“Oh God, midnight’s not bad, you wake and go back to sleep, one or two’s not bad, you toss but sleep again. Five or six in the morning, there’s hope, for dawn’s just under the horizon. But three, now, Christ, three A.M.! Doctors say the body’s at low tide then. The soul is out. The blood moves slow. You’re the nearest to dead you’ll ever be save dying. Sleep is a patch of death, but three in the morn, full wide-eyed staring, is living death! You dream with your eyes open. God, if you had strength to rouse up, you’d slaughter your half-dreams with buckshot! But no, you lie pinned to a deep well-bottom that’s burned dry. The moon rolls by to look at you down there, with its idiot face. It’s a long way back to sunset, a far way on to dawn, so you summon all the fool things of your life, the stupid lovely things done with people known so very well who are now so very dead – And wasn’t it true, had he read somewhere, more people in hospitals die at 3 A.M. than at any other time…”
― Ray Bradbury,
― Ray Bradbury,
So lately sleep has been evasive, a plight shared by many of my friends of a certain age it seems, particularly the women in my life. My darling husband can be off in the land of Nod literally seconds after his head hits the pillow. I seem fated to lie awake, musing over the events of the day, and then the days to come and worrying and planning and analyzing and then all of a sudden it’s 2 am. Then I begin to panic that it’s 2 am and how will I ever function the next day, which leads to more worry. Usually I hit my most excellent sleep around 4 am and then struggle to get out of bed until I hear the sound of coffee beans grinding thanks to Angus, the Champion sleeper in the house. I am ever more conscious of the benefits of a good nights sleep as I get older and how elusive it can sometimes be. I try not to let things play in my head, worry about the girls for instance, though I found myself messaging Cate in Australia at 1:30 am this week because I hadn’t heard from her in two days and started imagining the worst. So I take great exception to the nights like last night that interrupt my slumber with rude abandon.
I heard Aerie the dog first, as she is pacing and panting and scratching herself a nest in the thick bath mat outside the shower door in our en suite. She only sleeps there when she hears fireworks or thunder. Then the tiny ping, repeated about every 30 seconds, like a fire alarm but not? First instinct, because I’m actually still half asleep, is to nudge Angus to wakefulness so he can deal with it. Angus has a particular blessing or curse, depending on your view. He is beginning to have trouble hearing things, especially different pitches and frequencies. He thinks it’s fine because noises that drive me slightly batty are no problem for him ( this is itself is another topic for blogging). He rolls over and mutters something unintelligible, then the ping sounds again. “Angus, wake up. What is that ?” I insist. He sits up now, puts his glasses on and looks at the clock .” It’s 4 am Sarah, what the hell are you talking about?” and then ping, it goes again. This time he hears it. “It’s a smoke alarm battery” he says. “Damn…grumble, grumble,grumble” as he fumbles with the sheets and stumbles out of bed. I get up too, as it might seem selfish of me to just lie there and let him handle it on his own in the middle of the night. Apple, the other dog, groans and rolls over on her back in the spot where my feet had just been. She could care less about pings in the night.
You have to understand that our house is fairly large and has a lot of vaulted ceilings which tend to carry sound in odd directions. So it was that we two wandered, sleep dazed and half-awake, blankly staring at the ceilings trying to find the source of the noise. To add to the confusion, we are striping wallpaper and essentially destroying our great room just in time for Christmas ( another blog topic ) so there are currently three different sized ladders and furniture pushed away from walls and general chaos everywhere on our main floor. Every time I heard a ping, I headed in a different direction, sure it had originated elsewhere. I wandered here and there, pausing every few seconds to hear the pings and the dog snored on. On one of my passes I saw Angus standing on the shortest ladder, a step stool really, trying to take down the smoke alarm just outside our bedroom. It was clearly not pinging but it was the only one he could find. I reasoned to my sleep deprived self that his apparent deafness must have made him believe he was being helpful and the batteries in that one were sure to go soon anyway, so I left him to it. The ladder wasn’t quite tall enough to reach comfortably and he muttered something about his pajama pants threatening to fall down. He couldn’t quite determine how to get the thing apart and he was holding a flashlight clenched in his teeth when I found him, perched precariously on his tiny stool, pants around his knees, swearing mercilessly around the heavy steel in his mouth while threatening the smoke alarm with a hammer.
I could not muster the grey cells to comment, just turned away and continued on my fruitless search for the offending ping.
In what felt like an eternity later, I found myself standing, semi-comatose in the front hall and staring at the ceiling again in hopes of finding the offending alarm. Finally I guess my awake consciousness kicked in and I had a dawning realization, two actually. Firstly, I had not heard a ping in more than a few minutes and secondly,the lights, with exception of the hall where I stood, were all out. I stumbled back towards the bedroom and found Angus back in bed, snoring almost as loudly as Apple. ” Angus, wake up ! What happened to the ping ? Why are you sleeping ?” I demanded. ” For Christs Sake Sarah”, he countered. ” It’s 4 am. Go to sleep. It was the dead smoke alarm I took down two weeks ago and told you to put in the laundry room until I replaced the battery. You put the dead battery back in it for some unknown reason, that was the ping…”, and with that he rolled over and went back to sleep.
Ten minutes later when I thought maybe the furnace was sounding funny and maybe we should schedule a service visit he was, lets just say, not impressed. This morning, over coffee, I told him it was rather rude to leave me standing in the front hall while he went back to bed. He countered that maybe the “ping”ceasing and desisting and the lights going out might have been my first clue … Sigh … Sleep, elusive sleep …