Every night before I fall asleep I say a little prayer and list all of those people important to my life. I hold the sound of their names long enough for their faces to materialize behind my closed lids. It’s a form of meditation, a way to slow down the adrenalin rush of the day, a rush that can make falling asleep weigh like a failure for the night. As the minutes pile up on those nights when sleep keeps running away and leaving me with its angry sister, insomnia, I try to push away the intruding worries and focus on those things that transport me to a place of peace. Sometimes I focus on a trilogy of images that always make me smile: Emmy dancing down lower Broadway in the rain, Stephania, our Italian hostess’ smile, and Dorothy Lyman’s red velvet cupcakes, the ones with a single red hot jelly bean perched on top. I’m also not above using the simple mantra l learned from Elizabeth Gilbert in “Eat Pray Love”, Ham-sa, “I am that”. There are times I am that desperate to think as a part-time practitioner I can numb myself to sleep through spirituality. This hardly ever works. It’s like suddenly praying to God for a miracle when you’ve lived the majority of your life believing yourself to be an atheist. And then there are times I return to the visions of those I love, the ones I started out with in my beginning prayer. When this happens it’s no longer about falling asleep. It’s about memory. It’s about engaging their assistance in fighting evil, the evil that comes from those nighttime battles where negativity and a sense a failure pound on your castle walls crumbling the ramparts of your self-confidence. It’s when I become a little kid and look to Mom and Dad to shield me from harm, now a mother in the midst of Alzheimer and a father dead almost twenty-five years.
Last night was one of those nights. The battle was raging out of my control. I couldn’t see the progress we were making. It was covered in a thick blanket of fog. My mind was my enemy catapulting thoughts of despair at my sleepless self. When the red velvet cupcakes and Ham-sa had lost their strength and succumbed to my angry mind I tried to pull up my dad and dress him in armor to defend my self-esteem and ward off the evil thoughts of self- destruction. I called him into battle. I heard my voice plead with him for protection. His visage stood there dressed in metal and chainmail but his response was barely a whisper. I couldn’t hear his voice, not with any clarity. Age and time where colliding. I realized that his memory was beginning to slip away. I was losing his sound. I could still see him, his thin-lipped smile and wire-rimmed glasses. I could see his flattop haircut saved from the military look his generation held onto even in old age. But the audio track I had been able to play of his laugh and his selective wisdom was playing like an old record all crackly and scratched. Modern technology had given me photos I could go back to, to reinforce his image. Memories of events could still play over and over again, but his ability to tell me what to do was fading away. I was slowly losing the baritone of his sound, the one thing I really wanted. How long do we get to hold onto that part of a person? Was twenty-five years the limit? How long will my daughter be able to hold on to me after I’m gone? Will it be long enough? Will she even want to ask? I hope so, and I hope I’ll be able to respond.