Sleeping with Darth Vader

Years ago, my mother had one of those old hair dryers that came in a hard plastic case with three golden buckles along the sides.  On the days Mom set her hair, she’d call for one of us to get that case and open it up.  She’d remove the plastic cap which she’d fit over her curlers before drawing it tightly around her head until only the thick pink curler pins pressing against her forehead showed beneath the elastic.  Curled around the motor of the dryer was a clear flexible hose; really just a piece of soft plastic supported by a long wire that curled along the inside.  Mom would plug the hose into the cap and sit there beneath the blast of hot air while her hair dried.  My sisters and I would gather round, our curiosity piqued by this regimen of beauty, holding our unpolished fingernails above the piece labeled nail dryer—the circular disk on top of the motor through which cool air shot out.  One winter day, we used that dryer to encourage the flames in the fireplace, thus melting a hole into the hose.  The plastic hardened and turned black and the air from the dryer would no longer make it all the way to the plastic cap.

* * *
“You need braces,” the hygienist said to me a couple of weeks ago.
“maired.”
“What’s that?” The hygienist picked up the plastic tube, curled around my lower lip.  “Close.”
I did and the little tube vacuumed up all the toothpaste and spit from my mouth. 
“What was that you said?”
“I don’t need braces.  I’m married.”  I laughed a little.  Who the hell was this woman? 
She shook her head.  “Doesn’t matter.  You have to keep up your appearances.”
I wanted to tell her that losing my muffin top would go a long way towards keeping up my appearances, but she revved up her toothbrush.  “Open.”  And she hung the plastic vacuum tube from my lower lip again.
“Watch out for that new hygienist,” I told my husband that night.  His appointment was for the following morning.  “She’s going to try to get you in braces.”
And she did.  And without my husband’s permission, the dentist put in an estimate for a mouth guard.  Seems that—like me—my husband grinds his teeth at night.
When he first saw it ten years ago, my husband laughed at my mouth guard: a hard piece of plastic that fits over my top teeth and keeps away the nightmares that all of my teeth are crumbling away to bits.  I couldn’t talk with my mouth guard.  It was ugly and made my upper lip protrude.
“Well, that’s attractive,” my husband said as I fitted it into my mouth the first night.
* * *
To say that my husband snores is a gross understatement.  My husband will snore the wallpaper off the walls, the paint off the ceiling, the hair from my arms.  And when the curtains blew out of our windows on the 4th of July, he blamed the fireworks.  But I knew the truth.
For seventeen years, I told my husband about his snoring, telling him he really ought to see a doctor.  But he always scoffed at me.  “I’m fine.”
So, I did what every good wife would do in this situation.  I told on him.  I told his mother.
And a week later, he went to the doctor.
He was scheduled for a sleep study where he would spend the night hooked up to all kinds of wires and gizmos and gadgets and watched all night by a technician.  When he woke, several hundred dollars later, he was told something that I’d been telling him for the entire span of our marriage: My husband has sleep apnea.
Now anyone who knows anything about me knows that I’ll look for a non-medical alternative before seeking a doctor’s help.  I Googled sleep apnea.
“You know, you could learn to play the didgeridoo.”
My husband laughed. 
He had a point.  He’s less than musical and with the amount of traveling he does, I’m not sure a 10 foot long instrument would be the best solution.
