Sleepwalking in St. John’s

sleepwalking_0“So, Burton,” a friend said, “you believe God can do anything, right?”

“I do.”

“Well, I know something he can’t do.”

“What’s that?”

“He can’t grab a baldheaded man by the hair of his head!”

How do you argue with such “logic”? I’m convinced my friend was making a none-too-subtle dig at my baldpate, while he sported a head of bushy hair.

During my heady days at university in the early 1970s, I minored in Philosophy, or the love of wisdom. Questions that facilely made the rounds of our classroom included: How many angels can dance on the pin of a needle? Can God create two adjacent hills with no valley in between? If a tree falls in a forest and there’s nobody present, does it make a sound? Can God create a rock too big for him to move?

We were told that such questions are illogical, and that if we accept the existence of God, then he is Logic Personified.

I no longer dwell on such imponderables. However, I still have an insatiable desire for knowledge. Some of my questions today are along the lines of, to cite the title of a book in my personal library, Why Can’t You Tickle Yourself? And Other Bodily Curiosities. I’m mesmerized by questions pertaining to backaches, blinking, frowning, “funny bone,” headaches, itching, sneezing, snoring, stomach rumbling, wrinkling, yawning… Why do we do certain things?

Specifically, I wonder about sleepwalking. I have an intellectual curiosity, but also a vested interest. I need to know why one walks in one’s sleep.

Following our marriage, I decided against telling Sherry that I was given to sleepwalking. I shared with her many of my idiosyncracies, but I thought it best for her to learn about this one all on her own. Plus, most of my sleepwalking experiences to date had been fairly innocuous. If and when I did take a trek in my sleep, it was for a brief stint, after which I awoke and returned to the marriage bed.

I now know, according to the aforementioned book, that “the sleeper has not passed smoothly out of the deep, slow-wave stage of sleep.” Many sleepwalkers do nothing more than sit up in bed and stare glassily into space for a few seconds. Others may walk around for up to half an hour.

At the time, we lived in a three-storey townhouse in St. John’s, not far from the Avalon Mall. One day I pieced together what had happened the night before.

Our bedroom was on the top floor. I got out of bed and, in the dark, walked across the room, turned the doorhandle, maneuvered the landing, and went downstairs. The front door leading outside was directly ahead of me. If I took a right turn, I would be in the hallway, leading to the kitchen, livingroom, and basement door. Whether or not I stood at the bottom of the stairs and deliberated about which direction to take, I will never know. However, I do know what I did next.

Leaving the last step, I walked the half dozen feet to the front door. I reached out and grasped the doorknob. The sudden stab of cold must have been the awakening factor, because when I roused from my stupour, I was standing in my briefs, gripping the handle.

It took a few moments before the realization of where I was and what I had done set in. Then, smiling benignly, I wended my way back upstairs and rejoined my wife, who was lying in state, sleeping peacefully.

The next day, I regaled Sherry with my sleepwalking adventure. The practical one in our relationship, she proceeded to put forward a rather unsettling scenario. A smile spread across her face.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“I can see the newspaper article now, along with your picture. The caption would probably read, ‘Local Minister Sleepwalking in Briefs Near Avalon Mall!’ “

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