Half Life – 34 – sleep
June 18th, 2021
The fan will arrive, the email said, not the day after it was ordered as initially promised but sometime within a three-day period at the end of the week. By which time the thunderstorms will be at full pelt, the rain negating the need to water the garden, and the warm, humid, nights no longer the problem the fan was intended to solve. As long as it’s not the end of summer, we will be prepared when the next heatwave hit. Our two existing, less than efficient, fans were commandeered by The Boys for their rooms the moment it was even slightly warm and, being modern soft-hearted parents, we have not taken them for ourselves and left the boys to cook.
Sleep happens in short episodes, with three or four hours in a row a complete, usually morphine induced, luxury. Winter’s dark, duvet snuggling, cold is easier to deal with, allowing the creative pillow formations needed to control the backaches to work without getting sweaty and soggy. Bladder pressure forces a wake up most nights, once if I have avoided beer but several times if pints have been involved. Prostate problems, cancerous or otherwise, combined with aging means attempting to sleep through is no longer wise. Dreams of swimming, waterfalls, and getting damp in the rain have been known to creep into the real world as muscular control is not what it once was. However gentle the call, it is much safer to get up and answer it.
Legs swinging over the edge of the bed signals the start of semi waking up. Using the trusty crutches is tricky when trying to keep that thin thread connected to sleep, but possible as long as JJ the dog hasn’t chosen the route from the bed to the toilet as that night’s resting spot. Having a crutch-stepped her a couple of times in the darkness, she has learned to get out of the way as soon as she hears movement. Careful management of the process, once in the bathroom and sitting down, means the light is not needed. Patience, and not falling asleep with my cheek pressing against the soothing coolness of the tiles, means the whole operation can be done without shocking me fully awake. The last decision before the trip back is to flush or not to flush. The Wife, snoring with her good ear planted on the pillow, is a good sign and allows the button to be pushed before manoeuvring back with enough sleep still there to allow an easy dropping off.
Early summer daylight, forcing its way around the curtain edges and the bathroom door I failed to shut when returning from the night-time pee, are the lesser of the uninvited wake up calls. Through the open windows, the only option if you have failed to buy a fan in time, the dawn chorus kicks off. Why birds feel the need to make such a racket at five in the morning remains a mystery. Revenge for every roast chicken, perhaps. An injunction from the excessively caring Older Boy against pigeon shooting not only deprives me of something to do when bored, but also has resulted in the garden being a pigeon sanctuary. Their ceaseless cooing, never at predictably regular intervals, penetrates the skull like a felt-covered drill. The moment Team Pigeon head off for a tea-break some other chirpy feathered noise machine takes up the cause and warbles away. Shutting the window requires getting up, with the usual crutch performance, and although the sound is diminished it’s just detectable through the rest of the early morning silence. Pillows positioned to bring comfort to a sore back go over the head; suffocation and spinal pain a small price to pay for some sleep.
Finally, eyelids burning, sleep returns, but before the pointless alarm gets to do its duty JJ the dog decides it’s time to make her contribution. Yelping into my head with her sleep-running and dream-barking, I hear her paws hit the chest of drawers with a thump. Undeterred, she carries on chasing her ball while unconscious as all hope of further human sleep slips away. The mistake, my mistake apparently, was to let her sleep in our room in the first place. The sharp intakes of breath from other dog owners when we told them proved prophetic and reversing it to reposition her back to the kitchen now seems impossible. Our destiny is to hear her forever as she dreams about being a better guard dog than she actually is, quick to raise the alarm if someone moves a dustbin three houses away but ignoring knocks on the door when deliveries arrive. She is not totally hopeless. Any intruder with an uncanny resemblance to a tennis ball and a serious allergy to dog saliva would be in mortal danger.
The Boys alarms go off, our alarms go off, and not sleeping is over for another night. School preparation ramps up the volume in the house, as shouted questions about games kit and complaints about lack of things they like for breakfast mingle with the news on the radio. JJ, fully rested and ready for play, bounces from room to room to check no one is trying to sneak in any additional shut-eye. The night-time conspiracy of a cancer weakened bladder, assorted animal antics, and early morning chaos makes a nap on the sofa later in the day inevitable. Pains in the spine will restrict it to just over forty minutes, but it will do the trick as long as JJ doesn’t decide to join in and lie down on the floor next to me or someone decides to deliver a fan.