We had been talking lazily about going to bed when my husband mentioned that he noticed he needed more sleep.
It was about 15 years ago, and he and I were sitting on the edge of the pool at a clothing optional resort in Palm Springs, California. The moon was about a whisper away from full, and on the ground in front of us our shadows, their heads bent in conversation, were clearly etched in its glow.
“Parkinson’s disease takes its toll on my sleep,” he said, almost by way of apology for ending the evening before even he wanted to. He remarked that he could no longer deny that he needed at least 10 hours of sleep a night—and even so could still nap during the day.
“Maybe it’s because of the mental effort it takes to keep moving.”
He didn’t really know and he commented about the days not too long before when five to six hours of sleep a night were enough.
“I guess those days are gone,” he mused and for some strange reason began to remember aloud a time when he had just graduated from college that he’d been in a rollover car accident. When the vehicle finally came to a stop at the bottom of an embankment he’d found himself hanging upside down in his seat belt.
“I was more surprised to be alive than anything.”
When it was over, and the wheels stopped spinning, he’d merely unhooked the belt, climbed out the car window, and walked away from the scene.
The next morning he had a black eye.
“I could’ve died then,” he told me quietly, “but I didn’t. I can’t complain because I have Parkinson’s Disease now.”
I sat on the edge of the pool beside him as his voice wafted in and out amidst the breezes. It seemed he wasn’t really telling his story to me so much as he was telling it to himself. I just happened to be there as he dug deep for the essence of the memory—for its purpose.
He looked up at the moon.
“I’m grateful to be alive,” he finally sighed. “I’m grateful to be alive.”
I looked up too, the song “Starry, Starry Night” coming into my mind just as my husband raised a slightly trembling finger and pointed it skyward.
“Look, darlin’,” he said. “The moon is in Scorpio.”
I felt a swell of emotion, my heart responding to plainspoken words, to walking away from rollover car accidents with only a black eye and to this man who translated the heavens to me.
In that moment under that moon, as I sat beside a pool with nothing more than a sarong wrapped around me, the man I was married to gave me the enormous gift of appreciation.
He practically wrapped it in moonlight and sat it down before me, it was that clear of a gift.
He sat there beside me, his back hurting, his arms weakened and trembling, his entire body dealing with the effects of a life-altering neurological condition, and what was he saying?
“I’m grateful to be alive.”
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Toby Israel