It was a cold November night and Sedgewick couldn’t sleep. The full yellowish moon shone brightly outside his window, laying a patch of moonshine across his bedspread, from his neck to his knees. Sedgewick had given up fidgeting. Constantly rolling over and resettling, pulling his blanket tighter and shifting his pillow around didn’t accomplish anything. He had already resigned himself to a sleepless night, and was lying perfectly still on his back, allowing his mind to race and flow in a million directions.
Usually when Sedgewick couldn’t sleep he would let his thoughts drift to his distant family. He would think of his older brother, Joshua. Joshua had been five years older than Sedgewick. Sedgewick was so young at the time, and in his eyes Joshua was a mighty hero. To Sedgewick, his older brother may have been the same Joshua who lead the Israelites against Jericho, knocking down the city walls with a shout.
But unlike the Biblical Joshua who grew to a ripe old age before he died, Sedgewick’s older brother didn’t make it past eight. Sedgewick was three at the time and really didn’t understand what had happened to his hero. But at the time Sedgewick didn’t understand a lot of what was going on. Joshua contracted a rare form of polio, which was entirely odd considering how vaccinations had all but eradicated the disease. The doctors were baffled and the disease crippled and consumed Joshua in a matter of weeks. Luckily he didn’t suffer long, and Sedgewick barely remembers the difficult hospital bound days.
Late at night when Sedgewick can’t sleep, he relives the games him and Joshua used to play. He relives hide and go seek and tag and baseball. Joshua could run so fast and climb so high in the trees and hit the ball so far. He was Sedgewick’s Superman. And maybe Sedgewick valued his older brother so because he had no other male role model. Life was blur back then, and Sedgewick’s family life was a tumultuous mess. When Sedgewick was two his father came down with a crippling genetic disease that left him isolated in a mental institution. The doctors speculated that it was the same genetic defect that effected Joshua as well. They were cautiously watching Sedgewick’s development as well, but haven’t seen anything worth worrying about.
Sedgewick’s father slipped into a delirium almost over night and had to be hospitalized. His mother couldn’t handle the stress and had a mental breakdown. When Sedgewick’s father was officially committed a few days later, his mother completely skipped town. The boys awoke to an empty house and Joshua called his grandparents in tearful shock.
But this detailed history had been well filtered in Sedgewick’s mind. Disturbing bits were completely blocked and other parts were fuzzy at best. He doesn’t remember his father’s madness. He doesn’t remember the morning his mother was gone. He doesn’t remember Joshua’s short days in a wheelchair. But he did remember the Buddy Holly songs his father used to sing, and the way his mother used to play with his hair. He remembered his brother’s strength, and he remembered his grandmother rocking him to sleep that first night without his mother. Sedgewick had lived some difficult years, and remarkably wasn’t yet needing special counseling.
But tonight Sedgewick couldn’t sleep and all of this was filtering through his mind. Quietly and carefully he pulled his covers back and stood up. He wasn’t quite sure why he was getting up in the middle of the night, but he knew he needed to. He pulled his furry slippers on, and grabbed the tiny half blanket that had followed him through most of his short life. He wrapped the patchwork blanket around himself, and scuttled out of the room and down the hallway.
Silently he crept into his grandparents’ room and carefully slid the door shut behind him. The moon lit the room up, and Sedgewick could see the through the tender darkness. His grandmother was fast asleep, the heavy blanket pulled closely around her. As Sedgewick expected, his grandfather wasn’t in the bed next to her. The covers had been pulled back, now mostly taken by his grandmother.
Instead his grandfather sat awake in the easy chair in the corner of the bedroom. It faced the bed and the large window that loomed just above. His grandfather had watched Sedgewick come in, but didn’t say a word. He just watched the boy. Sedgewick watched his grandmother for a moment and then turned to the chair. He looked into his grandfather’s eyes for a still moonlit minute, and then climbed into his lap. His grandfather helped Sedgewick settle among the heavy blanket that kept him warm and kept Sedgewick’s child hood blanket snuggly wrapped around him. The grandfather’s rough hands patted down the boy’s messy hair and Segdewick fell fast asleep leaning on his grandfather’s shoulder. Not a word was said between the two, and the grandfather watched the boy sleep for an hour or two. His eyes shifted between his sleeping wife and the boy. A feeling of satisfaction overwhelmed him, and in the late hours of the morning he finally allowed his eyes to dim and drifted off to a final peaceful rest.
Sedgewick awoke in the morning with the warm sun shining down through the window on the two bodies in the chair. His grandmother was awake and looking down at Sedgewick. She plucked the tired boy from his grandfather’s lap, and carried him downstairs. Sedgewick clutched his blanket in his half asleep hands, not exactly sure what his grandmother was doing. But he clung to her like the day his mother ran away.
The grandmother and the boy sat down in an easy chair in the family room, the warm morning sun still breaking through the window. Sedgewick’s grandmother let him drift back to sleep in the comfort of her lap. Her eyes were distanced and saddened, but the warmth of the child in her arms comforted her. She didn’t let herself sleep. She just watched the boy.