Do not disturb. zzz. Snoring in Progress.

An Exhausting State of Sleep


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.

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10 thoughts on “An Exhausting State of Sleep”

  1. You do, indeed, have an amazing memory! I always enjoy your writing…but I’m sorry for your troubles…sheesh. 😛 KEEP WRITING, please!

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  2. Don’t forget the 10 inch long gash up your shin from that Eagle Lake trip. I seem to remember some cockamamie story about dangling upside down while your foot was caught in a crevice in the rock. Or maybe that was an embellishment so I’d feel bad for you and not smack you upside the head quite so hard?

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  3. I knew that you knew the Hulls, but I didn’t recall that you and Brett spent enough time together as kids to have real memories and stories. I never knew either him or Jennifer well, but I remember that he was a killer wrestler. I watched him in several matches, and he was impressive.

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    1. Yeah, we were in 7th grade when they moved away. The Hulls were our next-door neighbors for 2 years (well, as next door as you can get in rural Curry County), and Brett and I were in the same classroom from 2nd-7th grade. Jackie Hull was one of my mother’s closest spiritual mentors.

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    1. Roy Orbison sings, and I quote:

      A candy-colored clown they call the sandman
      Tiptoes to my room every night
      Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper
      “Go to sleep. Everything is all right.”

      Is there anything in the universe more horrifying than THAT image??

      And, to answer your question, probably…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow….an amazing memory you have. I do remember all the camping trips, which of course revolved around whatever logging project in whatever area our dad’s were working in.

    I sure wish sleep was still my favorite thing to do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also remember falling into Euchre Creek about 5 times that summer while casting a rod from a precarious bank. Wormy (log truck driver) saw me fall in once and laughed his ass off after he told everyone at the jobsite. My dad brought a Cat down from the jobsite to a gravel bar and kind of dammed up the creek to make a certainly-illegal swimming hole for us. I got in a fight with two older kids from Ophir when they found out I was from Pistol River. That was a good summer…

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      1. You and falling in the water while casting. I still remember the two of us hobbling down from Eagle Lake up in the Sequoias after you slipped while casting, fell into the lake, and almost broke your foot.

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      2. Mutilated a toe, sprained an ankle hiked the 3 miles to get out of there, got yelled at by our respective wives, who we horrified by our tardiness, and got a tetanus shot. Good times…

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