Sleepless Nights

By Mahnoor J.

“It’s nothing, don’t worry about it, okay?” he reassured me, “go to bed Mom. I’ll see you in the morning.” He gave me a small grin, then disappeared behind his bedroom door. I stood in the hallway until the light beneath his door blinked out – then, as if in a daze, I walked back to my room and made my way to the couch by the window. John was propped up on a pillow on the bed, typing away furiously on his laptop. He looked up and smiled. “I know what you’re thinking,” he said, “so let’s watch something to de-stress your mind – like the ‘Diary’ movie.”

“The Notebook?”

He hid his grimace, nodded.

“It’s all right.” I looked out the window and pressed a hand up against the cool glass. “It’s a pleasant night,” I said softly, “I’m going to take a little stroll.”

The moonlight shone down on the fresh lawn and the drops of the rain that had not yet disappeared glittered like silver tears. I walked through the timeless garden lit with the moon’s artistic glow when 15 minutes later, the soft wind, cold to the bone, sent me back inside.

I didn’t stop in front of his door as I trudged back to my room and flopped down on the sofa. John was working on his book again, deeply engrossed in the manifestation of words he was creating. I felt restless, but I forced myself to crawl into the heated bed and pull the covers to my chin. I closed my eyes and meditated for a long time after the typing had ebbed away and John had turned the light off and said good night.

Then as if tugging me by an invisible rope, Max’s room beckoned me. I allowed myself to be pulled by the inexplicable force – into his room. I broke the silence and sat down on the padded chair by his bed, as if I was keeping vigil over him. He slept soundly, like a little boy transported into a different world. A peaceful look cast over his face, his chest barely moved – and I covered my ears and shut my eyes and waited. For an excruciating 45 seconds, his body lay still like a corpse, and then with a jerk and a violent snore, he became animated again, snoring heavily, his eyes moving restlessly behind his lids. The cycle restarted a few minutes later. As he slept, his airway constricted, until it became completely blocked. His breathing softened until it had stopped, and I stared down at his body as if we were both in a funeral home. Even though I’d seen this before, tears sprang to my eyes and I clutched my handkerchief to my face. He continued to breathe, and pause, and breath again with an intense reanimating jerk of his body and oftentimes it sounded as if he choking back to life.

I had tried to come to terms with his sleep apnea – but this was the second week he had had to endure the horridness – his CPAP machine hadn’t shipped in yet. He said he didn’t feel anything, but I couldn’t stand watching him – I felt that once he lapsed into an apnea, he might never come back.

I usually stayed with him the whole night – then crept back into my room before dawn broke. It was for him, but it was for me too. I needed to know that I was there for him – the doctor had informed me that out of 1500 patients, 285 died prematurely from sleep apnea. CPAP reduced that figure considerably – and Max was without one for the moment – which made the disorder exponentially frightening in its entirety and it freaked me out to see him like that.

Suddenly, he shuddered back to life with a violent choke and a gasp and he sat up. He saw me instantly, bounded out of his bed and stumbled towards me, where I caught him. He wrapped his arms around my neck and began to weep uncontrollably, scared out of his mind. This was also getting to be too much for him. “Thanks for watching over me, Mom.” He said sadly, “it makes things a lot easier.” I assured him things were going to be a whole lot easier – and it wasn’t just an empty promise. I was looking into the future and I saw two things: a CPAP machine at our front door and a whole lot of hope.


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