The Red Scrunchie
I have written a lot about my exhaustion, but not about my sleep. My husband and I shared a queen-sized bed for many years. It is so empty now that I often find myself sprawled across the entire bed as though I search for him during my sleep. I average about four hours of sleep each night. I want to sleep. I really do, but I can only sleep for short periods at a time. My initial problem with sleeping began the day after he died. I went to bed that night and found that all I could do was hysterically sob. I wrapped my arms around the pillow (his pillow) upon which he took his last breath. I clutched that pillow so tightly that my arms ached. The pillow was not enough though.
I began to try out different belongings of his with which to sleep, believing that would help. I tried his wallet. That did not work well. I rationalized that he always had his wallet and it was so much a part of him that it would comfort me. I dozed off only to discover the wallet was not in my hand. I then panicked and had to turn on the light to locate the wallet. The exhausting pattern of crying into his pillow while clutching his wallet lasted about a week. I had to find a new object with which to seek comfort.
I tried his cap. He always wore his cap. Only two occurrences prompted him to remove his cap—one was sleep and the other was, well, that is no one’s business. I do not know how many of you have tried sleeping with a cap before, but let me be the first to tell you—that brim is a lot more stiff than you might imagine. I would wake with it stabbing me painfully in my side. I dozed off, clutching the cap in a death grip but again, I woke in a panic to locate it. Another week or so of embracing his pillow and clutching his cap and I realized that was not working either.
Next, I tried his Taekwondo black belt. It, too, had spent many years embracing him. His black belt is worn and tattered from years of teaching and sparring. If you have never slept with a black belt—do not try it. That lasted about two nights because I nearly strangled myself. Apparently, I do not sleep peacefully. I may pass out in a vertical position in my bed and wake in a horizontal position. I have found blankets wrapped around my neck and broken vases on my headboard from my nighttime flailing. Somehow, I managed to get his black belt wrapped around my neck. Flop. I had to think of another tactic to get sleep.
I took two of his tee shirts from his dresser and cuddled with those and his pillow. The tee shirts would find their way to my feet or end up in a heap on the floor. I just could not keep them in my grasp. In case you are wondering, yes, I nearly smothered myself with one of his shirts. Perhaps I have a subconscious desire to die, but I am not intending to take my life. The wallet did not work. His cap failed to comfort me enough so that I could rest. His black belt tried to kill me and his tee shirts escaped me. It was then that I experienced an epiphany.
During his last days, he had so many wires and tubes plugged into his body. He was on a continuous morphine drip that impaired his judgment. According to his doctors, he was also in an incomprehensible amount of pain. I failed to realize that because he never let me know. He became fascinated with all the wires and tubes in his morphine-induced state of confusion. I turned my head for one second and he had removed his oxygen mask and was busily working to remove the PEG tube from his navel. I went to the restroom only to return and find him frantically trying to trace the intricate web of wires attached to his chest. I realized that I had to find something with which to entertain him and prevent him from removing the very things that were keeping him alive and mildly comfortable. I dug through my bag and found a red scrunchie.
I dangled the red scrunchie in front of his eyes to get his attention and he reached for it as though in slow motion. His eyes lit up like those of a small child. He was fascinated. He worked for hours to understand how the threads joined to form that elastic circle. One would think he was studying the complex mechanism of a carburetor. Perhaps he was. Regardless of what he saw, the red scrunchie kept him occupied and prevented him from playing with wires and tubes.
The red scrunchie even entertained us because once, he was so busy tracing the threads that he sat up in bed and removed his oxygen mask to work. I failed to realize he had removed his mask until the oxygen alarm began blaring. His oxygen level was dropping rapidly and I ran toward him, scolding him to get his mask back on his face. He panicked. I startled him enough that he shook with confusion as he tried to understand my words. He shoved the red scrunchie onto his nose and proceeded to put his mask back on over it. It was priceless. Once I got the red scrunchie out of there and the mask on him properly, we laughed about it. I had forgotten that I could laugh. I will never forget that image of him with the red scrunchie on his nose. I still smile when I remember that moment. We needed one moment to laugh during those dark days.
I knew the red scrunchie would be my source of salvation. I removed it from the jewelry box in which I had placed it and wrapped it around my right hand, climbed into bed, embraced his pillow and slept. It was the first time I slept for hours in what seemed like decades. I dreamed of him that night. I continue to sleep with the red scrunchie and his pillow. I cry into the softness of his pillow, knowing that I will never embrace him that way again in this life. Nevertheless, I fondle the red scrunchie with my left hand, closing my eyes while tears run down my cheeks, knowing that he is somewhere out there smiling at me.
©2011-12 Relinda R.