In the middle of the night

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This morning I was folding the thick blanket I
use at night when I skulk off to the spare room to escape my husband’s snoring, when he walked by.  
‘Your swaddling clothes?’ he joked,
an awkward joke because my husband hates that he snores and keeps me awake. 
It troubles him but it seems he can
do little about it. 
In the middle of the night, I’m fit
to throttle him, but by morning I’m sanguine.  It’s okay I reckon.  I can handle it and at least I have another
room to which I can escape. 
Before you go on about the things
my husband should have checked out: sleep apnoea and the like; lying on his
side and not his back; less red wine; I will tell you the point of my telling
you this as it enters my mind. 
The point has to do with love and
hate and how in the middle of the night when my deepest vulnerabilities are
unleashed I can feel murderous towards he who stops me from rolling back into
blissful sleep when in the morning and as the day progresses I feel no such
rage at all. 
Similarly, when I visit my mother
who is back in the Dandenong hospital, her second visit this year, this time
with pancreatitis, I can overlook all the rage I have felt towards her over the
years, especially when I see her shrunken form under a shroud like sheet and she smiles with pleasure to see me.  
She smiles in the same way for all of her
visitors when we arrive but I reckon there is something in that smile that
belongs especially to me, or should I say to all of us who once were her
babies. 
Dandenong hospital is a huge block
like structure that sits square on flat bare land not far from the intersection
of a freeway and a highway on the edge of west Dandenong. 
The section in which they have put
my mother is newly built but there’s an older part where she’s been in the
past that’s less welcoming.  Not that
hospitals are ever welcoming, at least not to me with their machines and
sterilising hand soap dispensers on every corner. 
They remind you of the dangers that
lurk in all the germs that could possibly exist in wait for us as frail human
beings. 
Hospitals are unsafe places as far
as germs are concerned but this time my mother is happy to be there.  Before she arrived she was in such pain and
now at least they have overcome her initial distress and they have offered her
a single room and so she can sleep and open her eyes to the mandatory visits
from nurses and doctors for inspection and procedures, and otherwise she smiles
at her visitors and then sleeps some more.
My own sleep was interrupted so
many times last night that I do not feel well rested.  A crick in my hip after I experimented last night with
sitting in one of our lounge chairs, side on, the way my daughter sometimes
sits.  I’ve pulled a muscle and then a
throbbing in my head in the middle of the night signalled for a few minutes the approach of a brain haemorrhage. 
In the middle of the night it gets hard
to convince myself I am not dying.  I
chide myself for such hypochondriacal delusions.  It is a feature of aging perhaps, but also a
feature of personhood. 
I have held similar fears for as long
as I can remember.  When I was as young as
ten years of age I lay in my bed one night in wait for my older sister to come to bed and felt a strange twinge in my stomach such that by the time my sister
arrived I had convinced myself I had stomach cancer. 
It was no small coincidence perhaps that my
grandmother had died of stomach cancer a few years before and I had heard about
cancer from the television, only the tell take signs, ‘a lump or thickening in
the breast or elsewhere,’ the manly voice-over said as various bits of lumpy
skin appeared on the screen and a woman clutched at her body in search of
signs. 
And later as a twenty something
year old, I left the university one day convinced that I was about to die of
another form of cancer for the lump that appeared on the top of my foot near my big toe.  A ganglion, the doctor soon told me, one we leave alone or in the olden days cured by dropping a bible onto
the lump. 
All these ailments that left me
imagining my death would come soon.  
My
mother’s death still waits for her but she does not want to die yet.  Not till she reaches one hundred.  
This is the third time we have had such a
time as we imagined our mother was about to leave us only to watch her rally again.
A cat with nine lives I wrote in an
email to my several sisters and brothers, the night when I thought her death
might come soon, she had looked so ill that day. 
And every time my mother survives,
despite my mixed feelings towards her I am relieved.  Not simply for her, but for me that I can put
my own death on the back burner while I must still deal with hers. 
All of which is a nonsense.  Children predecease their parents, but not in
my imagination, at least not for me.  My
mother must go first. 
And then I read a comment from
Karen who travels under the name ‘Anonymous’, a name I once assumed belonged to
a famous poet because that fellow Anonymous had written so many poems in my
anthology of poetry. 
Karen talks of sitting at her dying
husband’s bedside and I’m struck by the thought it must be worse by far to lose
your partner than your parent in adulthood, for all the mixed feelings in the
middle of the night when he keeps you awake with his snoring. 
My heart goes out
to Karen. 

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9 Comments on In the middle of the night

  1. Glenn Ingersoll
    July 20, 2014 at 1:25 am (3 years ago)

    You write about anxiety well. I mean, I recognize the feelings and you put them in a context I also recognize without necessarily going, "That's it exactly." That's it, I mean, even if not exactly.

