Losing specific memories isn’t just a protective act. Sometimes our brain holds on to things, in secret – to surprise us with them later. And in truth – I like that. For someone whose brain chops out large parts of their past events, it is good to believe that perhaps my brain likes to balance that remembering out.
Recently, I was leading a discussion on Resiliency and self-care. The discussion turned to giving space and time to other peoples’ self-care acts – and I told this story:
I am no stranger to insomnia. As a child, I would suffer from the worst sleepless nights. While some children could knock themselves out with a mere pillow, I could never sleep. Oddly enough, even at the age of 10, I caused myself the worst anxiety about it. The resentment I felt toward my sleeping friends and family is something I still sometimes feel. (though I love the sound of snoring – oddly)
At that time, our family lived in Germany. We lived there for four years. Those years appeared to be the happiest time of my parents’ lives. Something about life there seemed to ignite something in them that I’d admired in them since.
What was also noticeable about Germany was that Canadians and Americans had more of a disposable income – or perhaps the tax rules around things there made stuff cheaper there; Canadians and Americans collected more stuff in Germany. Part of what my dad collected were component stereo systems. Reference sound amplifiers, CD players, Reel-to-reels, large, ugly (though sometimes beautiful) speakers – and all of it seemingly cheaper than back home.
And he was protective. With good reason. A 10 year old child had little appreciation for the fragility and cost of such things. (though it didn’t stop my sister and me from singing duets together when they weren’t home)
One rule was that we weren’t allowed to turn the stereo on, without permission or accompaniment. It was delicate and expensive stuff. My father even had a science to turning each component on. (Pre-amplifier, Amplifier, components, Television.)
For the most part, I tried to follow Dad’s rule. I did break it, though I felt sufficiently guilty for doing so. I think.
But I never hesitated whenever it came to my insomnia. Through all the years of rocking myself to sleep, talking myself to sleep, getting up and sneaking out into the town at night, no technique worked as well as cartoons at that time.
The problem was that we had to turn the stereo on in order to get sound through the VCR. .
At any given night around 1 or 2 am, I’d spend minutes on each button. First, the Pre-Amplifier – listen, wait. Then the Amplifier, listen, wait. Then the VCR, listen, wait. Then the television. Listen. Wait. Then put the tape in, listen, wait.
After about an hour of sneaking around to do this, I would run the tape, lay on the couch, and wait for sleep to catch me. Then when sufficiently tired, I would get up and go to bed.
Only that I don’t remember ever going to bed.
Or how I got to my own bed.
When I was 38 or so, My sister confirmed that Dad would find me, and carry me to the bedroom. Nearly every time. He never gave me shit about it – and he always let me do what I could to get to sleep.
This – this is my favourite picture of him, my dad. It’s of him carrying my nephew, Jonathan – roughly 5 or 6 years later. It was always my favourite –
Only now, I finally remember why.