I’ve always been a bit confused when someone says he or she “slept like a baby.” In my years of observation, that usually means you wake up every two hours, crying, hungry, with wet pants. I don’t think that’s what they had in mind. When the boys were newborns, I used to actually pray to God (I know – we don’t make deals with God, but I was at my wit’s end) to just let me have four hours of uninterrupted sleep, and I would happily stay up the other 20. God did not grant that prayer. Both boys had the interesting ability to get fed, changed, and back in their crib, only to wake up about an hour and a half later, needing to go through the same process. They started sleeping through the night, I remember, when they were about two years old.
There was a short space in time when the entire house, actually, was able to sleep through the night. Then the boys became teenagers, and that meant they didn’t go to bed until most of the night was over. In the meantime, we made the critical decision that has affected our sleep for years: we got cats. Three cats – Thor, Phoenix and Hermes. If you have worked with cats at all, either on a professional or personal basis, you will understand when I say they are hard-headed, and basically do what they want and when they want. For instance, while I am writing this column today, I can expect Hermes to come into the office at least twice, and walk around my legs, and demand pats and scratches for at least three minutes more than I care to offer. The other two are as pushy and needy as he is. The fact is, cats sleep about 22 hours a day, and spend another half hour eating and drinking and using the litter box. That leaves them with a full 90 minutes where they just act needy, and whiny, and expecting to be cared for.
I can say that Thor, our Siamese, and Phoenix, our “big orange,” both are content taking over most of the bed and snuggling in for as much warmth as they can steal. Remember when I mentioned “uninterrupted” sleep? You need to be in a comfortable sleeping position for that to happen – otherwise, you spend your night shaping yourself around the fat cat that took the spot where your back would best enjoy the spot. I know how to get back to sleep quickly, but it’s the whole idea of getting awakened in the first place that is a bit of a challenge.
Now, at this point, some of you who have never owned cats – or perhaps dogs, will offer the advice, “Just shut the door…” I can testify that, although cats would like to pretend to the world that they are laid back and passive creatures – it is a lie. They are stubborn, willful, and persistent in their efforts to get their own way about nearly everything. Delightful little creatures, and very loving but it’s always on their terms. When someone once said that cats don’t have owners – they have staff – that person was more correct than they ever knew.
But wait – you may have noticed that I only mentioned two of our cats and their ability to take the prime sleeping spot on the bed. Indeed. There is another. Hermes, our tawny colored, white pawed short hair little boy has always been the most curious and adventuresome. It was because, when he was a kitten, and found his way above the ceiling in our basement, that we had to cut holes in the space behind the basement bathroom tub, because he fell down and was trapped behind the wall. When we got him out, he immediately ran back to the storage room and started climbing to get above the ceiling once again. Persistence.
Anyway, over the years, Hermes has taught us how to play fetch with a variety of items that lie on the carpet, after he pulls them out of their little toy box. He loves big rubber bands, and to have them shot down the stairs so he can go leaping after them. He then spends a great deal of time trying to carry part of one in his mouth, dragging the rest between his legs back up the stairs, all the while mewing and talking to us, as if to say, “Look what I found!” We also have a toy that shoots orange rings that he chases after as well, and then brings them back – usually – for the game to continue. This is all good fun and bring lots of laughter to watch him work so hard.
However, Hermes is a night rover. He doesn’t appear to care about being cold like the other two, and so after he has had his 2-3 hours of sleep, he then awakens, ready to have the late-night games and activities commence. Since I am pretty sure he believes I belong to him, and receive my paycheck to be his butler and program director, I am the chosen one to get to engage him in the night exercises. Our bedroom is at the far end of the house away from the stairs to the basement family room. Last night – this morning – at about 2:30am, I was awakened to the sound of a cat, sounding like it was being strangled, or otherwise in danger of losing its life. The cry came closer and closer, and then, through the doorway came Hermes, with a large black rubber band hanging out of his mouth, announcing all the way that he was ready to play.
I was not – I patted and called him up on the bed, and eventually he jumped up and stood on my stomach. He just stood there – he didn’t lie down, didn’t move, didn’t do anything but work at crushing my spleen. Finally, I pushed him down to lie down, which he did for about four minutes, purring loudly – and then, as quick as he came, he jumped down and left the room. I fell back to sleep.
An hour later, we repeated the game, only this time he carried in the orange ring, singing the same song. Once again, I told him to get up on the bed, and he did and stood there and … well, you know the drill. Eventually, he jumped down again. Cheri got up an hour later, so that’s her fault, but the game at that point is to get her to give them all treats and such, so I was left to get another hour and a half of sleep. I wear an exercise monitor on my wrist, and it’s fascinating how accurate it is to show me in deep sleep, in dream stage, and then – POW! Awake! Then back to sleep and dreams and then –POW! In the science world, I believe it’s called the HST: Hermes Sleep Termination.
I guess sleep is probably overrated, anyway, and there is always an opportunity nowadays to have a nap, so that’s a good excuse. I would also guess that sleep is the most accidental thing we do, since there is no way to will ourselves to remain asleep, or to fall asleep on command. Still, it’s hard not to walk over to the sleeping cat in the middle of the day, and shake it a bit, just to wake it up every other hour…
At least the awakenings at night are not tied to something scary or disorienting, as though something is wrong. It’s just a little cat, with a big rubber band, doing what he sees as the most intentional thing he can do. I guess I can’t fault that.
Word for the Day: agelast. This word looks like it would mean “lasting for an age,” but it’s actually pronounced ADGE -u-last, so you make use of the “e” in the middle of the word. It’s a Greek word, and often when you see an “a” at the beginning of these types of words, it works to make the word the opposite of what the real root of the word happens to be. Today, that root word is gelao, (soft “g” as in “go”) which is Greek for “to laugh.” Therefore, agelastos would mean “un-laughing.” An agelastic person is someone who simply never laughs, or has no sense of humor. Maybe Scrooge, maybe the Grinch. I’ve often mentioned that snakes are agelastic creatures. They can’t take a joke. Snakes are not fond of whoopie cushions.
So – don’t be so agelastic today. Laugh a bit. Help someone else to do the same. We have way more than we need to be humorless. It’s best that we overcome that if we are going to change this world.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.