I think the older we get, the more we tacitly take inventory of what we once had and what we were able to do that have become, over time, merely memories. What we lose doesn’t happen all at once. However, as the years roll by — impossibly almost a score’s worth of calendars now expired since we all fretted a bit over the Y2K Boogeyman who never made an appearance — we see our growing limitations.
Just as there was once a time when I could sit in a cross-legged position on the floor (in what was in less politically sensitive times known as Indian-style) and rise to a standing position with my arms folded across my chest, using the strength of just my lower trunk, there was also a time when sleep came easily to me and the meaning of “sleeping in” on a Saturday meant, at the earliest, 10 a.m.
However, that was a long, long time ago. The fact is, at 68, perhaps the one thing I miss the most about my youth is the ability to sustain sleep restfully for the seven to nine hours that Dr. Eric J. Olson of the Mayo Clinic recommends for adults.
Yes, there was once upon a time back in my salad days when I could knock out some “Z’s” with the best of them, especially on those nights long ago when I would stretch the day to its outer limits by raising my voice in raucous laughter with my lads and lasses in those golden moments before I was dragged kicking a screaming into the adult world following that commencement exercise at Miami University in June of 1973. It was a fun day, but, had I known what was to follow, I’d just as soon have skipped it.
However, a lifetime of living, including those glorious 25 summers I spent working in Lima Parks and Recreation, times when I worked with so many wonderful people but also times that had me bending and stooping a lot, moving playground equipment boxes around and hooking and unhooking trailers filled with arts-and-craft supplies on pickup trucks. While the former I cherish, the latter I now curse because of what’s taken a toll on my back.
In my cavalier youth, I thought little of proper lifting technique because, of course, all anatomical parts were working just fine and always would, right? And, the residue of those days now is a chronically bad back that serves as my own personal alarm clock sometime between 5 and 6 a.m. each day.
If you’re thinking, well, Grinder, just get a new mattress, I’ve already gone that route and have purchased the supposed Cadillac of beds with the sleep-number settings. Seventeen hundred dollars later, not five more minutes’ worth of repose have been bestowed upon me. I’ve been up and down that dial, five numbers at a time, and nothing really happens differently.
Sprinkle in a few “comfort stops,” typical for men my age with some diagnosed prostate difficulties, along sleep’s highways, especially if I blew the foam off a few, and that serves as an additional impediment to restful repose.
The number of hotel beds of which I’m in and out during a typical month while traveling my laborious and leisurely roads, I’m sure, doesn’t help either. These, of course, are beds hundreds, if not thousands, have used before me, a thought upon which I try not to dwell.
Perhaps if I adhered to all the tips that sleep experts have suggested — going to bed at the same time, eschewing caffeine and alcohol in the evening, limiting TV and computer screen time, among others — would help. Sometimes I’m just not inclined to play by the rules. That has never changed from my youth!
Yes, so very much changes as time goes by. Age creeps along at its steady pace, walking just behind us, slipping things out of our pockets that we once possessed. Among those abilities now purloined, the one I really believe I miss the most, is the one I probably, in my youthful arrogance, disrespected the most, and that is the ability to achieve that wonderful state of restful, uninterrupted and sustained slumber.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.