The Algebra of Nighttime

Dearest Rachel –

So I was napping in my recliner last night, as I tend to do when I realize that Chompers is, when I was awoken by the old man barking. He had woken up, and he needed… something.

Fine. That’s more than fair. So I get up to head to the kitchen and prepare his treat that I usually wrap around his nighttime gabapentin. I then went out to the back deck to grab his wheelchair and bring it forward, so he could walk around one last time, when a voice cuts into my thoughts:

“Are you sure you want to do that this early?”

It was Daniel, indicating the clock. Sure enough, it was nine-thirty rather than ten-thirty, the time I would usually go through Chompers bedtime routine. Well, I had already prepared the pill, and the old boy was up and restless in any event. I felt I had best attend to him, whether it was the usual time to or not. We’ll see how it goes. After all, if I could get him to bed earlier, I might be able to get an hour extra of sleep, I reasoned.

Ah, but it doesn’t work that way. Sleep – at least for the old boy – is an algebraic equation, not one of simple addition. You add to one end, you have to subtract from the other. I’ll explain how that works out shortly.

But first, an interlude.

I know I keep repeating myself on a number of subjects, but it’s not like it’s any less true for the repetition. I think I’m starting to dream on your behalf, as you used to do so so much, and no longer do so. And yes I realize that goes against Shakespeare’s claim of what dreams there be. The way I understand it, you only ‘sleep’ in the metaphorical, earthly perspective: as the dead only appear to be sleeping to us, the living.

Meanwhile, you were surrounded by the eternal day provided by the Sun/Son of God, and have neither need nor desire to sleep (that latter actually isn’t much of a change from your living days, come to think of it). So, without sleep, where would dreams be? You have no need of dreams, as you’re busy experiencing the delights of heaven.

So that leaves me to fill in the task for you. And it still amazes me how many I experience these days. I always thought I was prevented from being able to dream due to my apnea, which would wake me up (at least according to you) before I could ever get to REM sleep, and benefit from the dreaming phase. Perhaps I’m in that much better shape, due to having lost weight. Or perhaps I’m waking up at odd hours – which I’ll get to in a moment.

Anyway, the dream was a double feature, the likes of which would be more appropriate for Presidents’ Day than the middle of July, but they come when they come, and they are what they are.

The first imagine William Henry Harrison as half man and half frog: human from the waist up, and frog all the way down from there. Clearly he had the lifespan and self-awareness of a frog rather than a man, but let’s discuss the dream rather than historical character, shall we? In it, he was hopping his froggy bottom from Ohio to Foggy Bottom (and yes, that’s an old nickname for Washington, because it was built on a swamp – which has been a metaphor for it even to this day. You can look it up), And once he got there, he had no idea why he was so tired, just that he was. And he curled up to go to sleep, and… well, you know the rest. You’ve probably met the man. Maybe.

The second one was even more loosely defined. It featured Abraham Lincoln, not quite so anthropomorphic as Harrison, perhaps, but as long and lanky as a cartoon character. Picture a bearded take on Disney’s Ichabod Crane, with a touch of grasshopper thrown in. At any rate, It was a scene from his younger days, when he’d gotten into a quarrel with a pugnacious peer. The other family could barely see higher than Old Abe’s navel, but when you give a mouse a Mauser, he thinks he rules the world. Naturally, as in the real life story, Lincoln was all “not so fast, there. You challenged me, so I pick the weapons.” Unlike the story – although not outside of his own real-life abilities – he essentially challenges the pipsqueak to a wrestling match, whereupon he probably suplexes his rival to the ground several times.

And that’s about as far as I got, before I could hear some whimpering intruding upon my dreams.

It was still dark outside, and I realized I had miscalculated – or more to the point, that my calculation was based on addition rather than algebra. The dog and I had both gotten probably the usual amount of sleep (which is to say, not enough), but by starting earlier, he was also awake earlier. And I should’ve expected that.

Well, there was nothing for it but to treat it just like any other morning, just an hour earlier. I got him outside, he did all his business – which is actually a bonus, as on a normal morning he’s already done something in his bed. So there’s that. I might want to keep doing this – assuming I have the stamina.

Even Daniel’s awake – and a good thing, too, as today Jan is here to help work on his room, and I’ve made it clear to him that he needs to talk with her about what is important to him, and why. Hope it goes well.

As always, honey, wish us luck.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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