|I woke to the sound
of my mother's voice very loudly asking, "Are
you still asleep?" I opened my eyes and she was
standing over me. "Do you know what time it
is?" It is not the kind of thing I'm conscious
of when I am unconscious. "It's eleven
o'clock!" she informed me, answering her own
question. It was bewildering. Why was my mother, who
lives several miles distant, in my bedroom alerting
me to the time of day?
To better appreciate how upsetting this event was to
me, I need to explain that I am especially shy about
my naked body, and, during these hot summer days,
because we don't have air-conditioning, I am given to
sleeping naked on top of the sheets. Knowing that my
daughter and my mother have keys to the house, I am
fearful of the prospect of my daughter, my grandson,
or my mother gaining entry to the bedroom and seeing
me when I am the least presentable. Despite promises
from my more significant other, Ms Keogh, to prevent
it, I have had my grandson wake me many times. Once
it was my daughter. Now it was my mother. So far I
have been fortunate, each time I just happened to be
adequately covered by the sheet. Still, having
someone in the house and able to get this close to me
without my being aware is deeply disturbing.
"Okay, so it's eleven o'clock; why did you want
me to know this?" I asked my mother.
"Do you know what time your niece's flight
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know." But she did
know. My niece told her what time her plane was
departing. And later, when we were driving back from
the airport, she admitted to knowing, but that
morning she was anxious and feared that I had
forgotten. Why did she think I would forget? Weeks
before my niece arrived, I had arranged to pick her
up and later return her to the airport. I even took
the day off from work to be available to drive her.
That I was at home in bed and not at the office was
further proof I had remembered. Only my mother
thought I was not at home. I didn't answer the
telephone when she had called. When she came over,
she did not find my car in the driveway. Ms Keogh,
the only human other than a doctor that I can
tolerate seeing me naked, and she's none too thrilled
about it, had decided to let me sleep late. I have
not been sleeping well these last three weeks,
anxious about being forced off the midnight-to-eight
tour by a colleague with more seniority who also
wanted it. I've begun working days. Ms Keogh, who I
had promised to drive to work, decided to borrow my
car to go out to do errands and have coffee. We
usually stopped en route for coffee and donuts when I
drive her to work, but she was allowing me more time
in bed because I was sleeping so soundly- so soundly
that I didn't hear the telephone in the next room
when my mother called, didn't hear my mother enter
the house and yell out for me.
"Why didn't you at least call me last night to
tell me when you'd be over?" my mother
complained. I explained how I'd tried to call, but
the line was constantly busy. My niece was on the
telephone to her significant other back on the West
Coast. I told my mother I would collect her and my
niece at one:thirty. My mother apologized, continued
with her apologies, and telling me to go back to
sleep, she began to back out of the bedroom. However,
she did not manage to reach the bedroom door. She
felt bad and didn't like feeling bad about herself.
It wasn't until I could clear my head and
convincingly absolve her from waking me, to get her
to believe I was sincere, only then did she finally
retreat, leaving me wide-awake and grumpy.
After she was gone, I climbed out of bed and dressed,
was buttoning my shirt when Ms Keogh returned home.
Being grumpy, I took it out on my dearest friend, who
had only wanted to permit me to sleep longer.
I drove Ms Keogh to her job in Philadelphia. I then
picked up my mother and my niece, taking them to a
leisurely lunch in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. I drove
particularly slowly along the New Jersey Turnpike to
consume the excess time. We arrived at the Newark
Airport two hours before my niece's flight.
During the drive back, I explained to my mother about
my shyness and sleeping nude. "Oh, I would
never, never dare enter the bedroom if you were
naked," she insisted. I asked how would she know
beforehand unless she first came in and inspected.
She changed the subject.
The subject continued to interest me. I was reminded
of another rude awakening nearly fifty years ago,
when I was three or four years old. My parents took
me to a nursing home to visit my paternal
grandmother. I didn't like the place, it had a bad
smell. My father took me outside to the small,
enclosed yard in front of the building. I fell asleep
in his lap. I awoke in the lap of a living corpse, a
foul-smelling old man with no teeth who was stroking
my head. That was the beginning of my distrust of my
parents. How bizarre that I should still remember,
and how utterly wrong that I have not yet recovered
from that seemingly insignificant trauma. Why are we
Meanwhile, let this be a warning to family and
friends. Be careful, for I am a writer of monthly
columns and everything is grist for the mill.