I have a tender affection for bedtime. Many people stave off the opportunity. They fear missing out or leaving a thing undone. To them, sleep represents time going to waste.
I embrace going to bed. Rest is only part of this drive. It is also a nod to the ancient rhythms of the Circadian Cycle. Mine seem connected to sun cycles. Darkness of night whispers rest and restoration. Daylight signals wakefulness and productivity. (The definition of “productivity” is quite elastic in my world view.)I definitely fall in the category of “early to bed, early to rise”. This generally places me in the role of outlier.
Unlike most kids, I never fought going to bed even though our times trended early. Who could blame Mom for tucking us away prematurely? We were bad kids. Our constant squabbling and badgering certainly took its toll. And retiring us early provided more time to bicker with Dad. This was an expression of love in their highly – charged relationship.
Bedtime with mom was highly ritualized.There was perfunctory teeth brushing and perfunctory prayers. My goal was to get through the “now I lay me down to sleep” as quickly as possible. It came out as, “nahmahlamydowtasleee…” I seemed to be training for a career as an auctioneer. Mom cheerfully abided by this process. She wanted it over as much as I.
It was different when dad put me down. He was a fine storyteller with a flair for suspense. He once terrified our Boy Scout troop while on a camping trip to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Dad convinced us that a colony of inbred swamp people were watching our campsite at that very moment. Even the adult troop leaders seemed reluctant to turn in. They reinvigorated their campfire several times. Dad was quite gratified by this impact. He slept soundly.
Dad affected a deep stentorian voice for his narration. He offered sound effects and proximal animal sounds. Just when you were spellbound, he would say “I’ll tell you more next time”. Dad completely understood his audience’s anxieties and wants. It was also a subtle method of control. Good behavior was translatable to tokens to be placed in a slot called “more stories”.
Mom or dad would head downstairs with the mistaken notion that sleep was in the offing. Fat chance. The twilight was my time. I sometimes read the”Hardy Boys” or Baseball Digest. My tabletop radio would go under the covers when I felt extra bold. I then tuned in the Phillies game. That radio got pretty hot. Surprisingly, no fires were kindled.
Fast forward about forty years. Allison introduced a concept of the “sleep-nest”. This was a combination of down comforter, soft sheets, antique linens, nine or ten pillows, and hospital corners. The bed was tight, warm, comfortable and extremely appealing. Windows were always open making the bedroom frosty. Indeed, a nest. My affection for bedtime grew to new heights.
Enter a new reality. ALS has siphoned away my mobility. I can’t rollover or get into bed. I’m out of the nest. A wheelchair is my new sleeping quarter. It is infinitely adjustable but clearly designed for one. No room for intimacy. Each night, a single button lays me out flat. Allison places a pillow beneath my head and a sheepskin mat beneath my feet. With a flick of her wrists, she settles a down comforter on top of me and tucks it in. Really, not a bad nest. It is built with love and brings peace. I clasp my hands together as in prayer. This is my position until the first gray light of day. Still an early riser, I rise up to face the day.