Around three in the afternoon, I woke up, yawned, opened the van door and wandered into the house. “Did you have a good nap?” my husband asked. “Why did you sleep out there?”
“Sometimes I just need a quiet place to nap. I used to clock out at work, drive the car to a shady spot and take a nap.”
The Energizer Bunny did not comprehend. Some 20 years into retirement, and he still rarely takes a nap. During his bout with COVID he slept a lot. I knew he had recovered when he stayed awake all day.
Not me. My body always demands its sleep time. For instance, before we married, Energizer Bunny talked on the phone with me before going to bed. Some nights he chatted way past my college years’ bedtime. I paid for it. In the middle of the next day’s lecture, my notes drooped into unintelligible scribbles until I jerked awake, blinked and resumed listening to the professor only to fall asleep again.
When I had preschoolers, nap time began with my reading story books to the little ones. More times than I care to admit, I nodded off before I finished reading the fairy tale of the day. A time or two, my “I’m not sleepy” little boy sat staring at me while I slept, and he did not.
I accept the fact that when I need sleep, I must simply take a nap and not apologize. For sure, don’t fight it. When driving long distances alone, nothing helps: not loud music, an audio book, cold soda nor open windows suffice to ward off sleep. When that happens, for safety’s sake, even in the middle of the day, I pull into a parking lot, park away from others, lock the doors, tip the seat back and fall into a coma. Later, refreshed, I awake and finish the drive safely.
No apologies from me. I accept the necessity of sleep. I shrug when my husband comments about my falling asleep during Sunday’s sermon or while driving through a scenic countryside. His mom understood. “I’m resting my eyes,” she would say.
Comatose best describes some eye resting. At least that is my explanation of the afternoon some guy knocked at the door and woke me. He said something. I stood there looking through the screen door at him with bleary eyes, shaking my head to clear the cobwebs of sleep. I could not comprehend, let alone remember, what he said. I guess I must have addressed his concern before he left.
If he had been a child crying, I would have snapped to attention, changed the diaper, found the lost toy, handed the child a snack and fallen back to sleep. But he wasn’t a child in need. To this day, I only remember how sleepy I felt.
Sometimes, I fool my brain into alertness for a while. It took seeing my son’s disappointed face the night I could not stay awake to greet him at the end of his late work day to learn that. I apologized and said, “Well, if we are going to talk when you come home, I need to leave the lights on and walk around. If the lights go low, if I sit back or lay down, my brain thinks it is time to sleep, and I cannot remember what we talked about later.” Standing up and walking around has worked thus far.
When I feel so numb from tiredness that I can’t think, let alone talk anymore, I will nap. It may not make sense to the Energizer Bunny and his cohorts, but it works for me, and that’s a good enough reason for a nap any day.
Joan Hershberger is a former staff writer for the El Dorado News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and other columns from the El Dorado News-Times.”