It’s really early, but I’ve been up for a while. The leg pain caused by the disk pushing into my L5 nerve root is turning me into a cranky insomniac. So this morning I’m giving in. I’m giving up on tossing and turning, grinding some good coffee beans, boiling some water, combining them in a coffee press, and sitting by the computer. My wife’s office downstairs is a peaceful room. (Hold on, time to press the coffee—that reminds me. A couple of years ago, I was pressing the coffee and I accidentally sent the press flying, coffee and grounds painting the family room. My 4 year old still remembers it. OK, done.)
My wife’s office is sort of isolated from the rest of the house, so it’s a good place to do a little writing without bothering anyone, or being bothered in turn. And of course, early mornings are a time of forced introspection and contemplation. You see, it’s been a helluva winter here at Casa Pal, so sleep doesn’t always come easy. (Damn, that’s some good coffee. Yes, I know, there is irony in my complaining about insomnia while drinking coffee—deal with it.)
Anyone who lives in the midwest knows it’s been a long, cold, dark winter (oh, and to you global warming denialists—please remember that weather does not equal climate, idiot). Back around Thanksgiving, my father-in-law developed severe weakness, and was found to have a cervical spinal cord compression. He was not a well man, spent several weeks in the hospital, and finally died. As anyone who has ever lost someone knows, even when you’re feeling a little better, it can come back to overwhelm you. My wife called her mom’s cell phone the other day, and it went to voice mail. Her dad’s voice asked her to leave a message. She called back about five more times.
His death has really been the dominating color this winter, but other crises have arisen. I’ve lost several of my oldest patients. Ice damming caused flooding in our house (you know something isn’t right when you hear running water in a room without a sink), my computer died (horror to a writer, but they’re sending me a new one), and my own back is becoming a real problem. As I hobble down the hall at the hospital, the House jokes are becoming more frequent.
But of course, it’s hard not to realize how good I really have it. My wife is a remarkable woman, and my daughter is my heart. When I came home last night from work, I lay next to her for a few minutes just to watch her sleep. My wife says that when she sleeps, she looks exactly like me, but to me she is joy incarnate. (And smart—did I mention she’s smart? Apparently, one of the kids at her preschool told his mom, “I want to be able to read like PalKid.”)
And of course, I have a job. Back in December, I received a nice pay cut due to the economy, but compared to most Michiganders, I’m doing great. The pervading sense of doom is hard to convey to anyone who doesn’t live here. People aren’t just hurting a little; they are losing their homes, their cars, their jobs, their marriages, their lives.
So I’ve got it pretty damned good. Still, it would be just that much better if I could get a little sleep.