Leave the Hall Light On

My Dad died when I was ten. I was too young to understand what was happening. All I can remember was that my mum had to rush to the hospital and that my older brother was left to take care of me. I loved him, he being another ten years older than me meant that he was an adult and I always felt privileged to spend time with him.

He didn’t tell me where my parents were. I later found out they were in the ER, my mother by my father’s bedside as he succumbed to a fatal heart attack.

My brother and I played cards that evening. If I knew what was happening to my dad I think I would have been a wreck. But my brother didn’t let on, and to be honest, it was the most fun night I ever had with him. He put me to bed when my mum returned home. I saw she was upset, but as I didn’t know what happened, I did what my brother asked of me and went to bed.

My room door was open and the light in the hallway leaked through. I tried my hardest to sleep, just as my brother asked me; but I couldn’t, I knew something had happened and I felt restless, the light from the hallway was too bright. I got out of bed and walked to the hallway and turned off the light. Returning to bed, I closed the door after me and went to sleep.

I awoke some time later to see the light from the hallway pour in. Frustrated, I returned to the landing and turned it off again, this time making sure the door was closed tight; my parent’s didn’t allow me a lock, I was too young.

I slept in the attic room, the space converted to a bedroom with a long sloped area I used to play in. The bedroom was not appropriate for adults, but for someone my size it was perfect. When the day began to break, the sun beat down on my bed, telling me it was almost time to get up. I stirred, before noticing the door was open again and the light in the hallway still shone in, although this time overpowered by the sun that also leaked in.

That morning my brother was gone. My mum told me what had happened to my dad. I raced back up to my bed and I cried.

Recently I visited my mother. I’m thirty-two now, and my mother is in a wheel-chair. She played with my young son and I did her chores. I cooked dinner and just as I was serving, my brother arrived. I told him there was enough for everybody. So we sat around the dining table, tucking into the food. We reminisced, laughing about indiscretions we had both got away with.

I told my brother about the time he took care of me when dad went into hospital. I admitted that every time he turned the light on and opened the door, that I turned off the light and closed the door. He looked at me puzzled. He told me he fell asleep on the couch as soon as he put me to bed.

My mother lit up, “I bet it was your father, wanting to watch over you while you slept.”

I let out a short laugh, “rubbish, it was Greg. He just turned it back on. Did you tell him to leave the light on?”

“Yes, I did, just like you always had when slept,” she responded.

“I promise I didn’t. You didn’t know what was going on. I was exhausted and just fell asleep,” my brother promised.

What I thought was a funny anecdote turned the conversation sour. So I finished my food and cleared the table.

We gathered in the living room. I poured a small glass of sherry for my mum and a whiskey for my brother before taking my son up to bed, to the room I had slept in all my adolescent life. I tucked him into bed. He fell asleep before I left the room. I shivered at the threshold of the room. I turned up the thermostat and closed the door. I walked down the carpeted stairs and turned the light off.

Sitting with my family, I took a gulp of my drink.

“Are you sure you didn’t keep opening my door and turning the light on?” I asked.

“I promise,” my brother said, slightly tipsy.

I left it at that, and we watched the TV.

In the morning, still half asleep, I went upstairs to wake my son up. The door was ajar. He was just as I left him, tucked in tightly in his bed.

“Hey buddy, you ready to get up?” I asked.

He yawned, his body contorting with the effort.

“Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, thanks for checking on me Dad and turning on the light. I don’t like sleeping in the dark,” he said smiling.

I didn’t know that, my wife usually puts him to bed.

He got up and ran out of the room. I looked back to the landing and saw the light leak in, it’s power lost on the sunlight that bathed the bedroom. I hadn’t checked on him, I fell asleep on the couch as soon as I put him to bed. I was sure I closed the door. And I’m sure I turned off the light.

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