Nights have been hard. I used to be afraid of the dark, as I’m sure most people were, but I’ve never known anyone to be so terrified by the shadowed black as my beautiful boy Milo. In the late hours the boy would wake in a panic, screaming through the thin walls, waking everyone up. I hated those nights. He would be lost in a nocturnal horror, and I would be filled with anger. I’d yell and I’d spank, but nothing changed. This went on for years until we moved into the city. Things were better then. He’d lay in bed at night, staring out his window into the geometric city sky filled with blocks and angles of walls and roofs, burning with the wonderful warm glow of ambient light. It was never dark in the city. There was always an office light left on, or a street lamp below buzzing with the electric appearance of a circuit board. There was so much wonder and peace within the shards of orange glow that rested on his face that he always fell fast asleep.
Months had stacked when I became aware that Milo had been sleeping a lot, not only at night, but during the day as well. I should have noticed sooner. A high fever had boiled the strength out of him. The young boy found himself staring endlessly into the moving world outside the glass, unable to be a part of it. I kept thinking the fever would pass, letting the hours turn into days. It wasn’t until Milo began coughing flem and blood that I fully realized something was wrong. I rushed him to the ER. It was bacterial meningitis. He didn’t have long. I stayed with him, holding his hand all night long. He begged for the light to stay on, and I obliged. As long as the light was on he was at peace.
“Just don’t let it go dark.” He requested of me.
“I’ll keep the light on for you. I promise.” I assured him, with a tight squeezing of his hand. And I did.
Sometime just before dawn, Milo’s body softened and relaxed indefinitely. He was only 7.
“Was”. That damn word “was”. I should be used to “was” by now. I’ve made peace with all the things I’ve had to put behind me. I was a student, I was the fastest kid on the soccer fields, I was a husband. I’ve been a lot of things that “was”, but I never thought I’d have to say “I was a father”. Horrible that life should even consider the title an option to remove. I know I’m no longer a student or the fastest on the field. I shouldn’t be anyways. But “daddy”, daddy is a word I doubt I’ll ever give up. I was a father... I am a daddy even though it doesn’t feel like it anymore.
Nights have been hard. I think about those late hours I’d argue with him to return to his bed, crying, desperate, afraid. I’d spank him and yell. So much regret. I desired so much to have a bed to myself, to sleep just one night without interruption; now I have nothing but restless peace. Two empty beds and one tired man pacing, waiting for the dream to end. My dear boy. I miss you.
I replay his words in my head. “Just don’t let it go dark.” He requested of me.
“I’ll keep the light on for you. I promise.” I will, Milo.
Wherever my son is, he wouldn’t have to be afraid of the dark. I’d leave a light on for him. Always on. I promise.