Tag Archives: sleep

Every Morning

The tears stung my eyes before the guy on the television movie even started his speech, because I knew what he was going to say:

“I will forget you every night.”

The character had a condition that caused him to lose all short-term memory when he slept, the result of a traumatic brain injury. He was trying to move forward with his life, to absorb this new way of living, making notes about everything each day so he could learn it all again the next day – but he struggled. Because he couldn’t figure out how to step out into the new life, create a new way of living, not when he had to start all over again every single day.

I cried.

Because each morning I have to start all over.

I’m finally figuring out how to sleep without Kevin beside me. Sometimes I crash as soon as I put the Bear to bed, and sometimes I listen to the clock chime deep into the night before I can close my eyes. Sometimes I can watch a show or read a book and get to bed by ten o’clock. It’s still a mixed-bag, but I’m getting there, and my sleep is getting better.

Until I wake up.

Lately, when I sleep, Kevin weaves in and out of my dreams, and he’s always cracking up about something, or watching a football game, or we’re driving around at night with Bear in the backseat like we did those five weeks she was so colicky. Sometimes, he just holds me and I feel like everything is okay again.

Sometimes at night, I forget he died.

But morning always comes and when the early rays of sun slip through the slats of the blinds and slant across the bed, I’m confused. The room is unfamiliar, because I moved the furniture one day in a fit of sleep deprivation, desperate to find some peace at night. The blanketed lump beside me is too small to be Kevin, and instead of his flat lumpish pillow, I see the long tendrils of my Bear’s hair sweep across her Dora pillow. I don’t know where I am.

Then I remember.

He died.

And the ache is as sharp each morning as it was the day he slipped away.

I understood the shattered look in the character’s eyes when he said, “I will forget you every night.” Because every morning, when I wake up, I’m back at the beginning, back at the searing pain of first day I woke up without him. I’m back to clumsily gathering the broken bits of my heart and trying to figure out how someone I love so very much is just…gone. I’m back to tears streaming down my face, knowing he’ll never call me Baby Doll again, I’ll never be cuddled in his hug again. He won’t kiss me, or guard my secrets, or call me at two o’clock to check on my day.

Every single morning, I have to start all over.

The Upsell

The gas station clerk laughed a little as he rang up my purchases. “Needing some sugar?”

Looking at my Mountain Dew and bags of mini peanut butter cups and mini Kit Kat bars, I could see what he meant. What he didn’t know was this:

I needed the memory.

My Kevster was an absolute sucker for the upsell. I’d send him to Walgreens for my photo order and he’d come home with it…and two candy bars, because they were on sale by the register and the cashier suggested it. Do you want fries with that? I think we know the answer. Can I interest you in the one-year guarantee for that item? Yep. Wick trimmer with your new Yankee Candle? If you say so. How about a car wash with your fuel purchase? You bet. I finally had to say, “Kev, babe, I can’t possibly wash my car that often! Hold off on the car washes until we use these, please!”

He liked the bargain. He liked to feel like he was getting a good deal. He liked to provide those little extras because he liked to make me and the Bear happy. And after ten years with him, I knew to expect something extra when he came home from an errand. It was what he did, and I loved his quirky little habit. Especially because it was completely opposite of my inclination. I’m more of a “get only what you need and nothing else” kind of person.

Sometimes I imagine that he talks to me, that he’s with me during the day, guiding me as I stumble around this house, this life, without him. I imagine that my master of the upsell tells me this:

“Baby Doll, don’t just take a nap. Get some real sleep. Please?”

And, “Hey, I saw that smile. Now give me a good laugh. C’mon, you can do it!”

Or “That was some okay happy there, Baby Doll, but I know you can still feel joy. Real, delightful, wonderful joy. Why do you think God gave us Beary? And all His promises? It might be hard – I know it’s hard – but you have to try. For me.”

And then he reminds me of all God’s promises. Promises that aren’t just an upsell, but are truly valuable and necessary for me to know and have. Promises of joy and comfort and peace.