He was fitted with a sleep machine—a mysterious electronic device that pumped air through a long hose into a mask covering both the nose and the mouth and attached to the face via all kinds of attractive straps and buckles.  Looking at it, I’ve often wondered whether the manufacturer merely took my mother’s old dryer and repositioned it as a sleep device, without the fancy cap, of course.
He brought it home and tried it on.  The plastic tube hung to his waist.  “Great,” he said.  “I look like an elephant now.”
He plugged it in.  “Night.”
I popped in my mouth guard.  “Night.”
But we quickly discovered his mask leaked, a situation commonly known to apnea sufferers everywhere—and their spouses—as “mask farts.”  Every inhalation was accompanied by a high-pitched squeal that could be heard from anywhere in the house and perhaps outside as well.
The doctor adjusted the pressure on the mask.  He tightened the straps. 
The mask whooshed constantly.  I found I was sleeping with Darth Vader.  Or, rather that I wasn’t sleeping with Darth Vader. 
The doctor handed my husband a twenty dollar piece of felt—invented by one of his patients, he proudly declared—which fit over the nose and mouth and cut down on the whooshing.  Again, we tightened the straps. 
Finally, after months of adjustments, all was quiet.
Finally, we could sleep.
“That looks horrible,” the doctor said to my husband at his last appointment.  “You’re going to need plastic surgery.”  He studied the cut on my husband’s nose—a cut resulting from the tightness of the mask.  The doctor ordered a new mask, a better mask, a mask that was worn over just the nose.  “It’s going to be harder to talk now,” the doctor cautioned, handing my husband a bill for two hundred dollars.
My husband put on the mask.  He spoke alliteratively as he could no longer pronounce most letters.    There were long pauses between his words as he forced them out against the current of the air rushing into his nostrils.  “Dite.”  Pause.  “Dove.”  Pause.  “Doo.”  Pause.  “Don.”  
“Love you, too, Darth.” 
Darth was back, in full force.  The only way to get a decent night of sleep was to fall asleep before my husband plugged in or to sigh loudly so that he would remove the mask.  Even his snoring was better than this.
“I’ll put some felt in, like the doctor did.”  But all we could find was gauze, which we folded and cut in a rough approximation of the doctor’s twenty dollar fix. 
“Dite.  Done.”
I slipped in my mouth guard.  “Night.”
Within three minutes the gauze started fluttering around his mask.  My husband snorted.  He coughed.
“Maybe you should take that gauze out.”
He barked out a laugh.  “Deah.”  Pause.  “Die.”  Pause.  “Dite.”  Pause.  “Die.”
I’m not sure if he inhaled the gauze or if he removed it but two seconds later, he started whooshing again. 
This whooshing is like driving down the highway with one window partway open and the air pressure inside the car unbalanced.  This whooshing is like a tea kettle about ready to boil.  This whooshing is like a radio tuned to static and playing full blast.  This whooshing makes you want to take action.  To do something.  But there’s nothing to do except poke my husband and hope that he readjusts his mask.
And as I lay there, listening to the whooshing and the farting of my husband’s mask, I found myself wondering how this could possibly be called a solution to my husband’s sleep issues, any more than braces would be a solution to my appearance. 
Perhaps in the morning, I will order a didgeridoo.  And then I will set my hair in tight curlers and fit a shower cap over my head and plug it into my husband’s sleep machine.
I do need to keep up appearances, after all.

