When I was a kid we used to pile into the car for swim lessons in Brookings. I remember Tarra Walker, my sister, and maybe the Crook boys in there with us. Perhaps Brett and Jennifer Hull. Anyway, there aren’t many days in the short Curry County summer where you can engage in swim lessons, because before you realize it, you’ve been overtaken by cold rainy days and it’s just not fun anymore.
Southern Oregon is a water culture. We are smacked firmly against the Pacific Ocean, and there are several rivers and large creeks–Umpqua, Chetco, Pistol, Hunter Creek, Rogue, Lobster Creek, Illinois, Euchre Creek, Elk and Sixes–to name just a few just in my home county. These watersheds slice the county into canyons. Each of these places has its own popularity, its own famous swimming holes, and its own fishermen. There are really two directions that all we talked about: upriver and downriver. The teenagers all congregated upriver for parties. We went downriver to high school. You were expected to swim, probably you or your parents owned a boat, and you should at least be able to paddle around in an inner tube.
Water was dangerous too. Whitewater rafting pushed the envelope between fun and terror. The little brother of a classmate drowned, caught in a current on the Rogue. Riptides on the ocean could pull you under and keep you there. Our local papers frequently mentioned tourists (a word synonymous with “Californians,” to our minds) who needed rescuing by the Coast Guard, or who died capsizing a boat, or falling off a cliff into the ocean.
I’m saying all this because in Curry County, you learned to swim when you were a little kid. It was practically a prerequisite for growing up there. So we took swim lessons once or twice, or had a cousin or uncle or maybe an older friend, teach us.Hell, it was practically sink or swim. Yukyukyuk…
I’m way off topic now.
Getting back to the point, in 1977, when I was 8-9 years old on those road trips to Brookings, three to five of us kids from Pistol River would be hauled to the only public pool in the county every week for a couple months, and we would learn to swim. It was a half hour trip. It couldn’t have been easy on the moms chaperoning us because 3-5 kids make a lot of noise, and are rambunctious and… you get the idea. So the adults would devise games to shut us up: “Let’s see who can hold their breath the longest.” Nobody could resist taking exhaling for much longer than a minute. I made it to a minute, 30 seconds a few times. Brett Hull almost always won. It was fun. It was a contest.
Ahhh for the days when not breathing was a fun contest.
OK. Flashing forward nearly 40 years….
I’m not sure how many of you out there have had untreated sleep apnea, but if so, you might understand a bit of where the musing. Basically, apnea is when you stop breathing while sleep. This is a bad, bad thing. Not a fun contest anymore. Your breathing. Stops.
You wake up gasping. You alarm your spouse with rafter-cracking snorts. Your sleep, frankly, isn’t sleep anymore. It’s hours of almost-sleep, where your mind wanders into a dream state, but you never really fully get to a deep sleep.I’ve been suffering from this for over a year, gasping myself to wakefulness several times a night. I woke up this morning and told my wife that sleep has become more exhausting than staying awake. Ironic, huh?
Or let me put it this way. Have you ever been trapped in a dream that seemingly wouldn’t end? I do this every night, for several hours. Dreaming has become a chore. It used to be refreshing, fun and frankly amazing.
When I was young, my Friend Kyle and I were camped one summer, along with our families, on the north bank of Euchre Creek for several weeks while our dads were logging up on a nearby hill. My arm was in a cast because I’d broken it riding a bicycle a few weeks before and I was bored. If my arm were healthy, we could fish, play badminton, swim a little. I remember asking Kyle what he liked to do as a hobby. “Sleep,” he said, without hesitation. At the time, I thought it was just about the strangest hobby an eleven year old boy could have. But, arm in sling, I remember getting into a tent, and just napping the sun away in the heat of the afternoon. I guess that’s what they mean when they say the dog days.
Today, almost 40 years later, I am forced to nap because if I don’t get a solid 10-12 hours in, I won’t make it through work. Apparently this is what happened Saturday afternoon. I didn’t pass out so much as doze off, and I wound up in the hospital.
Well, now I’m unable to drive until this thing gets resolved. I can work of course (or at least I can work tomorrow), and hope I don’t have another episode like the one last weekend. There isn’t a drug that takes care of this condition but weight loss helps a little. I’ll see what I can do there, but that’s a long-term goal. Most likely (in the short term, at least) I will need to sleep wearing a CPAP machine. For those of you not familiar, it is basically a blower with a mask that forces air into my nose while I sleep. It doesn’t sound like even a little bit of fun, but I’ve spoken with other apnea sufferers who swear by their results. Hopefully the doctor has one for me sitting in a shed somewhere. It would be pleasant to make sleep less exhausting than wakefulness.