I crave peace and quiet, especially when I get home from work. But, in the immortal words of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards: “You can’t always get what you want.”
Yesterday when I got home, the kids were bouncing off the walls. The strange thing was that my normally quiet-as-a-lamb, ultra-responsible, rock-solid middle child was the instigator.
My son has always been a quiet child, who doesn’t talk much, and certainly never about himself. About a month ago, he brought home a semester’s worth of school work. At the bottom of the stack was the first assignment he had done for language arts: a typed, single-spaced letter that filled an entire page, introducing himself to his teacher.
“You should know that I am a very quiet kid. Every day my family has to tell me to speak up.”
“I am kind of athletic because I play soccer but other than that I run slow and I can’t do push ups very well.”
“What I like to do before school when I’m not trying to get ready really quick is to draw funny pictures and cartoons, which I share with my family. I like doing this because I love to make people laugh.”
“Some things you need to know about me is that I suffer from back pain. I assume its just long term affects of my limes disease, which I had about a year ago…So if you see me fidgeting a bit it’s just my back so don’t worry about it.”
By the time I got to the end of the letter, tears were rolling down my face. His letter was so sweet, gentle, honest, and open. It felt unbearably sad to me that I had gotten my best glimpse into my son’s inner life through a school assignment.
Lyme Disease did terrible things to my son. What was even more upsetting to me than the fact that he was suffering from aches and pains, was the change in his personality. He started acting like a grumpy old man and became even more uncommunicative than usual. I would have to say that even now, about a year and a half after he was first diagnosed, he still has not bounced back 100%.
Last night at the dinner table, however, he was unusually animated and jovial. His eyes were sparkling. His playful mood was infectious. His siblings were caught up in the novelty of his high spirits and were getting riled up.
“Who are you and what have you done with my son?” I asked him.
He held his hand out to me to shake and said, “Hello, I’m Dale Thomas and I’d like $13,000, no, let’s make that $15,000 dollars ransom for your son.”
Dale turned out to be quite a character: a slickster, a charmer, a merry hooligan, a man about town, a comedian, and a rabble-rouser all wrapped up into one…His siblings were spellbound and completely and utterly in his sway.
“Come on, eat your dinner,” I kept urging as the antics escalated to a feverish pitch.
“T might like chicken, but I don’t particularly care for it.”
I glared at T/Dale. He continued to pick at his plate, as he redoubled his efforts to keep his audience of two highly entertained. I kept having to ask the kids to calm down, take it down a few notches, be quiet…PLEASE!
As we were finally finishing up, I asked him to wipe the table after dinner.
“Aren’t you being rather rude, asking a guest to do chores?” T/Dale asked me with a mischievous grin.
The last straw was when the kids got so swept up by the highjinks, they started loudly drumming their feet. I lost it. I barked out a peremptory order for SILENCE!
That night I popped a couple Advil and crawled into bed. I finally had the peace and quiet I had wanted so desperately. I also had the time to reflect upon the evening and was stricken with remorse and filled with regret. Why couldn’t I have been more tolerant? Why did I have be such a buzzkill? Why hadn’t I played along with my son’s rare display of exuberance, rather than try to squelch it?
This morning I gave him a hug and apologized for having suppressed Dale so meanly.
“I’m sorry I was such a jerk about Dale. He was so much fun. Everyone was having such a good time and I ruined it by being so crabby. Do you think he might come back for a visit sometime?”
There was a twinkle in his eye as my son said, “He’s upstairs hanging out in my room. He may still be here when you get back from work.”
I hope so.