Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sleep-talking, the fun I have after dark

(After dark is when my fun really begins.)

I have always been able to find ways to entertain myself.  When I was a kid, I collected things: baseball cards, soda bottle caps, coins, stamps.  I played baseball, cowboys and Indians, and pretended I was Peter Pan saving Elaine, the cute little girl next door, from something bad.

More recently, with the children grown and gone, I play hide 'n seek with our black lab in the house, kibitz with people I don't know on Facebook, read a couple of books a week, and stroll through the forest around my house as though I were a Cayuga Indian stalking a deer with a bow.  I've never actually met a Cayuga Indian, if any still exist, but I pretend that I'm walking stealthily around on dry leaves as I assume they must have done in this very location.

Mostly, I love to tease my wife and play my own brand of games with her, something which she often sees coming, but which she understands is a part of our relationship.  For example, she always wants to read in bed at night, and I don't.  So before she gets to bed, I often hide her book somewhere in the room, and pretend that I am asleep.  But she knows that one too well.  "Tom, where did you hide my book?  I know you are not asleep."  Or, I will unscrew the light bulb in the bedside lamp so that when she tries to turn it on to read---well, you get the picture.  Or, when she is ready to go to sleep, she insists that I turn over and face the wall nearest my side of the bed so she can cuddle for a while.  But instead of turning 180 degrees to establish the position she wants, I actually turn 360 degrees to end up in exactly the position I was in originally.  So, in pitch black dark, I'm excited with anticipation when she discovers that her face is not near the back of my head, but it is actually touching my face.  I get giddy just before she lets out a little scream of surprise when she realizes her nose is unexpectedly touching another nose.  I love that one.

But on occasion, I also have another opportunity for entertainment because my wife has this interesting ability to talk in her sleep.  In the middle of the night, she will utter a perfectly coherent, complete sentence that wakes me from sleep.  I awake quickly enough that I hear and understand every word she says.  I wish I had written all these down over the years, because by now I would have enough material for a book titled "A Sleep Talker's Guide to the Universe".

It is also obvious that her utterances are a direct manifestation of what she is dreaming or thinking about.  Last week, our 2-year old grandson had tubes put in his ears to reduce the incidence of ear infections to which he is prone.  Two nights ago, Management spouted off the following sentence: "There should be a shine off the tympanic membrane." Realize that my wife used to be a Registered Nurse, so she must have been dreaming about ear anatomy and its characteristics, although I don't know if the tympanum ever shines.

But the best utterance was years ago when my wife still worked as a R.N. in the Emergency Department at the local hospital.  She was always bringing the stories of her work home with her---the amputated arm of the day, the broken bone protruding through the leg, and the usual heart attacks, kidney failures, and drug overdoses.  After 20 years of that, I felt I had learned so much about the medical profession that I almost went into private practice to treat trauma patients.  Follow that up with watching the tv series ER for about five years, and I could have taught medicine at a university.  One night while we were sleeping, the sleep talker went into action.  "Give him .5 of epi (meaning 0.5cc of epinephrine), STAT!", I heard her say with obvious panic in her voice.  This time, I thought I would try to talk back to her to see if she registered my response.  So I said, "No, make that 10cc of epinephrine, STAT!".  She definitely heard me.  She became immediately agitated, started moving her arms and legs like she was trying to stop the lethal injection about to be given by this new doc in the ER who looked a little like her husband, and she repeatedly said "No. No."  It was great.

I realized then that I had unleashed the power.  So for many years since then, when my wife starts her monologue, I whisper into her ear something like "Cheese omelette with mushrooms", and the next morning she asks me if I would like an omelette for breakfast.  "Oh sure, that sounds nice", I say naively.  Or, "A Porter-Cable rotating sander for my birthday".  When she presents me with my birthday gift a week later, I act totally surprised.  "Wow, I've been wanting one of these." And, "You probably have as great a husband as anyone you know."  For the next couple of days she keeps telling me how lucky she is to have a guy like me, and that I'm so special, although she can not remember exactly why.

Last night when we went to bed, she announced that she was going to read before turning off the light.  And then, "Tom, did you hide my glasses?"  Of course I did.  That was entertaining, but the real fun begins AFTER she goes to sleep.

Article first published as Sleep-talking, the fun I have after dark on Technorati.