Under Cover of Darkness

I have an enduring memory from childhood that both frightens and comforts me.

At about 5 years old, I woke one morning to discover that I could not see. Disoriented and afraid, I stumbled to the hall and felt my way to my parents’ room where I cried out in fear of my blindness.

My mother calmed me down by applying a warm washcloth to my eyes. I had gone to bed congested and through the night the discharge of that congestion covered my eyes and sealed them shut.

Slowly, the warm cloth broke through the barrier and I was able to blink my way back to sight.

From peaceful sleep to the terror of my unexpected blindness to the relief at its swift dissipation I traveled a long road of revelation in a very short time.

It was not for my 5-year-old self to make sense of that revelation, of course, but it remains the life work of the person who types these words. To be blinded by the discharge of unseen forces working under cover of darkness is to awake to the terrifying reality of no control.

I am not afraid of the dark, but I am sometimes afraid that when waking into blindness I may not be able to summon the mother within myself, the part of me that knows where to find the washcloth, to soak it in warm water and to hold it to my eyes with persistence and care.

When trapped in darkness, will I acquiesce to fear, or will I bring myself back into conversation with the light?


grayscale photo of person sleeping

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