One of my favorite Bailey White books is called Sleeping at the Starlite Motel, and it’s a series of essays about her adventures in the homes of various relatives.
Some of these involve sleeping in odd guest beds, in even odder houses, but except for a bad run-in with my uncle’s sleep sofa, I do not have any of those. What I DO have, though, is a mother who lives in an apartment, and it’s making up for all those other things.
The short version of what’s happened is this: we sprung Mom from the hospital a week ago, and decided that she would be more comfortable in her own home. So far, so good. But then we, and by “we” I mean my Beloved, my sister, and myself, realized that we could not leave Mom to her own devices overnight, for fear that she will keep the neighbors awake playing loud music and dancing. We had to stay with her, and we have taken turns. When my turn came, I blithely packed my pillows and jammies and headed over.
What I didn’t fully realize, is that I am used to sleeping in a big, old, quiet house. I have a bed with a fantastic mattress, and it is positioned in a mostly dark corner of our bedroom. Except for the gentle snoring of the dog (and sometimes the spouse), my nights are dark, quiet, and uneventful.
This is not the case when I am sleeping at my mom’s.
Oh, it started out okay. I piled my pillows onto the bed, got comfy with a book of puzzles, and took an emergency swig of Nyquil. Mom was already asleep in her room, and I could hear the gentle whooshing sound of her breath. It was so peaceful . . .
Until I turned out the light. The parking lot for my mother’s building is so well-lit, it could be a professional football stadium. This light came streaming in, around, and through the mini-blinds, and even with my eyes shut, I could read a newspaper.
Sighing, I got up and rummaged around in the linen closet for a sheet, which I tossed over the curtain rod and cut down on enough of the light to allow me to nod off . . .
Until people started moving around. I am not used to hearing people moving around at night. In fact, if I hear footsteps over my head in the dark at home, I have an enormous problem of the “dial 911” sort.
When I heard footsteps at Mom’s, I was in that half-awake state that isn’t completely sure where I am. By the time my brain actually cut in with some common sense and a personal GPS, I was already in that heart-pounding state of adrenal dump, and I had to sit up and do Sudoku until it calmed down.
Finally, things seemed quiet and sleepy. Once again turning off the bedside lamp, I curled up and drifted gently off to sleep . . . and the neighbors started coming home from wherever they’d been, and ALL of them have cars that give that annoying little “beep!” when the doors lock.
Those can be turned off, but most people don’t bother, so for about 25 minutes, my attempts at sleep were halted in mid-snooze by beep after beep.
One could argue that some of these problems could be solved by ear plugs, and that’s true, but the other issue is that I need to be able to hear my mother. I cannot reasonably expect her to come into my room and slap me if she needs help, although she might do that for entertainment.
Earplugs were out, so I lay there, vaguely irritated, until the beeping of door locks stopped. Settling down once more, I flipped my pillow to the cool side . . .
. . . and realized that my mother’s guest bed is not Tempur-pedic. It does not conform to anyone’s body, not one single curve. It is a bed that expects you to man up and sleep like someone who isn’t fifty-three and arthritic.
I managed that somewhere around four-thirty a.m., when my joints finally decided it wasn’t going to get any better, so they’d just ache quietly where they were.
When the alarm went off at 00:darkthirty, I had another horrible moment of disorientation and leaped up, only to be tangled in the sheet I’d hung on the wall. My mom, next door, was still gently snoring as I whanged and bumped, trying to unwind myself without falling flat on the floor.
As I stumbled, bleary-eyed, down the hall to make her coffee, I realized with the grim certainty of someone who stinks at communal living, that she has neighbors downstairs, and they probably think by now that she’s harboring an illegal buffalo. The loud music and dancing would be easier on the neighbors than I am.