Thursday, November 10, 2011

Confessions of a Catholic Insomniac

Yesterday was a really excellent day, so excellent that I never had a nap, which in my life these days is almost, like, de rigeur.

I not only survived religious education class, but it was actually a really good one. I finally figured out that the only way to control a class of 20 fourth-graders, including 15 energetic boys, is to keep the boys separated, which amounts to putting each boy in his own corner of the room. Our classroom is rectangular, so this problem in higher geometry took me 25 minutes to work out, but I arrived 30 minutes early and did my best. I kept running out of girls to buffer the boys, but eventually I had a seating plan I thought would work, and when the class came in, each child had a name tag on her or (in most cases) his desk.

No one complained except “Jimmy,” a boy who is growing on me for proving as bright as he is boisterous. Jimmy absolutely, positively did not want to be in the back row and he let me know it. I told him to have patience, a personal skill Jimmy, age 10, has not yet acquired. He compensated by raising his hand in response to—every—single—question.

At the end of the class, Jimmy amazed me, his classmates, and even himself by correctly naming the current Pope, after someone else had suggested “ . . . Obama?” When I told him that “Bendick” was the right answer, Jimmy stretched his arms over his head, broke into a huge grin, and shouted, “I am on fire, today!”

Yes, the class was that good.

Then other really good stuff happened.

Did I tell you that my friend Matt volunteered to accompany me on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs, the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal, and the shrine at St. Anne de Beaupré north of Quebec City? Yes, I did.

So when 9 pm approached, I could not keep my eyes open over the long, tortured middle section of Book 2 in Sigrid Undset’s Master of Hestviken, in which Ingunn, a failed suicide and lifeless wraith after putting her only (bastard) child up for adoption then miscarrying four (in-wedlock) preganancies is now all happy and maternal and googly because she has reclaimed her (bastard) child from the adoptive mother and given birth to her first (in-wedlock) son, while her husband, Olav, is ready to kill someone. Did I say that Olav has issues?

So I took Ingunn and Olav to bed with me, figuratively speaking, and fell asleep gripping my chotki while forgetting the Jesus Prayer on almost every woolen bead. I was beat.

The consequence of all this was waking up at 2am and feeling like an 8-year-old on Christmas morning. The problem with the consequence is knowing that if I proceeded without further sleep into the next long, involved day on my schedule (aka today) I would feel by about 9:30 am like an 18-year-old on the morning after the senior prom complete with keg in stretch limo.

So I clutched my chotki, began reciting the Jesus Prayer, and — It was no use.

My next remedy for insomnia, after the chotki, is usually my Kindle, which I can read by its own light without waking up Katie by my side. I remembered that my daughter Marian, the famous blogger, had just named the next book in our father-daughter book club and that I had downloaded it to my Kindle the previous evening. I ran downstairs, had a generous snack, grabbed the Kindle (iPad with Kindle app actually), and climbed back into bed, this time without Ingunn and Olav.

The new book is also by Jonathan Safran Foer, although Marian assured me that it is not about Eating Animals, the first book in the history of the father-daughter book club, also by Jonathan Safran Foer. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close begins with a tour de force of writing, a chapter that had me laughing and giggling almost continually until about page 9 when I realized what the John was going on and I ended with jaw on pillow in a total soul gasp.

I wrote Marian an e-mail at 3:07 am:

Subject: OMG
Just finished first chapter. I will never write again......

I was somehow calmer after finishing that chapter, so I put the Kindle down and repositioned my chotki for prayer. I know I did not fall asleep again before 4:16, the last time I glimpsed my digital clock. The next thing I knew I was waking up laughing hysterically over a dream.

Let me tell you about my dream.

First I was sitting in my Cadillac convertible (I do not have a Cadillac convertible) looking at a castle in the distance and wondering why I couldn’t fall asleep. Next I was inside some huge office complex, where I found myself at a book launch party. (I did use to be a publisher.) I was sitting on the edge of a table when two men in business suits, obviously a gay couple (you know this stuff in dreams), came over and started hitting on me. The fat one sat in my lap. I told him to get the hell off my lap. Then I went outside.

There I found my friend Brian (aka Bill the Seminarian) on the boardwalk with a boombox. The music was some really cool, syncopated hip-hop thing, the kind of music Brian knows cold and I just like. I started dancing to the music, with moves that, believe me, this 60-year-old body does not have, the sort of moves you see from 12-year-old black kids on sidewalks, spinning on their backs and heads. Brian looked at me, like, what the John?

I just laughed and woke up laughing, so loud that Katie woke up and asked what I was laughing about.

It’s a great day to be Catholic.

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