Stepping out onto the side porch, I can’t help but notice the billions of clearly defined stars in the midnight sky; so rich and vast they are that the visual weight of it nearly suffocates me. The clouds cleared out and it looks like it may frost after all, this causes my heart to sink a little as I didn’t take time to cover the flowers. An early season frost will clip my hopes of a beautiful fall array and while I’ll miss that glorious requiem, I find that deep in my heart, I little care. I have no time to feel sorry for flowers; I’ve bigger things at hand and all those stars served to do was to remind me of how little in control I really am. Perhaps that’s what really was suffocating me.
It wasn’t until I noticed the breath vapor beginning to fog my view that I decided not to walk out into the yard for a broader view; between the cold of the night and the sudden realization that I’m in only my underwear - I simply dump the diapers into the pail and head back indoors. I no longer care about the flowers, the frost, nor the magnitude of the view I just witnessed; I’m more troubled by another night of inexplicable manic behavior.
It has the makings of yet another all-nighter and again we’re both at the breaking point. This time our anger is more unguarded more focused and dangerously aimed at each other. What started at 10 pm as a typical hollering up the stairs to “be quiet” has become a fearful melee of cuss words, threats and moments where I fear a dark deed of aggression is happening. The taunts from Bethany are a little to direct, our responses are a little too violent for comfort, the fear of “crossing some bizarre line” flashes into my conscience. Listening to it all on the downstairs monitor makes me feel a little like a radio listener to the original 1930’s, H.G. Wells’ presentation of “War of the Worlds”. It’s too real, too convincing and for a moment, I forget that it’s not a radio show; it’s really happening.
She laughed the fist time I yelled up the stairs at her; you’d think it a long-standing joke between us. The words of my grandmother floated through my head just then, Frances, being the mother of 10 farm-raised kids knew trouble and had the ability to call it out with accurate terms. Bethany was being in her vernacular, a “little shit-ass”. Now, a few hours later, the warm humor of that phrase has evaporated like the frosty breath before me did outdoors. The radio show on the monitor has me numb with fear, “is it real”?
I barely recognize my wife’s voice on the monitor and its clear to me that she’s suffering from a type of deep-tiredness; the type that comes from a decade and a half of unimaginably small and unendingly constant, bombardment of things that have no answer, no logic and no end. Like the stars I looked at in the frosty sky, no one dot is the specific problem – together they all make one suffocatingly oppressive weight. In her tired and broken state, I don’t even recognize her; I simply listen and grow increasingly numb with disbelief. I don’t know what to do; don’t know how to do it – so instead, I sit there numb and dumbfounded like a deer in the headlights. I’ve gone up there in the past, did the “husband in control” thing, hoping to give her some sense of security an in the process cause myself to believe that I could make it all better and show her my love by doing so. That too ends up an epic failure; I don’t know what to do and end up showing that I’m not in control.
She comes back down the stairs and crawls into a dark bed in a dark room, I can feel it shake as she silently cries in a hopeless, downward spiral. I can feel her falling and can do little more than offer her my hand. I can’t stop the fall; and while I can dry the tears I have little power to hold her together. I lay there as she cries that deep-tired cry, listen to Bethany as she screams upstairs, I think about the number of stars in the sky and the number of tears we’ve shed in this effort. The weight of it all is suffocating the both of us and no one on this earth seems able to stop our downward spiral.
The “evening wolves” of doubt and fear are circling Sherry, Bethany and myself again. They glare at us with hungry eyes and taunt us with the soft, logical question of “where is your God now”? They long to devour us, and we like sheep feel powerless in defense. As a man, I must openly admit that I am powerless. I can’t fix Bethany, I can’t reach Sherry, and I certainly can’t help myself. I need appeal to a greater father, a more caring husband, and a more perfect physician to cure those ills, mend those hearts and display that love. My prayer is that the rest we so desperately need will also come from that source, that His plan will include mercy and compassion for my wife and I as we struggle to hold together what we can.