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalms 30:5

I will turn their mourning into gladness. I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. Jeremiah 31:13

I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27

So when I walked up to the cash register with my soda, and I passed the candy-bar stand, strategically placed next to the counter with its neon cardboard signs shouting “2 for $3” (and in small print, “$1.69 for one”), a memory flashed by and I smiled. First inside, thinking that Kev would totally grab two bags of mini candy bars, because, yeah, it’s a great deal. Then on the outside, knowing that my husband’s quirkiness is so deeply engrained in my life now there is no way I can pass up that offer. Not the candy, and not the opportunity to feel a little glow of cheer inside, imagining his knowing grin as he watches me go for it.

Two for three dollars?

A burst of sparkling happy to nudge aside the crushing grief, if even for just a moment?

Yes, please.

Perchance to dream…

She sat, kicking her legs back and forth under the black lacquered table, chattering between bites of sticky rice and beef with broccoli. School. Octonauts. Her cat. Her hamster. Chatter and squeal and giggle. And we laughed with her, captivated by her imagination, marveling at the sheer number of topics she could explore in less than five minutes.

And then.

Then, she looked at me and she looked at my friend and she said, “Mama doesn’t eat very much anymore. And she stays up too late. I mean like after midnight so that’s not enough sleep. I know ‘cause I wake up when she brings me to bed and it was 1:08 one night, well, actually that’s morning. And then she drinks Mountain Dew, but that’s not healthy.”

I sat there, dumbfounded. Is my seven-year-old giving me an intervention?

I feebly protested. “Now, that’s not every night.”

But she dug in, gazing at me with her solemn Kevin-blue eyes. “Mama, this is for your health.”

My weak laugh felt uncomfortable; we changed the subject and soon we were hearing all about her Christmas list.

The thing is, she’s right. I don’t eat much anymore. I do stay up entirely too late, and then quaff Mountain Dew and hot tea the next day, guzzling caffeine, trying to combat the fatigue.

But what she doesn’t know is that I crave sleep. And I know I need to sleep, so I sink into bed, into the Kevin-shaped hollow, the closest I can get now to feeling him hug me good-night. But sometimes, lying there, the only thought running through my head is a line from Hamlet: “To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub…”

Perchance to dream. That’s why I can’t sleep. If I sleep, I might dream. And when I dream, sometimes Kevin is in my dreams and his cheeky grin makes me laugh and I can feel his goatee tickle my ear as he leans in to whisper, “Baby Doll, I love you.” But some traitorous part of my brain knows that’s not right, knows he’s not here, and instead of granting me a moment with him, it niggles that thought into my dream until I bolt upright in bed, sobbing, the rhythm of my heart pounding He’s gone, He’s gone into the shadowy room.

And that’s the rub. I want to see him, to dream of him, I want to sleep…but I don’t want him to disappear when I wake up. Alone.

He came the other night, after she chided me, after I read and watched TV and did laundry and listened to the clock chime eleven, twelve, one… He waited, then slipped into my sleep and I told him, “You should never have left me,” and he nodded, “I know.”

And then it’s black, but now light and I hear giggling and I’m awake and she’s there, Kevin-blue eyes sparkling with mischief. She’s slept solid the night and wants me to get up. It’s early so I groan, but throw back the covers and she throws her arms around me and chortles, “Good morning, Mama!”

And she’s here, my little Bear – which means he’s still here and he didn’t leave me, not ever, not completely – and I hug her tightly to me because having her is having him. He’s in my dreams, but he’s still here, too, still so much a part of my life. Bittersweet.

So I do. I need to sleep. More. Better. Kevin wouldn’t want me to be so sad and wander in the dark. He would want me to get some rest, stay healthy…just like our daughter admonished. My little mini-Kev.

He would want me to wake up and live each day; to be alert and alive and ready to laugh at every bit of joy our daughter – our own little dream come true – will throw at me all day long.

We climb and climb and at the top we fly
Let the world go on below us, we are lost in time
And I don’t know really what it means
All I know is that you love me, in my dreams

(REO Speedwagon, “In My Dreams”)