In the night

April 14, 2011

I once thought that if someone were to invent a switch that could turn off the mind for short periods I would be the first in line to take advantage of the technology. Now I am not so sure. It would be nice to simply go to sleep like others do, but if the switch were in an off position, would I be able to dream? What if the switch failed and my mind was off, forever? And what would I miss if I wasn’t awake to watch the things that happen in the night?

Most nights I spend awake are uneventful, but there was one night that was priceless. It left me with enough leverage against one brother that my life became calmer and quieter for it. It was worth losing that night’s sleep.

In December of 1974 I was working late to complete a term paper that was due before the Christmas break. I needed the quiet of the night so I could research, read and think. Our house was full of people and that could make thinking difficult.

As I was working, Chuckie was preparing to go out. It was about 3:00 a.m., so that was unusual. I continued to work, trying to ignore what Chuckie was doing. Finally he reached for Grandma Beanie’s car keys and I glanced, paused, and did a double take. He wasn’t going to drive the car, was he? Yes. That was exactly what he had in mind. Wow.

Chuckie was 15, had no driving experience, the roads were covered with snow and ice, and Grandma Beanie had a great big Oldsmobile station wagon. His driving couldn’t go well. He seemed to think everything would be fine, and I had learned many times over that arguing with him just got one hurt. I went back to my paper; Chuckie went out the door. I heard the car leave and dismissed it from my mind. I was not getting involved in the mess that Chuckie was brewing.

About an hour later, Chuckie came through the door and presented me with quite possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life.

He was a wiry kid—always had been. When he was cold, parts of him would turn blue. When swimming, even in fairly warm water, his lips turned blue. Grandma Beanie had his circulation and everything else checked out with a doctor many times to see if he was really healthy. It seemed he was healthy, and his being rail thin and turning blue were just parts of being Chuckie.

That night, standing in front of me was Chuckie in his shirt and briefs. The temperature had been at freezing all day and there he stood, shivering all over, teeth chattering, knees knocking together, and his knees were blue!

I asked, “What happened to your pants and coat?”

He flashed me a look that could kill and said, “They’re under the car.”

My body was threatening to go in to paroxysms of laughter, but I knew better. That was Chuckie speaking and laughing would be unwise.

“Can I help?”

He grunted and went to get another pair of jeans and a coat. He said he was going to get the car. He had left it about three blocks down the street on the other side of the highway.

Chuckie left and I retreated to the bathroom to release the laughter that was threatening to burst forth. Everyone was sleeping—I couldn’t just let loose.

Chuckie drove the car home, arriving about 30 minutes later. It seemed that his first pair of jeans and coat placed under the rear wheels were enough to aid the wheels in gaining traction, which released the car from the ice and snow. For Chuckie, his first drive was not a joyride. Getting home without being caught took a walk home in his underwear, a walk back to the car, a second try to release the car, and blue knees. It also lost for him, forever, any leverage he thought he could have over me. Priceless.

One comment

  1. That is a great story and will need to remember it if I get stuck in ice and snow – USE CLOTHES for traction. :-)

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