By Dorothy Ross
Insomnia is the curse of my eightieth year. These nights I seldom get more than six hours of shut-eye. At four in the morning, when the sky glows with the faint promise of dawn, I rely on mind games to ward off the urge to get out of bed.
I try to wait until the full flush of sunrise to throw off the covers. If I get up too early the dog will take my place, her tail on my pillow and her head on Bill’s shoulder. If he so much as blinks an eye, Bridget-dog knows Bill is awake. Once she goes into her morning routine, pawing and pestering until he gives her the attention she demands, Bill’s night is over.
Just so my husband can get his sleep, I lie still, tracing the ceiling fan’s slow circuit while I indulge in my alternative to counting sheep–making up Jeopardy categories. My favorite is “Aunts and Uncles from Film and Literature”–the correct responses being Uncle Remus, Auntie Em, Uncle Tom, Auntie Mame, and Uncle Vanya. That’s a Double Jeopardy category.
Lately, I’ve been conjuring a new category that I call Double “U”–where there are two instances of the letter “U” in each correct response. Luxury and guru came to mind immediately, followed quickly by usurp and culture. I had some trouble coming up with a fifth answer that wasn’t either a compound word, like sunburn, or one formed by a prefix. Unturned seemed too weak, too dependent. I wanted a more muscular word. Ha! That’s it. Luxury, guru, usurp, culture, muscular.
The Double “U” thing continues to taunt me, even in the daytime. Driving into town yesterday, passing a newly planted field, I added agriculture to the list. Waiting at the doctor’s office, I thought of suture and its rhyming partner, future.
Last night I woke shortly after midnight and listened to the concert of nocturnal voices–the soughing of the Casablanca fan’s slow revolutions, the echo of a far off train whistle, and the busy chatter of night-crawling backyard critters, while “U” couplets danced in my head.
I couldn’t resist the urge to write down more Double “U” words so as not to forget them. I got up quietly and tiptoed into the kitchen. On the telephone message pad, I wrote surplus, bulbous and ruckus.
I’m told poets and dreamers keep notebooks by their beds to preserve the ephemeral treasures of the night. I don’t want to turn on lights in our bedroom in the wee hours, so I’ll try another solution. I’ll slip a little note pad into the top drawer of the bathroom cupboard, ready for any nighttime strokes of brilliance. Must not let beauties like couture and punctuation get away.
Dorothy Ross is a native New Yorker who worked on Madison Avenue before moving west in 1961. On the Davis campus of the University of California she served as an editor and program director. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2007, Dorothy now volunteers with the PD community, organizing events and writing about the challenges of living with Parkinson’s. Her essays, published in several print anthologies and online journals, are personal and playful, with the goal of educating people about PD and amusing them at the same time.