October 12th, 2019
“Ah, how do you sleep?
Ah, how do you sleep at night?”
chorus from “How Do You Sleep” from John Lennon
I don’t sleep well. I haven’t been able to sleep properly for decades. I know that I have had trouble sleeping since I was in the Army, and I left the military way back in 1986. When I was in the Army, it seemed like we were always on call, always on alert. It’s hard to relax if you don’t know if you will be deployed at a moment’s notice. After I got out, I worked for two trucking companies. Twenty-some years of working third shift didn’t help me much either.
Now I’m retired. I still don’t sleep. It is 3:00 AM and I am typing this essay. Our daughter’s dog, Shocky, is lying on the couch, keeping me company. The dog doesn’t sleep well either. I could walk her, but it’s windy and cold outside, and I am not up for it. Maybe later.
People sometimes give me well-meaning, but useless, suggestions about how get a good night’s sleep. They suggest using melatonin or some other medication. Or they tell me to exercise more, or change my diet. None of that seems to work for me. I still wrestle with bad dreams and night terrors. Sometimes, I wake up in the dark with my heart pounding and my Adrenalin pumping. This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. At night the dragons and demons come out to play.
Our son, Hans, called me again yesterday. There was an accident at his work site. It scared Hans. It scared him bad. One of the laborers got knocked down by some concrete spraying from the pump. Hans got sprayed with it too. Hans turned away when the concrete was flying toward him. He decided it was better to get hit in the back than in the face. When Hans turned back to look at the laborer, the guy was sprawled out on the ground.
Hans thought he was dead.
The guy wasn’t dead, but he had some minor injuries. Hans was (is) shook up about it all. Hans saw a lot of dead men when he was deployed in Iraq back in 2011. He remembers, and his memories haunt him.
Hans’ employer worked him for almost twenty-four hours again, and and Hans called me after his shift(s), and after the accident on the job. Hans wasn’t at fault for the accident, but he was still there when it happened. That bothers him. That bothers him a lot. It also bothers him that he can’t sleep. He gets called in to work at all hours, and it wears on him.
Hans sleeps fitfully, if at all. He can’t sleep for long because his back is messed up from his time in Iraq. He can’t sleep for long because he has nightmares from the war, and he wakes up not knowing where he is or where his weapon is. Sometimes, Hans has to sleep with his AR-15, as if it was a cold, steel teddy bear. His monsters come to visit whenever he tries to rest.
Hans usually calls me when he is exhausted. A tired young man calls a tired old man. We understand each other, but we can’t do much to help each other. We can only listen.
“How do you sleep at night (brother)?” – John Lennon