Midnight Caller


Paul and I haven’t been getting much sleep lately.

Okay, yeah, there’s that. (What are you giggling at?) But there are also a whole slew of other, less enjoyable reasons for our recent insomnolence. It all started about a month ago when Caleb developed a sudden and unexplained fear of the dark and wouldn’t get up to go to the bathroom without yelling for one of us to get up and turn on the light for him first. His little bladder fills up twice a night, like clockwork. We tried cutting back on his liquids, which actually did reduce the number of nocturnal bathroom visits. Now, instead of calling out for us to turn on the light so he can go potty, he wakes up moaning about how thirsty he is and asking for drinks of water.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the kids’ internal clocks went haywire, and they started waking up at 5:30 (an hour and a half before our alarm), ready to get out of bed for the day. At first we told them they could turn their light on and read while Paul and I caught a few more winks, but “read quietly” doesn’t translate exactly into kid language. The closest approximation is “get up and do whatever you want with steadily increasing volume until a sleep-deprived parent bursts in, roaring, with dark circles carved deeply under its eyes and smoke curling from its nose.”

Throw into the mix a few late night events (LAN, anyone?) and a three a.m. trip to the airport, and you can understand why I cry every time I see that beautiful, bittersweet Lunesta commercial. (Cruel, cruel butterfly.)

Last night, about half past midnight, Paul and I were peacefully snoring away (still two blissful hours to go before Caleb’s first potty alarm) when a sudden knocking on the front door jerked both of us out of sleep. We waited, not sure what had startled us. The knocking came again, more urgent this time, and Paul leapt out of bed and started for the door, me trailing along behind him, hissing helpful advice like “Ask who it is before you open the door!” and “Wait till I find the pepper spray!”

Early morning knocks at the door just turn your composure on its ear. Who could it be? Police? Fireman? Ambulance? Friend? Your heart hammers in your chest and every terrible possibility known to man crosses your mind at once. As we advanced on the door, I mentally prepared myself for worst case scenarios, wondering whether I should leap for my cell phone or the butcher knives first if the hand doing the knocking turned out to belong to a fugitive from America’s Most Wanted.

“Who is it?” Paul called out. There was no answer. He called a little louder: “Who’s there?”

“It’s your next door neighbor,” came a woman’s tentative voice. Paul opened the door halfway, carefully keeping a foot braced behind it just in case there was someone in addition to the voice’s owner outside. She was alone, though, an attractive, fortyish woman in pajamas and bathrobe, asking if she could use our phone because she couldn’t find hers. I didn’t recognize her as a neighbor, although we know everyone in our building. There was a vacancy in her stare and a telltale stumbling over her words that made it clear she was well on her way through a bottle of something, and though I felt bad about it, I told her I couldn’t let her inside at this time of night, since we didn’t know her. “I know, I know,” she kept repeating, “it’s okay.” Instead, I handed her my cell phone to use on the porch.

We stood there, the three of us, while she called someone, asking him if he could come over. It sounded like he said no. She seemed to be holding back tears as she handed us back the phone, swaying a little on her feet. Paul asked her if she was okay. After a pause, during which I thought she might not have heard him, she said, “Not really, no.” He asked where she lived. She told us her apartment number. It turned out she was a neighbor, after all, just from another building. She seemed to be unfocused, rooted to our porch and unable to decide what to do next. Worried and uncertain, I asked her if she was hurt. “No.” “Are you in danger of being hurt if you go home?” I asked her, thinking maybe a domestic disturbance had driven her out of her apartment. Another “No.” Then after a pause, “Not physically, anyway.”

Paul asked her for her name, and that seemed to jar her out of her reverie. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I think I’ve been drinking too much. You know how that is.” Paul kindly asked her name again, and she turned and fled, as if suddenly aware of where she was.

Bewildered, we closed the door behind her.

We went back to bed, but, as exhausted as I was, it took me a very long time to close my eyes.


(After she left, Paul dialed the number she had called from my phone, explained to the friend who he was and what had happened, and asked him to make sure she got home okay. He said he would.

Today, I went over to her apartment to see if she was all right. When I rang the bell, I saw the blinds move as someone peered out at me. Right after that, the lights went out inside and no one ever answered the door. I imagine either 1)she recognized me and was so embarrassed that she decided to pretend she wasn’t home or 2)she didn’t recognize me and was afraid I was a fugitive from America’s Most Wanted.

I still wonder-what should I have done?)


14 responses »

  1. Katrina- I think you did the most that you and Paul possibly could have. You were right not to let her in and did a good thing in trying to check on her the next day, even going to so far as to call her friend. She probably was embarassed (or still in the throes of a hangover).

  2. I think you did great. If you *want* to carry it further, you could always make a meal or muffins or even just a card. HOWEVER, I always choose this route not seeing what lies beyond~it could very possibly become a headache of a relationship later. There’s nothing *wrong* with that, just make sure you’re up for it and aren’t caught by surprise! LOL! Now ask me how I know…. (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  3. I was going to suggest a Clapper..clap on, clap off!…but the Leapsandbounds product would work too. As for your visitor, I feel your pain/indecission over what to do. You have to protect your own yet doesn’t Jesus, in the Good Samaritan, teach that she is our own? And that whole thing about angels visiting and us being clueless about it, what’s up with that? When I worked for the church, all those people came in for help and I always wondered if I did too much, not enough, the right thing, the wrong thing, what Jesus would have, ad infinitum… At least y’all did something.

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Katrina! You were both wise and caring in your response to this lady. I will pray that God gives you another chance to meet this woman to know better if you can help meet her needs and how you can pray for her. Blessings to your family and I hope you all get some more sleep in the coming weeks!!

  5. That’s a rare situation. I think that you and your husband did the right thing. There isn’t too much more you could have done really. As for the kids, well I don’t have any of my own so I can’t really give any advice on that, but hopefully they get their clocks right and everything starts going well.

  6. I agree with all the above. You and Paul did exactly what I think you should have done (good thinking to call the friend back) and no more that might get you involved in something you don’t want to be invovled in (nor might the neighbor actually want you involved when she is clear headed enough to think it through).

    I never had a scared of the dark child, although I leave a light on all the time now – I’m creeped out living on the first floor – so I suppose it doesn’t matter, there’s a light on anyway.

  7. Thank you all for your supportive comments. It seems like I spend a lot of time praying for God to give me opportunities to reach out to others, and then when those opportunities come along, I’m sometimes tentative and unsure of myself, afraid of doing the wrong thing altogether! I guess I need to rely on the same Spirit that puts me in the way of the opportunity to give me wisdom to meet it.

    Like Donald, I thought about angels in disguise, and Jesus coming to meet people at the point of their need. Thanks for your prayers, Becky; I will pray, too–that’s something we can always do for people, whether they open the door or not!

    Amy Lu–What a great product! That would be the perfect solution to the “scared of the dark” problem (and might save Paul and I a few stubbed toes in the long run, too!)

    Sandi–I think a card or note sounds just right. Maybe it will help her to know someone’s praying for her.

  8. wow – sounds like you did everything right in that situation, right down to calling the person she called to make sure she was all right.

    the potty problem sounds a little more tenacious!

    nice blog in general!

  9. Sudden phone calls in the middle of the night always freak me out. I don’t think we’ve ever had a knock on our door… So glad that it wasn’t the police or fireman!!! But, trust yourself and don’t lose too much sleep over the situation – God directs us, even when we’re startled and half asleep 🙂 Maybe she’ll reach out to you again when she needs it!

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