Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Good and Bad of Somnambulism

Somnambulism could have cost my life when I was a kid. Now that I am old, it could have saved my life. Let me explain by telling you a story. Ice-laden trees beat my house and truck and outbuildings up in the 2000 ice storm so I have been wary of looming limbs ever since. There is a tall pine with some kind of non-healing wound right outside my bedroom. I called the tree cutting man to come take it down and to trim an oak on my yard that is nudging the steeple of the church next door.
This action takes care of two problems borne in upon me by nature: one, I hope I will quit worrying about that pine pinning my wife and me to eternity in the middle of the night; two, maybe the church people will stop looking at the steeple, then me and shaking their heads. Thus, I will preserve my life and that of my wife and return to the good graces of the congregation. It was an expensive process, but well worth it. I can remain in the land of the living with my reputation as a problem-solver, such as it was, relatively unblemished.
Now, here is the problem that could have saved my life a long time ago. When I was a kid, a friend and I built an extravagant treehouse in a sweet gum. I wanted to take up residence there, even sleep there in that primordial nest. My parents would not allow sleeping up there because they were familiar with my tendency to sleep-walk. So, somnambulism may have killed me as a kid and saved me more recently. For example, what if I had been sleep-walking when the pine outside my bedroom finally collapsed. I would have lived! I just hope my wife would have been up as well, trying to convince me I was dreaming, thus escaping the calamity.
Actually, I have not ambled in my sleeping state in quite a few years. I am very glad that I sleep more soundly now. One night when I was a teenager, I had a car that I parked on the street on a hill. I was always careful to turn the wheel so that it was lodged against the curb. But, somehow in my sleep I thought the car was rolling off down the hill and I was on the floorboard looking for the brake. In the real world, I was on the floor working the shuttle of an old sewing machine, making a lot of racket. Pop came into the room to see what the matter was. I said, in my sleep, “My car is rolling off down the hill.” He looked out the window and said, “Boy, that car ain’t going nowhere. Get back in the bed.”

I obeyed, but it took some five minutes for me to figure out that I had been dreaming. In summary, as an erstwhile sleepwalker, I could have been in danger. But as an old man, a little sleep walking may have saved me. And my wife.

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