My Bedtime Story

From Susan Parker
Friday August 15, 2003

I guess I’m just the kind of gal who likes to sleep around. I wasn’t always this way. From the time I was four, until I was eighteen, I had my own bedroom: two single beds, (one for an occasional invited friend to use), wall-to-wall closets and an orange and green shag carpet. I didn’t have to share it with anyone. I lived like a princess in my parent’s home for fourteen years. It’s the longest I’ve stayed anywhere.  

At college I had to share a dormitory room with another entering freshman, but that didn’t last long. By second semester I’d found a small private room for myself in an off-campus apartment. I moved several times during the next four years, but I always had my own place, unwilling, and unable, to share with anyone.  

After graduation, I rented rooms and houses in Virginia and California, and even when I married and became a homeowner, I always had a room in which to be by myself. 

Times are different now. I share a house with a wheelchair-bound husband, two helpers, a bird and a dog. On the weekends a small child comes to stay with us. I no longer have a room of my own. It’s not even clear that I have my own bed. 

After his bicycling accident, my husband wound up in a hospital bed in the middle of our living room. He could no longer go upstairs to our bedroom. Jerry, a home care attendant, moved in to help me with the daily chores of keeping my husband alive. I gave him our former bedroom. I couldn’t bear to be in that room. It held too many memories. 

I experimented with sleeping in our guest room, in my husband’s hospital bed, on the couch in the TV room, upstairs in the attic and on the futon in the nook. But nothing felt comfortable. When Harka, a second attendant, settled into our house to assist with the mounting responsibilities of taking care of Ralph, he took the spare bedroom. My choices of where to sleep narrowed.  

But I don’t care. After nine years of rotating sleeping arrangements, I’ve adapted. Ralph’s hospital bed is too narrow for both of us, so I only sleep there between the hours of 10 p.m. and midnight. Then, when Ralph’s attendants are ready to put Ralph to bed, I move to the couch or the futon. When Jernae, Jerry’s daughter, visits, I put her on the spare mattress in the attic. But inevitably she shows up beside me—on the couch or the futon, the hospital bed or even in the living room chair. There have been times when I’ve considered going down the street to sleep with my neighbor, but Mrs. Scott passed away a few years ago. Her bed was covered in homemade quilts and was well broken in. 

I’ve gotten used to sleeping around. I never know where I’m going to end up. The other night Jernae and I started out on Ralph’s hospital bed, then moved to the attic. But it began to rain and the pitter-patter on the skylights bothered us. We moved downstairs to the futon. Then the dog, (who ALWAYS sleeps with me, no matter where I am), needed to go outside. We migrated to the couch off the kitchen. When Whiskers barked, alerting us that she wanted back inside, Jernae and I hauled our pillows and blankets back upstairs to the nook. Naturally, Whiskers followed. 

Last month I went back East to visit family and friends. It was all I could do to keep myself from crawling into bed with my parents. And when I went into Manhattan to visit my friend Amy, we had no choice but to sleep together. The only other space available was her bathtub. But I didn’t mind. In fact, I was happy to share Amy’s bed. My only disappointment was that Jernae, Mrs. Scott and Whiskers weren’t there with me. As I said, I’m now the kind of gal who likes to sleep around.