The bedtime ritual at our house is immutable. That is the secret to a successful, peaceful night, as all parents and caregivers well know. To change a single step can spell disaster or at least supreme annoyance and frustration.
Tonight was a usual night. At ten o'clock Michael shuffled into the bathroom to perform his nightly ablutions. Only a few falls on his way this time. Then a short shuffle into the dining room where his bedtime medications await, another essential component of the peaceful night. Usually he needs to be helped through this process, his tired mind unable to remember the few steps required to take his pills. Then it's off to bed.
I have pared down the nightly ritual considerably from when I first started all this a couple of years ago. By bedtime I am restless or tired and ready for some much needed time alone. So I have dispensed with the book reading and now only recite a couple of prayers, trying hard to focus on meditation and not bolting impatiently out the door.
All was going smoothly until a loud bang echoed through the night. A local had decided to let off a few firecrackers or else someone was discharging a firearm (not unheard of around these parts, especially from bedroom windows during hunting season). I was betting on the former. It's a fairly common occurrence in our neighbourhood but usually the immediate locals are too impatient to wait until dark, somehow finding daylight explosions more fun.
Now, my dogs are terrified of this particular noisemaker, especially if it's dark. I had just gotten Michael into bed and was about to cover him lightly for the warm night when the bang occurred. The dogs, who sleep just outside Michael's room, started madly scratching at his door. Oh, all right, tonight you can come in, but just for a while.
Both dogs charged in, momentarily forgetting their fear in favour of sheer joy at being allowed into hallowed territory, not believing their good fortune. Much dancing and hopping about, with tails wagging madly.
Prayers are the next step in a peaceful preparation for sleep. I pull up a chair next to the bed, recite the prayers, then slip out for the night. Here's how successfully that went tonight:
"I bear witness, O my God"-snort, snort, snuffle, a giggle from Claire - "that Thou hast created" -LOUD horking of nasty hairball - "me to know" - pant, pant, pant, whine - "Thee and to worship Thee." - Claire's shoulders shake with laughter, trying hard to concentrate on the solemnity of the moment - "I testify, at this moment" -scratch, scratch, scratch - "to my powerlessness" - loud guffaws of laughter from Claire who must breathe deeply for about a minute to refocus, and then VERY quickly - "andtoThymight/tomypovertyandtoThywealth/ThereisnoneotherGodbutThee/theHelpinPeril/theSelf-Subsisting" - PHEW - then Claire's total riotous collapse.
The dogs take this mirth as their cue for general silliness. The smaller one tries to leap onto Michael's bed but has miscalculated with the security bars in place for the night and finds himself dangling then falling backwards onto the floor. He retreats under the bed, feelings and stomach no doubt bruised. The bigger one continues his anxious heavy breathing at my side, gradually settling as I stroke him with my foot.
The ninety-five meditative Allah-u-abha's I recite each night, which have become Michael's calming lullaby, I managed to get through by sheer willpower and no further explosive laughter. Finally I was able to lure the dogs back out to their own beds with the promise of a cookie and left Michael somehow settled for the night.
God loves a good laugh, I figure. Besides, it was the first moment of wild, silly mirth since my meltdown a week ago. It felt like the veil had been lifted.