Being lazy has many meanings

Ed Smith
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"Sleep, the poor man's wealth." - Sir Philip Sidney

My maternal grandmother probably had it right. When I was about 11 or so, and had "forgotten" yet again to cleave splits for the next morning, she pronounced her opinion of me in no uncertain terms.
"Eddie," she said to my mother, "will be a writer someday."
"He certainly shows tendencies in that direction," Mother said, "but what makes you so sure?"
"Because he's too lazy to do anything else."
Actually, memory tells me it had nothing to do with laziness. The fact was that there was always something more appealing and exciting to do than cleave splits or bring in wood, like explore the beach out beyond the point to see if the waves washed up anything interesting last night. Or go hunting with my bow and arrow. Or go troutin' up the brook.
Whatever, if it was laziness, I outgrew it in my adult life because I rarely stopped. Sort of got slowed down a bit about 10 years ago, but that was only temporary. Always thought of myself as a pretty busy fellow, but last week I had to stop and think about it.
It happened in Western Memorial Hospital in beautiful downtown Corner Brook, where I was a guest for eight days. My core problem, in case some of you are getting really concerned about my health, is a sleep disorder. Not that serious in itself, but it throws a monkey wrench in your day when you're falling asleep every 10 minutes.
This is especially noticeable during church. I've given ministers terrible inferiority complexes because I can't stay awake long enough to listen to a sermon. Actually, looking around the congregation, I've discovered I'm not the only one with a sleep disorder during the sermon.
It's not a great problem to have when they're taking up the collection, either. The usher is standing by the end of your pew with his hand out and a collection plate attached to it, and I'm blissfully unaware anyone's there. I expect any Sunday to hear our minister call out, "For Heaven's sake, Ed, wake up and put something in the plate!"
It probably isn't that bad, but friends will tell you that I can drop without a moment's notice, like a rock off the stagehead. That's why I was in hospital. The final diagnosis was eerily reminiscent of my grandmother's words stated so strongly so long ago.
The problem, they said after doing an EEG, is that while I'm sleeping, every 10 breaths or so my brain decides I don't really need that next breath and chooses not to take it. It's a kind of sleep apnea. Other Half characteristically summed it up.
"What you obviously have," she said, "is a lazy brain."
The doctor didn't disagree. He said we needed something to remind the lungs to keep breathing.
"Like a brain pacemaker," I said, and instantly regretted it. Doesn't pay to be putting ideas in doctor's minds.
I've heard of everything from lazy eyes to lazy limbs to lazy muscles. But this is the first time I've heard of a lazy brain, and I'm fortunate enough to be the one to have it. If there are others out there with this same condition, perhaps we can form a support group.
A couple of years ago, I was sent for a CAT scan of my brain. You know, same as they're always dissecting and examining the brain of Einstein. I know there's a similarity there somewhere.
Anyway, this doctor did the scan and then told me to wait while he examined the results. A little while later, out he came looking quite serious. A long moment passed … a long, long moment. Then he looked me in the eye and said, "Your brain is shrinking."
I thought I handled the situation fairly well. Didn't faint away or anything. Finally, I got my voice up past the lump in my throat, which I think was my heart.
"How long has that been going on?"
"A long time," he said.
"What causes it?"
"Age," he said, matter-of-factly. "Happens to everybody as they age."
I'm not letting anyone else fool around with my brain. It's too hard on the heart.
After eight days in Western Memorial, we came to the conclusion that my problem wasn't anything any of us thought it was, which I guess is something. I got a new machine to try during the night - which is twice the cost of the old one, so someone gained.
Hospitals are not fun places to be, even when one isn't really ill. This is especially true for people with quadriplegia. We're labour-intensive and each one unique in his or her personal needs. People don't always understand that.
Nurses, by their own admission, aren't usually trained in the care and feeding of such animals. So, we're always conscious of the fact that we do take inordinate amounts of time compared with many others, and try hard not to respond when we see signs of resentment.
Even so, most nurses cheerfully do their best to cope. With that in mind, I'd like to thank the nurses of Western Memorial for their care, especially those who didn't feel that I was an unjustified drain on their human resources, and especially those who went out of their way to make Other Half feel comfortable in suggesting things which she's learned over 11 years of caring for me. We really appreciated that.
As for those delightful and lovely people who kept me laughing and entertained, even as they cared for me, bless you! I wanted to bring them back to Springdale, but OH wouldn't let me have even one.
If this new machine doesn't work, I'm going to my minister and asking just one question. I'd have asked it before but I'm afraid of the answer.
How does one go about getting the sleep of the just?

Ed Smith lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is

Organizations: Western Memorial Hospital, CAT

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Springdale

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Recent comments

  • robert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    I'm a writer. I write for the Beacon. My column, too foolish to talk about, is popular in my area but I will never be able to match the great Ed Smith. He is the greatest of all Newfoundland writers. this column, being lazy proves that

  • robert
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    I'm a writer. I write for the Beacon. My column, too foolish to talk about, is popular in my area but I will never be able to match the great Ed Smith. He is the greatest of all Newfoundland writers. this column, being lazy proves that