out objects in the room, holding her and rocking her until she felt safe again.

i'm sorry your boy is sick...the arc of childhood is so moving, thank you for always writing so beautifully about your experiences with it.