At this moment, it is altogether fitting and proper that as I watch a documentary on my iPad about the Vietnam War, and about the siege of Khe Sanh in particular, that I am hunkered down, literally, in my downstairs bathroom and under my own state of siege.
Let me explain.
No, I am not answering the “Call of Nature” in the traditional sense of the term. But I am answering a very important need.
The need for peace and quiet.
Or, I am at least trying to answer that need. My two daughters, three-year-old Maddo, and her toddling partner in chaos, 18-month-old Little Sis, are making this difficult. They have driven me into hiding for what I hope are a few moments of solitude following nearly two hours of a morning circus centered around crying, asking for snacks, wanting juice, more crying, asking for me to make some Cream of Wheat and turning on another episode of Go! Diego Go! And more crying, too.
With Little Sis still sleeping in our room, and still waking up anywhere between two and a seemingly infinite number of times during the night, we have been able to count on one hand all of the decent night’s sleeps we have had over the last 18 months since Little Sis was born. The lack of consistent sleep affects each of us differently
I’m used to getting up early, and I had already taken a bullet, so to speak, this morning, which also happened to be my last workday off in a week of vacation. Little Sis had begun squawking just before 6 a.m., and Maddo was already up and going back and forth between her room and ours. I took the girls upstairs so that my wife, The Thoroughly Awesome Ms. Crums, could try to get just a little more sleep. She is, admittedly, a much lighter sleeper than I, and also a much grumpier person than I when she doesn’t get a decent night’s sleep. Honestly, her mood when she doesn’t sleep well should be weaponized and used against the Taliban. Victory in Afghanistan would be ours before Mother’s Day.
But our daughters? I don’t get how they operate.
Maddo, who has always been a solid sleeper, has recently discovered how to open her bedroom door all by herself. And this means she has also discovered that she can push open the door to our room, stand there, and wake me with her sweet little voice saying, “Daddy! The sun is awake!”
It should be noted that at 6 a.m. the sun is still very much asleep.
And Little Sis? Well, the four empty milk bottles that we got up and gave her at each of her middle-of-the-night wakings-up are rolling around her crib, making her mattress look like a very junior version of my old frat house’s floor following one of our standard weekend 25-keg parties. One would think that after getting up so many times in the night, Little Sis would be so tired that all she would want to do in the morning was perch herself in front of the TV and just absorb watching “Up!” for the 35th time.
But one would be wrong about that.
Instead, both girls started tearing around the living room and kitchen. “I’m hungry! I’m thirsty!” became Maddo’s clarion call. Little Sis, her vocabulary not up to her older sibling’s level, couldn’t be satisfied with any of the offerings I made in response to her pointing at a counter full of the usual suspects like crackers, bananas and cereal, as well as other things I was pretty sure were longshots, such as a bulb of garlic and a group of pearl onions.
Nothing worked. The noise level ratcheted up to rollercoaster levels. After about an hour, my wife gave up trying to get any more sleep and came upstairs to join in the festivities. We had breakfast, and the girls, much to my surprise, actually calmed down a bit. I headed for the stairs.
“Come back, soon!” my wife said to me with an almost pained look to her face. It’s a good thing she said this, because I was halfway thinking about grabbing my keys, heading out our downstairs door, and making a run for Tijuana.
Instead, I ended up in the bathroom. With my iPad. Watching the North Vietnamese lay siege to the Marines at Khe Sanh. In a state of solitude.
And that state ended after less than two minutes when an artillery barrage of crashes, bangs and things dropping upstairs sounded like it was all going to blast through the floorboards and right into my lap. My wife then let loose with a string of cursing that, if the girls start repeating it, might get us banned from their daycare.
I turned my iPad off and proceeded to head upstairs. The brief respite was over. I went to face my own version of Charlie, who was definitely coming over the wire.