Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mary's Mattress (And Other Bedtime Stories)

I've been having some trouble sleeping lately.  Dozing off isn't the problem,  but all night long I dream crazy dreams and wake up tired.  Actually, it's not that I mind the dreams so much:  Queen Elizabeth and her entourage recently showed up for church, Denzel and Pauletta Washington came for dinner one night and Howie Mandel helped put extensions in my hair.  I've been meeting some pretty interesting people as of late!  But I'm also waking up with an ache in my lower back, not fun, and that makes the mattress suspect.  Periodically we flip it over, and this last time I got stuck with a pretty large indentation on my side from Larry's two-hundred pound body.  When I strip off the sheets in a couple of days, we'll turn it in another direction to see if that helps.

I've always liked a firm bed, in part because I like my space when I sleep.  We have a king;  I don't want anybody else's body heat as I generate enough of my own.  And I'm not a snuggler,  I occasionally will give Larry two or three minutes to make him happy or to get my feet warm, but then I'm back to my edge.  And as far as I'm concerned, there's nothing worse than meeting your spouse in the middle of a bed because of a sagging mattress.  I would rather that be of my own prerogative. 

When we were first married,  Larry's folks had the guest room right next to theirs.  It held a metal-framed bed with an old mattress that sunk in the middle.  Whenever we visited, I did everything I could to stay out of the center and get to the edge.  But not only was it quite uncomfortable,  it squeaked.  Terribly.  I never slept well in that bed.  Either I was trying to crawl out of the abyss in the middle or waking up every time a slight movement caused the frame to creak.   And being the newlywed I was,  it was a bit awkward sleeping in that noisy bed with the in-laws on the other side of the wall.  Sigh.  I was never quite sure what they thought and was too embarrassed to ask.   

When we packed our barrels for Central America, we enclosed a water bed mattress.  We thought it'd be easier and possibly less expensive than tracking down a large mattress set when we got there.  So shortly after we arrived in Honduras, we had a frame built and filled up the large bladder-like thing with water.  We loved it, using it the entire six years we lived there.  The only problem was that when we had to lift the bed for any reason at all, it was a pain to move and lots of work.

The first time was one afternoon when the kids were in school and Autumn was taking her afternoon nap.  I had spent two or three hours working in the kitchen when I heard her stirring in her crib.  As I walked into the bedroom to get her up, I was met by several inches of water creeping up the walls and the sound of water pouring out of the sink that sat outside our bathroom door.  I had been washing brushes and had carelessly forgotten to turn the water off when the kids had left for their afternoon classes.  Larry arrived home not too long afterwards to find Autumn happily scooting down the river in the hallway in her walker while I tried to mop up what I could   The hardest part was emptying the mattress so that the frame could be raised to dry out.   But all in all,  the bed worked well for us during our years in Central America.  And when it was emptied, the kids never tired of rolling over it to squeeze out the excess water, or when it was filled, to roll over it to get the bubbles out.

Hanging out with the kids on the waterbed in Honduras

We liked the water bed so much as a matter of fact that we went back to using one after returning to the States.  But after Larry was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, it became increasingly difficult for him to get out of the low-framed bed.  He needed something much higher and firmer.  So we gave the bed away and went back to what we now have, a large king-sized set of the regular variety, though with a nice soft pillow top.  Which unfortunately is beginning to settle.

That does, however, remind me of one more mattress.   Back in the Seventies,  Gene Barrett was a pastor, a late-night host on a Christian radio station out of Buffalo and chaplain to the Buffalo Bills. He was also a good friend.  We had worked together at Circle C Ranch in Western New York, and after I became engaged,  I asked if he would officiate at my wedding,  which he did.  His wife Mary had been ill for several years and was bed-ridden.  But while sick, rather than simply wait to die, she ministered to people from her bed, encouraging and praying for them over the telephone.  A few months after we married we got the news that she was gone.  When we arrived at our first pastorate in Bradford County, we had no furniture except for a dining room table sans chairs.  Gene contacted us, asking if we could use Mary's bed, mattress included.  Those first couple of years in Pennsylvania we slept in that bed, on that mattress with the slope in the center where Mary had lain.  And prayed.  And encouraged.  And for some reason, I always slept just fine.
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