Mihiretu wakes up at least a couple of times most nights. Generally, if he's woken from a bad dream, or just simply surfaced out of R.E.M., it's Ben he calls for. Ben then climbs into his bed and they fall back asleep together. If, however, Mihiretu has some problem that needs solving in the early hours, I'm his man. I'm the designated two a.m. masseuse if his leg cramps in a growing pain (I get a surprising amount of business for this particular job, that catch-up kid is growing so fast I swear I can see it happening if he stands still long enough). And, if perchance his pull-up doesn't catch all it's supposed to, I'm the one he wants to remedy the soggy situation.
This morning at five, I heard a groggy "Mommy, Mommy". Knowing full well what that foretold, I, wrapped in sleepy denial, still nudged a solidly slumbering Ben and sent him to the rescue. As I knew would happen, he was back in a moment. "Wet bed," he reported, "Puddle of pee."
I pulled the offending puddle off the mattress and fetched some clean pajamas. Ben sponged down the boy with a warm washcloth, clothed him and we all climbed into the big bed.
Mihiretu was snuggled into Ben, perhaps even on top of him, so I edged to my side of our giant mattress and dozed. I'm fairly certain that Mihiretu never did return to sleep because I could hear him talking now and then. That talk colored my dreams, injected them with anxiety. In one, Mihiretu was destroying something (shocking!), in another, my long gone father made an appearance, informing me that I was late for an appointment. When I fully rose to consciousness at seven, Ben and Mihiretu were whispering and tickling.
"Weird dreams," I mumbled.
"Yeah?" Ben said, snaking a finger into a small, brown armpit. "Like what?"
"Mmm," I said, rubbing my palm over my eyes, "I think my dad was in the one I just had."
At the word "dad", Mihiretu's favorite topic, he pushed Ben's hand away and leaned towards me.
"You dad?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said, rolling on my side to face him. "I had a dad."
"Daddy?" he asked, trying to put the pieces together. "Who you daddy?"
He then pointed earnestly at Ben, on whom he was now sprawled. "This guy?"
Ben and I laughed. Both at the paging-Dr.-Freud notion of Ben being my daddy and at Mihiretu's casual reference to his favorite person on earth as "this guy". Ben could have been a cab-driver or a plumber who just happened to be in bed with us. Or, say, the guy that brought him here from Ethiopia, the guy that sits him on his lap and feeds him scrambled eggs, the guy that says, "Oh, honey, it looks like you're frustrated" and pulls him into a hug when he's yelling and sobbing and throwing silverware, the guy who sleeps half the night curled around him. This guy. Oh yeah, this guy.