Disclaimer: This post is NOT about the effects of orange juice on sleep. If you are looking for information on that particular topic, look elsewhere on the internet 😉
A year or so ago, I was at a professional conference held at a beautiful property in Georgia. By coincidence, my snowbird parents called me and told me that they would be driving through that very town on their way back to Michigan from Florida. They proposed coming into town in time for dinner, staying overnight with me, and then going on their way. Sounded great. I wanted to see them, and my “room” was huge-it was actually 2 rooms, one with a sleeping area with separate door, and another with a pull-out sofa and sitting area. Bear with me, you will see why I am telling you about the floor plan in a minute.
We had a very nice dinner and then after walking and talking a bit, we went to sleep (being a dutiful daughter, I gave my folks the sleeping area and slept on the couch). Despite the not so great sofabed mattress, I fell asleep easily. Now, I am a pretty sound sleeper, but at about 2 AM, I woke up with a start. There was a friggin’ party going on in that sleeping area. The noise literally rattled the thin door between the rooms: bangs, laughing, doors opening and closing, toilets flushing, drinks being poured, more laughing. What the what?!? After about 20 minutes of this nonsense, I yelled, “What the hell are you guys doing in there?”. More laughing. “It’s our middle of the night routine!” my mom said. Added my dad, “We do this every night!”. Finally, those two mynah birds quieted down and I got back to sleep.
The next morning, I felt like I had been drugged. But my parents were like larks (another bird metaphor, yes), chirping, alert and ready to start the day. I interrogated them more about their “middle of the night routine”. They explained that with age, they both have to go in the bathroom in the middle of the night, after they take turns doing that, then they are thirsty and they both like to have some orange juice. They like to talk to each other while they drink their OJ. This usually goes on for about ½ an hour and then they are able to fall back to sleep. Rather than fighting the changes that aging has brought, they said they had decided to just work around them and actually enjoy that time together. After they left later that morning, I went back to the conference (and had some coffee). My irritation dissipated a bit as I told my colleagues about my parents “party”, and they thought it was hilarious.
Seeing the humor in life’s irritations is a good thing. While I am not yet a caregiver for my parents, as part of my job, I work with those who are. Caregiving is one of life’s toughest endeavors, one you are drafted into, typically with no formal training and at significant personal and financial cost. In a study I am conducting, we are doing focus groups with family caregivers for people with dementia. In asking them how they cope, one common denominator is humor. Rather than fighting for things to be the way they were, accepting things as they are and being able to laugh at them, gets them through it. If and when my time comes to be in that role with my parents, I hope that I am able to do so with grace and a lot of laughter (and some orange juice).