I somehow knew there would be a point in time that I would become my grandparents. But, I didn’t know it would be so instantaneous or so severe; or that it would be my maternal grandfather vs. my paternal grandmother that would be the chosen one to model. After all, I’m cubic, dark and broody like dad’s side of the family; not tall, lanky and anxious like mom’s. But suddenly, I have arrived.
Grandpa White liked routines. All kinds of routines. But none more than his nighttime ritual of getting three Chips Ahoy cookies for a small plate along with a medium sized glass of milk right before bed. He would dim the kitchen light over the small round table that had seen turkey dinners, buckets of laughter and Carvel ice cream for generations; and hunch over the plate breaking off small pieces. He never dunked them, but he did alternate a bite of cookie with a swig of milk in a pattern that I can’t quite remember. He called this ritual “cook and milkies” just to get a rise out of his 5 children, his 14 grandchildren and as many of the 20-something great grandchildren that he had the pleasure of meeting. We tried valiantly to correct him but he steadfastly behaved as if he had no idea what we were saying. “Milk and cookies, Grandpa! Milk and cookies!!” But he would just bite and swish. For a very anxious person, this seemed to give him some measure of calm. His routine. The predictability. I guess it was his way of inviting order to pull up a chair with chaos each evening to somehow balance the day.
Like Grandpa, I also like milk before bed…only warmed on the stove and infused with Manuka honey. While it warms I check the windows, double check the windows and check them one more time. I lock the door and set the alarm. Then I curl up under my favorite fuzzy blanket to drink it. I have taken to bringing that one with me from room to room like Linus from the Peanuts Gang. All of this happens by 8:30pm. A friend told me that the milk and honey would help me to sleep. At 8:45pm I take the medication that I hate. Just a little bit of a mild antihistamine that makes me tired enough to drift off. And while it starts to take effect I check that the Louisville Slugger Big John from my country bar gave me is right where it belongs between my bed and my dresser and precisely within reach. Then I put drops of lavender and sandlewood oils on my pillow for calming and centering, respectively. I lock my bedroom door, draw my shades and hit play on the rain storm CD that another friend made for me while I climb under the covers now topped with Linus’ blanket. I text a couple of friends so they can remind me that I am going to be okay until morning. Then I call another to talk to me while I fall asleep through tears. I need sleep, but I’m so very afraid that the man who assaulted me in my own family room will return and I will be unable to defend myself now heavily sedated.
This was my routine for four months.
I do not like other people’s chaos when it literally comes barging into my home snatching an uninvited seat at the table. But, I am learning that I can battle it far better using trust than I can with milk and honey.
Don didn’t rush me into anything. He simply showed up with an interest in me as a person and quietly spent the time getting to know me. At first we just sat together awkwardly without many words exchanged. Over time, when he did not pressure me, I started telling him about myself including what had happened. He looks at me when I talk to him. He holds my hand and takes notice of the times when the lines on my forehead are more pronounced and realizes that the things not said are the things to which he should pay closest attention. Sometimes I spontaneously cry at the notion of being this close to someone particularly after my recent assault. Not to mention my colorful history. He just says quietly “it’s okay, whatever you need” knowing that this is a part of my necessary healing. And only if I reach out first does he embrace me in return letting me know that I am seen and cared for.
Over time I have come to trust him. And because of him I have come to trust in general again. I don’t check any of the windows anymore. He lets himself into the house now while I take a ginger and clay salt bath always whistling a certain way when he comes through the door to signal me that it is he and nobody else. And then he locks the door behind him. Sometimes we listen to rain and sometimes we don’t while I drift off to sleep with my head on his chest. But, once he is sure I am asleep he still wraps me in Linus’ blanket so that, when I wake and he has already gone home, I will feel held and comforted without him.
And such is my new routine.
Chips Ahoy with a little swig of milk; and milk and Manuka honey work.
But, even more so, a loving person who sees me, cares for me and holds me when I want it the most.
And, with that, goodnight.