Friday, March 26, 2010

Sleep: Champaign 1991

In the summer of 1991 I got invited to go canoeing and camping with Matt back in Iowa. At that time, First Daughter was only about, oh, maybe 3 months old. So, Fru and I were still in the shock of having a baby, the worries, the 24-7-365 attention, the lack of sleep. But, I was off to spend some time in northern Iowa, canoeing the Upper Iowa River and with Matt.
I was going to sleep!
In some ways, I was looking forward to sleeping as much as seeing Matt, as being in a tent again and canoeing, looking forward to being away and free for a few days. So, off I went. And it was a nice time--(overall, I'll have to write about it some other time, Matt, the river, seeing Roger also who was married and living in Decorah, Iowa at the time)--and we canoed and had a camp spot at a campground right on the river.
Night fell and I was ready to sleep.
Ah. Sweet sleep. Anyone who is or has been a young parent knows what I'm talking about (and I'm talking about five or more years of pure zombiedom!).
But as I lied there in the tent, I couldn't sleep. This was an open campground and there were still people up, particularly a group of young gents who were drinking and playing cards. Still, things like this never bothered me before. I could always sleep. And here I was, tired, desperately craving a long sleep, so why should some semi-noisy neighbors keep me from it?
I was upset. I blamed the campers playing cards. I told Matt I couldn't sleep and I grabbed my pillow and went out of the tent. I indignantly shot a glance over to the noisy campers as I marched with my pillow to my truck. It was my red Custom Deluxe from Montana (still had Montana plates, I think) and I crawled inside and thought I could sleep there, in the cab. I'd slept in many vehicles, many smaller than my truck.
Still, no sleep.
Sure, I dozed, eventually slept, but it was fitful, lousy, a sleep that made me even sleepier.
I blamed it on the kids playing cards, on the cramped truck, on my unfluffy pillow.
The next night we stayed at Roger's house where I slept on the couch. Still a bad sleep.
The day after that, I said I was leaving early to return home. I told them I missed my baby--my daughter--and that was true. I did miss her. I wanted to get away from her, from Fru, from that world for just a bit, yet that was about all I truly thought about also. I wanted to get back to it.
And--as the years passed and a new baby was added--I realized that that was why I couldn't sleep. Not that I missed her so--my baby--but that I was now used to listening each night for her. It was ingrained in me to listen, to sleep lightly, to be aware. It was not the other camper's fault, or the truck's or the pillow's, it was my new life. The life of having babies.
I'm sure there are exceptions to this. I'm sure there are men who--knowing their wives, the mother of their children are right there--sleep as soundly as ever after having kids. But, for most, that kind of deep sleep is lost forever. You're always listening, listening, even when years pass and experience tells you that all is okay now, they are no longer babies and will sleep and will wake up the next day. Still, you don't sleep that well.
Even a few years later, when I'd go off to camp by myself, when I'd spend one night at a motel with the sole purpose of just sleeping, I couldn't do it. I couldn't conk out and disappear like I wanted to. Eventually, I gave up that hope.
No. I'm not sleep deprived anymore. But I don't sleep that well, either. I can't say I've ever had one of those deep, unconcerned sleeps again ever in my life. Not just because I had kids--that's what brought it on--but also because I'm getting older and am told you don't sleep that well the more you age.
Oh well. It was only sleep. It is only sleep.
Being awake is more fun anyway.

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