Going Beddy-Bye

For the better part of seventy-eight years, I’ve gone beddy-bye every night—but I’ve been alone for only the first twenty-three of those.  In those early years, I slept atop an inexpensive mattress, twin-bed size, identical to the one occupied by my brother.

On my wedding night, no longer alone, I slipped under the covers on a similarly-inexpensive mattress, double-size now, which sat on a metal spring supported by three wood slats running between the sideboards of the antique bedframe we had inherited from my grandparents.  Those slats had the nasty habit of slipping off the lip they rested on whenever my wife and I were, shall we say, not exactly resting quietly.  Matrimonial merriment became a challenge, to see how frisky we might get without wrecking the bed.

Every night since that honeymoon eve—with a few exceptions due to travel, illness, or similar unusual circumstances—I have gone beddy-bye with the woman I married.

By the time we welcomed our first daughter some five years on, we had bought a more expensive box spring/mattress combo, double-size, but still resting on those same slats—reinforced now by two additional slats, all five screwed into the sideboards.  No longer did we fear capsizing while…..well, you know, canoodling.

Our second daughter arrived twenty months after her sister, and it seemed no time at all before we began waking to find four of us in our double bed.  With those two wee urchins snuggling between us, I remember being pushed so close to the edge of the bed that I would almost fall out.  It was about then that my wife and I, for decorum’s sake, began to wear pyjamas…..and to consider buying a larger mattress.

We graduated, eventually, to a queen-size bed, the mattress set on its own free-standing base.  The old double-size bedframe was stored away, except for the headboard, which we continued to use, propped at the head of the bed to match the rest of my grandparents’ suite.  Even with the girls growing bigger by the day, the space was more than adequate, as if we were sleeping in the wide-open spaces.

During all this time, I slept on the right side of the bed, to the left of my wife.  The only reason for this, as I can recall now, is that in all the homes we lived in, the bathroom was closer to her side.

Not long after the girls had left our happy little family to start their own, we began to suffer hitherto-unknown aches and stiffness in the morning.  Thus began a period of frequent mattress-turns and flips, seeking to stop the sag.  Eventually, after some consideration of the alternatives (and the cost), we opted to purchase a king-size, memory-foam mattress.  We found ourselves at that point, just the two of us, sleeping on a bed that would easily have accommodated our little family of four. 

For the most part, at least in the beginning, we gravitated to the middle, close enough to reach each other, and to feel each other’s warmth.  And there were no sags—not in the mattress, anyway.

But lo and behold, into this blissful beddy-bye there came an insidious intrusion that negated the benefits of the mattress—to wit, snoring.  Increasingly, in the wee, small hours, one of us would waken to the other’s snorts and gurgles, toss and roll fitfully for what seemed like hours, unable to recapture sleep, and finally retreat to the recliner-chair in the den.  It was intolerable.

The cure arrived when we went, first I and then my wife, to be tested for sleep apnea—a condition where one stops breathing, sometimes for a minute or longer, thereby placing great pressure on the heart and other vital organs.  And when breathing  resumes, it’s often with loud gasps and splutters—AKA snoring.  Alas, both of us were diagnosed with apnea, which led to our acquiring CPAP machines (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) to combat it.

We feel now as if we’re sleeping with Darth Vader, each of us with a mask over our mouth and nose, flexible hoses running to the machines on our bedside tables.  And we’ve moved away from the middle of the bed so the hoses won’t be stretched beyond their six-foot length.  To anyone unfamiliar with CPAP machines, this must sound like a horror show.

Thankfully, however, the machines work!  After a short period of adjustment, they have put an effective stop to our snoring, allowed us to sleep more deeply, and longer, and to waken more refreshed.

So now—more than fifty years after I moved from my single-size twin bed to that double-size marital mattress, still sharing my bed with the love of my life, close enough on our current king-size mattress to reach out and touch—I find myself looking forward every night to going beddy-bye.

I am blessed.

Oh, the Shame of It!

It takes a big man or woman to admit to doing something about which they’re embarrassed.  Nobody enjoys being made to feel uncomfortable for any reason, least of all for their own stupidity.

