A Good Sleep
This is how the sleep goes: good night, bad night, good night, good night, bad night, bad night, good night badgoodgoodbadbadgoodgood… and nothing seems to really make a difference except ½ of a little blue pill which has to be taken at exactly the right time or it wears off too early and I am awake at 4 am or it wears off too late and I find myself fighting to surface at 9 am and the day, even before my first cup of coffee, seems already too warm for anything. I have to take a fist full of pills every day and I really truly hate the thought of relying on another so I am getting used to the pattern, or lack of pattern, but as long as good finds its way in, say …one out of three, I think, okay, I can do this.
The thing about the middle of the night is I imagine I can smell smoke in the air. I can hardly smell anything, ever. Sense of smell disappears early in the progression of Parkinson’s Disease but at 2 am, oh, this nose of mine picks up the scent of wood smoke from forests burning 100’s of miles away…forests, and farms, and houses, and the treasures and labours of lifetimes. The computer screen assures me that nothing burns in our valley or too near; the smoke is drift from other people’s loss, not ours, and it is reaching all the way to Saskatchewan.
The thing about the middle of the night is that all the worries of the daytime grow large, fed on dark and stillness and whatever else the night brings to… or steals from… the rational part of my brain. The thing about the middle of the night is that grief grows large, larger, largest, in waves and stabs and shifts. It dances with anxiety and that is one hell of an unsettling, hobbling 2-step.
And then there is the dawn, no matter the sleep or lack of it. Morning comes in all its complexities of must do’s or what if’s and haze or sunrise glow and somehow even the crows raucous calling seems like better news. Mourning comes, too, calm now, a waltz of memory, a slow, sorrowful pirouette on an unfamiliar, or is too-familiar, stage. But that’s not all.
Yesterday, on the way home from yoga, my left foot quit on me. My fault, I forgot to take my meds, missed a dose. This is only the second time this has happened outside of my home. Not the missing the dose, that happens sometimes, too many times, but the foot supination thing. (At home, I can temporarily trick my brain by crawling. That will give me a few minutes of normal gait.) The first was on a hike with friends when I had mucked up my meds with too much protein, too close to pill time. But this time I was alone, walking, just blocks from home and carrying a box of 20 books I had picked up at the post office.
It’s heavy, the clerk had said. Do you have your car?
No, but I’m close.
Not that close, she said.
I’ll be fine, I said and I laughed to show her I was, I would be.
Half a block later, I wasn’t. And I sat down on the curb because there really was no going forward. I just couldn’t get my head around crawling. It would have made for a good story, though. I took my pill, without water, because I wasn’t carrying water because I had planned to take my pill with the filtered, cold water at the yoga studio. Just a being-stupid kind of day.
I texted the girls. Are you home? I asked.
And while I waited — old-ish woman in not very chic yoga gear, sitting on the curb of a downtown side-street with a cardboard box beside her and a cloth shopping bag in her lap— two young women, friends of one of our girls walked by. They expressed concern. I told them the simple version…missed my meds, took my meds, just waiting for the brain-to-foot conversation to get back on the rails, it won’t be long. I told my story cheerfully. I felt cheerful.
I’ve got mail to read while I wait, I said.
I was convincing, and they walked on. I talked to Lincoln, told him where I was and what I was doing, and I heard him chuckle. He would have loved hearing how I had crawled around on some stranger’s lawn. It makes me wish I had. And I pulled my mail out of the bag…cards mostly… sympathy cards, bearing messages of love and understanding. And I wanted to tell every kind writer, right then, where I was and what I was doing, and then listen to the collective chuckle.
On the next sleepless night, when I smell smoke, when the bizarre party starts inside my head, I am going to sit on that curb, awash in kindness and talk to Lincoln and chuckle. I might try crawling on that lawn.
And as I type this, I can feel my foot shift, rolling onto its outside edge. Missed my 6 am pill.
Do what you need to do. Try to do it on time. And get some sleep.