When David, my son, was about 4, he began telling us about his dreams.  We had never discussed dreams with him simply because it just hadn’t come up yet.  But we had talked about wishes.  Wishes were things that hadn’t really happened yet, but they might.  Wishes could be good or bad; but usually they were good.  Wishes he understood.  Dreams he didn’t.

His first attempt to tell us about his dream came out, “Daddy, I had this wish . . .”  Well the first few times we were thoroughly confused.  Because he usually told us this in the morning, and because we’re incredibly bright and sensitive parents, after about eight episodes of his “wishes”, we deduced that he was talking about his nightly dreams.

He would tell us of some fanciful adventure.  Sometimes he was dueling with Batman and Robin at his side, or driving a car, or flying with Superman.  These dreams were fun.  Occasionally his team would lose.  Those dreams weren’t so fun.

It was such a darling twist on the reality of dreams that we didn’t correct his phraseology for several years.  He’d start, “I had this wish.  I was flying with Superman . . .”  Or, “I had this wish, this big green ugly monster was chasing me . . .”

Whenever he was scared, he would come into my room and wake me.  He was too scared to go back to his room so I would get his pillow and a couple of blankets and set him up on the floor next to my side of the bed.  We’d ceremoniously fold several blankets into a makeshift bed, I’d tuck him in, and usually listen to his wish. I’m sure he felt very safe and loved.

But now you need to know the other side of the story.  Sleep and I don’t get along very well.

David is our third investment in the future of the world.  He has two older sisters.  David had, it seemed like, 1,346 ear infections his first year of life.  His Eustachian tubes weren’t working very well yet.  My wife and I had to begin sleeping on alternate nights.  One of us would stay up with him in the spare bedroom while the other would put a fan on high in the bedroom (a little “white noise”) and sleep the night away.  The next night we would trade.

This routine got me into the habit of getting up several times each night.  Eventually I arose even when it wasn’t my turn.

Finally, when he was old enough, we had little tiny tubes placed in his ear drums to drain the fluid.  His infections stopped and he began sleeping through the night. I kept getting up.

The habit continues to this day.  I read, drink a glass of milk, write, watch TV, or play video games on the computer.  Occasionally, I will sleep the entire night.  It is a momentous event.

David still had scary “wishes” for a few years.  They weren’t as frequent, but whenever he did, he would come into the room, wake me up and we’d go through our little routine.  After he settled in, I’d head off into the living room to read, drink a glass of milk, write, watch TV, or play video games on the computer.

Sometimes he would have his wishes several nights in a row  (I still like to call them wishes for old times sake).  I admit that sometimes I’d get a little frustrated.  In a little of a huff, I’ll sulk down to the living room to read, drink a glass of milk, . . . well you know.

20 years later on David's Wedding Day

But by the time I got back to the room, it was different.  I’d sit on the side of the bed and look at my precious son.  He would be totally flaked out.  I’d watch him sleep and print treasured photographs in my mind — peacefully sleeping, driven next to my bed by scary wishes.

Someday, when I’m a very old man, I’ll have wishes too.  Maybe by then I won’t be able to tell if they’re dreams or reality.  I’ll probably be lonely, tired, and just generally not feeling too well.  I’ll wish that I was young again; forty-five will sound just fine.  I’ll wish for someone who needs help with their algebra; for somebody to play catch with; for a dirty diaper to change; for a walk along the beach with my wife; and I’ll wish for a little hand on my shoulder in the middle of the night wanting little more than just to be with me and to talk about wishes.

 


dv
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