My mother was tired. She had been to the hospital every day that week to be at the bedside of my ill father. It was late and all she wanted was a good night’s sleep. She opened the window beside her bed to allow the warm summer breeze to refresh her.
Mother slowly relaxed that fateful evening as the night sounds engulfed her. Her boys were safely tucked in upstairs, all but the oldest who had left for the evening some hours earlier. The doors were locked. But, the window beside her bed was open.
Mother was sleeping deeply when somewhere in her subconscious mind she detected something out of the ordinary. Slowly, reluctantly, she awoke out of deep sleep, entering into some resemblance of consciousness. She listened intently. A faint noise like wood sliding against wood sounded in her ears.
She opened her eyes. Someone was standing outside the window! She pressed into the mattress, staring at the stranger. Through the darkness he looked like he had a long beard and straggly clothes. Mother stared as he removed the screen. The stranger peered inside for a moment and then pulled himself up to the window and squeezed through.
Mother was terrified. She trembled in horror. The stranger was in her bedroom, father was in the hospital, and her boys were upstairs. What did this fellow want!
The stranger tiptoed across the floor and disappeared out the bedroom door. Mother was glued to her bed, but she knew that somehow she must protect her sleeping boys.
Sometime before, my oldest brother was on the way home and thought about our father lying in a bed in some strange hospital with an unknown sickness. He thought about our mother at our father’s bedside most of the week. He knew she was tired.
My brother thought about how dear our parents were. They had cared for him as long as he could remember. They had fed him when he was hungry, changed his diapers when they were soiled. He could always count on his dad telling stories and his mother cuddling him. They provided answers when he asked questions, coached him when he was perplexed. They didn’t have much, but always enough. They weren’t dirt poor, just “scrambling poor.” If they scrambled, they could make it. If Dad’s lack of working when he was sick was the culprit then Mom’s contentment was the miracle that always made everything right.
Yes, my brother had been eager to get home. He hoped the door was unlocked. Like a cat, he walked silently to the door. It was locked. He did not have a key. He stood there at the door, waiting and thinking. He hated to wake his mother, knowing she needed her rest.
As the stranger crept upstairs to where the young boys lay, somehow my mother got the strength to get out of bed and drag her feet to the stairway. The stranger was almost at the top of the stairs before she could utter a sound. In a quivering voice, my mother screamed.
The footsteps stopped. My mother held on to the door jamb. A voice spoke out of the dark. “It’s just me, Mom. The door was locked so I climbed through the window.”
My mother discovered her legs and wobbled back to bed, waiting for her pounding heart to calm down so she could sleep.
The stranger climbed into the bed next to mine.
The house became quiet.