Large glowing numbers on the shelf say that it’s 12:56, but I can’t sleep.
The obvious reason is the window air conditioning unit that I installed this morning to finally win the losing battle against the lingering stuffiness that lasts into the evenings in our little apartment. But it’s not the cool air blowing over our bed that is bothering me– that actually feels quite nice. And it’s not the droning background noise, which is a soothing wall of white noise. It’s the way the whole scene reminds me of when my son was sleeping on the other side of the bookcases that separate our bed from the rest of the room.
I think that PTSD is like an account that has been overcharged, and needs to be paid down in small installments. My wife says that it is like telling the same story over and over again, until we can make some sense of it. All I know for sure is that, 19 months after his sudden death, I’m still turning it over again, and over, on a few memorable nights. Most of the time when I remember him, I feel an almost overwhelming sense of love and longing. There’s less anger now, and usually only in primitive flashes that pass in a second or two. But the questions… it is the questions that keep coming back.
Tonight, it’s the doctor who was on call. She was so nervous, so unsure, yet so diligent. I remember her taking notes on every detail we told her about our son, pages of neat notes that she folded before she stuck in the pocket of her long white coat. Tonight, I keep wondering why she took the notes. Were they for some report that she would give to someone else? Were they so that she could do some research in the middle of that night? Should I now think that she should have known what we were telling her, or at least that she have some rubric in which to place it so that it all made some sense to her? Or was she doing her job, and well, when she took those notes? But I also remember how worried, and how concerned, and how intent she was. She was much more anxious than me, so much so that I rather scoffed at her intensity. But her concerns were vindicated, and she had been right there to take immediate steps to resucitate him. So how can I question her now?
But could all of it have been avoided? Why do I ask this? Of what value is such a question? It is a question that changes nothing. And besides, if we had made it through that dark night, he would have surely arrested the next day in his heart cath, alone in a room full of strangers. Or he would have had some awful, prolonged expiration while we all watched, helpless. His quick departure was a grace, I know. We know. This is the answer to all of these questions.
I met this guy Richard Rohr, and he said that part of being a balanced human being is “learning to forgive reality for being what it is.” He’s right, and I’m doing it, gradually. But sometimes, it’s a little too complicated to forgive reality and sleep at the same time (esides, when you wake up, your jaw is sore). So I lay here, as a thin trail of tears wends its way down to my ears and onto my pillow.