As I was lying awake one evening experiencing what I call “night terrors” and hot flashes (yes, I get those at my age even as a male of the species), many thoughts came to mind. Most of them I forgot this morning as the light dawned, the quote by British statesman Winston Churchill coming to mind, “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
I call them “terrors” because of the pervasive thoughts that won’t leave my head at night, like an earworm of a song that won’t go away, interrupting my sleep and keeping me awake, sometimes for hours. While I can fully control neither of those occasional nighttime ailments of mine, I really have no right to have the night terrors, a malady that causes me to lie awake and worry about things, many of which I forget anyway shortly after rolling out of bed in the morning.
Why should I have night terrors? I’m happily married, healthy, I’m not furloughed from my job, my kids are holding their own, I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back and enough to eat. I have love in my life. I have shoes to wear and two feet on which to wear them. What do I have to worry about? There are so many who have none of those things … and less.
But while we have a responsibility to control our thoughts … and should control them (as the Buddha wrote, “What we think, we become). All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”), it’s harder – for me at least – to control my thoughts when it’s 3 a.m., pitch dark and night’s silence enshrouds me. There’s no outside stimulation, I suppose, to push the night terrors away. So they endure.
My waking hours last night started with thoughts of my Mom and Dad now passed away to the Great Beyond these three years now, their youthful faces somehow clearly peeking though my infantile amnesia. I wondered if they could sense my gratitude for their love, guidance and sacrifices, and if they’d be proud of the older man I have become. I silently spoke to them hoping – but doubting – they could hear my thoughts. And then, somehow, my thoughts shifted from my parents to my wife’s maternal grandmother, Mary.
My wife’s maternal grandmother Mary? Mary, I hardly knew yah. Why would my night terrors include Mary – “Great Gran” to most everyone – a sprite of a lady hardly 5 feet tall I met just a few times (including celebrating her 100th birthday with her) before her death? Mary lived to be 102, the oldest person I have ever known, but I really didn’t know her.
What I did know is that Mary, a bit of a gypsy woman, was an immigrant from Hungary before WWII. She read Tarot Cards, although she never read my fortune from them. I don’t really believe in fortune telling, but never wanted to take the chance of prophecies I might dislike. Maybe my disbelief has just enough cracks in it that I’m wary of soothsaying.
But regardless of hardly knowing Great Gran and my lack of a foretelling from her, my night terrors included thoughts of Mary, I think, because she had “WooWoo,” the term her grandchildren gave to Great Gran’s future-predicting “powers” and her apparent connection to the spiritual world. Great Gran’s youngest granddaughter, my wife, did have her fortune read. And my wife’s future turned out to be just about spot-on from Great Gran’s reading of the Tarot Cards.
So amidst my wandering mind’s inability to sleep, I was considering Great Gran’s WooWoo at 3 a.m. I wondered if Mary, using her mystical, gypsy powers of the spirit world, might help retransmit my night terror message to my Mom and Dad, “Can you hear me Mom and Dad? Are you OK? Thank you for your love and support.”
My hot flashes gone, I pulled the covers to my chin and finally drifted off to sleep. A train floated through my dreams, its whistling “Wooo-Wooo” echoed from the distance … and the past.
I rarely remember my dreams. This time, though, the woo-wooing train whistles I remembered. And my night terror worries? Might it have been Great Gran’s Woo Woo that eased my fretting? For those worries melted away with dawn’s light.
Tideland News contributor Barry Fetzer writes from his home on Queens Creek.