    Reply
  2. Rob-bear
    July 20, 2014 at 2:16 am (3 years ago)

    I caused the same kinds of problems for my wife, sadly. And while the supposed cure helps, it doesn't deal with the larger issue.

    I understand your mixed feelings about your mom. Both of my parents have died; both in their mid-90s. Sadness, but also real relief for me; very mixed feelings. Of course I live several thousand kilos from where they were. Canada is big!

    Pancreatitis: I had a bout with it about six months ago. Nasty stuff. I feel your mom's pain.

    Blessings and Bear hugs to you, your mom, and Karen!

    Reply
  3. Katie
    July 20, 2014 at 2:29 am (3 years ago)

    I am nodding my head and saying 'me too', which I think is the recognition that we all suffer the same madness.
    Beautifully written and so true.

    Reply
  4. Anthony Duce
    July 20, 2014 at 8:40 am (3 years ago)

    Enjoyed this very much. Your husband is a lucky man. Often I move in the night, unable to sleep in any position for long. My wife complains, or nudges me out. I leave, feeling unsafe. Interrupted sleep, I agree can initiate murderous thoughts☺

    Reply
  5. Jim Murdoch
    July 20, 2014 at 12:38 pm (3 years ago)

    Apparently I still snore. I had to ask. It’s been so long—years, literally—since Carrie’s mentioned it that I wondered if I’d stopped, outgrown it eventually, but, no. It doesn’t bother her. She says it doesn’t bother her. I can’t really see it bothering her since she rarely lies awake for any length of time these days; her head hits the pillow and within a couple of minutes I feel her breathing change and know she’s off. My wife’s life revolves around pills and so it’s rare for her to sleep more than four or five hours. Pain jars her back into consciousness. We sleep in shifts. Sometimes these overlap. We always go to bed together at eleven at night. Usually we both fall asleep then, at least for an hour or two, but it’s not unusual for me to get an hour or an hour and a half (a full sleep cycle apparently) and then get up only to go back about five. Carrie typically gets up about half two or three and that’s her until two in the afternoon when she goes for a nap until four thirty. Sometimes if I’m feeling particularly ragged I’ll join her but, again, usually for just an hour; that seems to be enough to refresh me. So, you see, if I do snore the odds are I’ll probably be doing it on my own. I can recall her giving me a shove at night to stop me snoring but that could be ten years ago. My snoring did bother my last wife. She’d punce me out the bed and I’d waddle into the spare bedroom, climb into bed and fall straight off. It never bothered me. I was the guilty party so it was only right and proper that I should be the one to move.

    Carrie mum died a few weeks back as you know. When you write that you can “overlook all the rage I have felt towards her over the years” it reminds me of what Carrie said about her mum. Her relationship with her mum growing up was not the best—I won’t go into the details—but the woman her mother became during those last few months was so unalike the mother Carrie grew up with; she became a little girl but quite likely a different little girl to the one she’d been growing up. This frail creature looked similar to her mother but really was someone else completely and only occasionally did the familiar sharp tongue make an appearance. That was a blessing.

    I don’t like to be thought of as an angry person. I get frustrated—I’m willing to concede that—but I regard anger as a weakness; anger is a choice. When I’m feeling poorly I can be a bit short but I try not to be nasty with it. I’m like a sick cat or a dog who doesn’t want to be petted and will scratch you if you keep making too much of a fuss. I can be a bit nippy when overly tired too. But pain’s the worst. I don’t tolerate physical pain well. I suppose like most men. It depends on what part of me’s hurting. Some parts of me have hurt for so long that that’s their norm, to hurt, and Carrie knows if I come looking for a neck rub then I’m really miserable and not to be refused. I fell out with my last wife over a back rub once and ended up driving over to my sister’s to get one. But I would still say I wasn’t angry with my ex-wife. Just frustrated in the extreme.

    Reply
  6. PhilipH
    July 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm (3 years ago)

    An excellent piece of writing, yet again.

    Snoring partners drives many to distraction and you are indeed fortunate to have an escape route. My wife sometimes snores but I seem able to ignore it after a few minutes and thus fall asleep. I never try to nudge her unless she starts this apnoea stuff which is a bit scary for me.

    As for impending death and doom in the night I'm with you there. I suffer from atrial fibrillation and sometimes it's exceedingly violent and I have to get out of bed and sit in an armchair. Impossible to sleep when it's so severe. Used to really scare me but after eight years and nothing fatal occurring I accept it. If my heart packs up then I'd be so sorry for my wife but when you're gone you're gone; nowt one can do about that.

    Reply
  7. Carol Cassara
    July 20, 2014 at 2:18 pm (3 years ago)

    I have those feelings, those thoughts. Blessings to you and yours.

    Reply
  8. Susan Bonifant
    July 20, 2014 at 10:12 pm (3 years ago)

    Absolutely lovely. You are a gem.

    Reply

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