Iraq Insomnia by Gloria Garfunkel

I can’t get Evan to sleep in his own bed, no matter what I do. I’ve gotten him as far as sleeping on the floor next to my bed, on the rug with the dog, but I feel so guilty. It’s just that my doctor has said to be strict about not letting him into the bed and this is the compromise. I’m too exhausted to fight them in the middle of the night and I mean them because the dog starts to growl if I try to remove Evan back to his bed from my room. They have formed an enemy pack.

My sister thinks I may have scarred Evan for life, letting him sleep in my bed when his father went off to Iraq last year never to come home. It’s just the three of us now, including the dog, and we have no idea how to live normally. I’ve tried sleeping in Evan’s bed with him but he just traipses into mine during the night. He wants to be where his Dad slept. I thought of maybe changing rooms, but the doctor said it wouldn’t be healthy to give Evan the impression he was taking his father’s place.

On Valentine’s Day it will be a year since his father left. He was only in Iraq for three months when he was killed. He was supposed to be back this Valentine’s Day. I’ve been numb. But I’m afraid, on Valentine’s Day, the pain is going to start all over.

Evan is only five. He doesn’t understand death, God, Heaven. Why should he? Neither do I. He doesn’t understand why other children’s fathers come home. He thinks God is Commander-in-Chief who is holding his father hostage. He is very angry and sad. We go to a support group for soldiers’ widows with children. I met Sharon with four children, asthmatic twins and one with cerebral palsy. I count my blessings compared to her. I think of my doctor sleeping soundly next to his wife, his children in their beds with no worries of losing a parent to war. Who is he to advise me?

When I look at all the other things that can go wrong, and the daily grind of making decisions alone, I decide the sleep thing is nothing and I’m not going to listen to anyone anymore. It is making us miserable. I invite Evan back into my bed. I even invite Lex, the dog, back into the bed and he is quite shocked but very happy, his tail thumping. I decide that anything that allows the three of use to feel safe and composed and helps us to sleep soundly after all we have been through can’t be bad. I run my fingers through Evan’s hair as I fall asleep. We’ll grow out of this when we’re ready.

About Gloria Garfunkel

Gloria Garfunkel has a Ph.D. in Psychology and Social Relations from Harvard University and was a psychotherapist for 35 years, listening to others' stories. She is now a writer of flash fiction and memoir, telling her own tales.
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