But it’s an even greater risk for any of us to confess to something about which we are truly ashamed.  Humiliation, mortification, indignity—who among us would open ourselves up to that sort of approbation?

Take the raising of children, for example.  I have never in my life heard anyone confess to being a horrible mother or crummy father.

These kids are driving me crazy!  They talk back, disobey me, refuse to eat what’s in front of them, fight constantly with each other!  But, you know what?  It’s not their fault.  It’s me who’s to blame.  I’m such a lousy parent!

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No one says that.  The shame would be too great.

Another example is driving.  I’ve never had anyone confess to me that they’re a poor driver.

People are always honking their horns at me!  An’ giving me the finger!  One guy even banged on my window at a stoplight, yelling awful things.  But, it’s my fault and I know I deserve it.  I’m such a crappy driver!

Said by no one, ever.  Too humiliating.

Passing gas in a crowded elevator is another prime example.  When it happens, everybody shuffles uncomfortably, casting sidelong glances at everyone else, but no one ever owns up.

Oops…sorry, everyone.  That was me.  Been having GI problems lately…that’s gastro-intestinal, heh-heh-heh.  Shouldn’t have had that Hungarian goulash for lunch, I guess.  With garlic bread.  But, I’m getting off at the next floor, so you’ll be spared any more of ‘em.

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Small comfort to those left on the elevator, even if the culprits ever did ‘fess up.  But, they never do.

Those examples are trivial, however, compared to this next one.  People have been known to tell bald-faced lies, often in the face of incontrovertible evidence, rather than admit to doing it.  And, though it pains me to admit it, I have long been one of those deniers, people from whom you would never hear these words.

Yeah, that’s right, I snore!  Every night.  Sometimes I actually wake myself up.  Reminds me of my father.  I feel badly for my wife, because it’s hard on her, too. 

Nobody, it seems, wants to admit to snoring.

The switch for me, which occurred recently, was not because I suddenly decided to accept the protestations of my wife.  My change of heart came after I agreed with my doctor’s suggestion to be tested for sleep apnea.  The results staggered me; I stopped breathing, on average, once every three-four minutes during my six-hour sleepover at the clinic, wired stem-to-gudgeon to their monitoring machines.  And, apparently, I snored—loud and long.

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I remember waking frequently during that night, and sleeping only fitfully—much as I do most nights at home.  The clinician explained why.

You feel that way because, when the soft tissue at the back of your throat closed off, which is typical for older people, you stopped breathing.  When that happened, your body woke you in order to start the breathing again.  It’s a reflexive, defense mechanism, triggered by your brain.  Without the oxygen your body needs, you could die.

Not the sort of thing I wanted to hear.

Anyway, after a few trial-and-error sessions over a period of weeks on a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, my problems seemed to have resolved.  The pressure kept the soft tissue in my throat open while I slept, allowing for a freer flow of air, and the incidence of breathing-stoppage was reduced to less than once per hour—perfectly normal, I’m told.

I’m also told (by my wife) that I reminded her of Darth Vader when I was asleep.

She wasn’t unhappy about that, though, because I didn’t snore while using the machine.  Peace and quiet evidently reigned as I lay dreaming in the bosom of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

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The very first night I wore the mask, I lasted almost seven hours, removing it around 5:30 in the morning.  My wife reported later that, within ten minutes of doing so, I had begun to snore steadily, after having been quiet all night.  Subsequent nights showed the same pattern.

Both of us agree that dreaming is eminently preferable to snoring!  Numerous studies have shown that people who sleep poorly do not dream, so I am delighted that I now do—as many as three or four different dreams every night.

Excellent fodder for my writing pursuits, I tell myself.

In any case, please be assured that I was always an excellent father to my daughters, I continue to be a very good driver, and I have never passed wind in a crowded elevator.  Honest!

I was, however, an active snorer, a fact to which I now confess.  And, because of that, I am a nightly CPAP user, probably forever—or whatever fraction of forever is left to me.

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Oh, the shame of it?  Maybe a little.

But, ah, the serenity of a good night’s sleep!