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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Sleeping with Darth Vader

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sleeping with Darth Vader

Years ago, my mother had one of those old hair dryers that came in a hard plastic case with three golden buckles along the sides.  On the days Mom set her hair, she’d call for one of us to get that case and open it up.  She’d remove the plastic cap which she’d fit over her curlers before drawing it tightly around her head until only the thick pink curler pins pressing against her forehead showed beneath the elastic.  Curled around the motor of the dryer was a clear flexible hose; really just a piece of soft plastic supported by a long wire that curled along the inside.  Mom would plug the hose into the cap and sit there beneath the blast of hot air while her hair dried.  My sisters and I would gather round, our curiosity piqued by this regimen of beauty, holding our unpolished fingernails above the piece labeled nail dryer—the circular disk on top of the motor through which cool air shot out.  One winter day, we used that dryer to encourage the flames in the fireplace, thus melting a hole into the hose.  The plastic hardened and turned black and the air from the dryer would no longer make it all the way to the plastic cap.

* * *
“You need braces,” the hygienist said to me a couple of weeks ago.
“maired.”
“What’s that?” The hygienist picked up the plastic tube, curled around my lower lip.  “Close.”
I did and the little tube vacuumed up all the toothpaste and spit from my mouth. 
“What was that you said?”
“I don’t need braces.  I’m married.”  I laughed a little.  Who the hell was this woman? 
She shook her head.  “Doesn’t matter.  You have to keep up your appearances.”
I wanted to tell her that losing my muffin top would go a long way towards keeping up my appearances, but she revved up her toothbrush.  “Open.”  And she hung the plastic vacuum tube from my lower lip again.
“Watch out for that new hygienist,” I told my husband that night.  His appointment was for the following morning.  “She’s going to try to get you in braces.”
And she did.  And without my husband’s permission, the dentist put in an estimate for a mouth guard.  Seems that—like me—my husband grinds his teeth at night.
When he first saw it ten years ago, my husband laughed at my mouth guard: a hard piece of plastic that fits over my top teeth and keeps away the nightmares that all of my teeth are crumbling away to bits.  I couldn’t talk with my mouth guard.  It was ugly and made my upper lip protrude.
“Well, that’s attractive,” my husband said as I fitted it into my mouth the first night.
* * *
To say that my husband snores is a gross understatement.  My husband will snore the wallpaper off the walls, the paint off the ceiling, the hair from my arms.  And when the curtains blew out of our windows on the 4th of July, he blamed the fireworks.  But I knew the truth.
For seventeen years, I told my husband about his snoring, telling him he really ought to see a doctor.  But he always scoffed at me.  “I’m fine.”
So, I did what every good wife would do in this situation.  I told on him.  I told his mother.
And a week later, he went to the doctor.
He was scheduled for a sleep study where he would spend the night hooked up to all kinds of wires and gizmos and gadgets and watched all night by a technician.  When he woke, several hundred dollars later, he was told something that I’d been telling him for the entire span of our marriage: My husband has sleep apnea.
Now anyone who knows anything about me knows that I’ll look for a non-medical alternative before seeking a doctor’s help.  I Googled sleep apnea.
“You know, you could learn to play the didgeridoo.”
My husband laughed. 
He had a point.  He’s less than musical and with the amount of traveling he does, I’m not sure a 10 foot long instrument would be the best solution.
He was fitted with a sleep machine—a mysterious electronic device that pumped air through a long hose into a mask covering both the nose and the mouth and attached to the face via all kinds of attractive straps and buckles.  Looking at it, I’ve often wondered whether the manufacturer merely took my mother’s old dryer and repositioned it as a sleep device, without the fancy cap, of course.
He brought it home and tried it on.  The plastic tube hung to his waist.  “Great,” he said.  “I look like an elephant now.”
He plugged it in.  “Night.”
I popped in my mouth guard.  “Night.”
But we quickly discovered his mask leaked, a situation commonly known to apnea sufferers everywhere—and their spouses—as “mask farts.”  Every inhalation was accompanied by a high-pitched squeal that could be heard from anywhere in the house and perhaps outside as well.
The doctor adjusted the pressure on the mask.  He tightened the straps. 
The mask whooshed constantly.  I found I was sleeping with Darth Vader.  Or, rather that I wasn’t sleeping with Darth Vader. 
The doctor handed my husband a twenty dollar piece of felt—invented by one of his patients, he proudly declared—which fit over the nose and mouth and cut down on the whooshing.  Again, we tightened the straps. 
Finally, after months of adjustments, all was quiet.
Finally, we could sleep.
“That looks horrible,” the doctor said to my husband at his last appointment.  “You’re going to need plastic surgery.”  He studied the cut on my husband’s nose—a cut resulting from the tightness of the mask.  The doctor ordered a new mask, a better mask, a mask that was worn over just the nose.  “It’s going to be harder to talk now,” the doctor cautioned, handing my husband a bill for two hundred dollars.
My husband put on the mask.  He spoke alliteratively as he could no longer pronounce most letters.    There were long pauses between his words as he forced them out against the current of the air rushing into his nostrils.  “Dite.”  Pause.  “Dove.”  Pause.  “Doo.”  Pause.  “Don.”  
“Love you, too, Darth.” 
Darth was back, in full force.  The only way to get a decent night of sleep was to fall asleep before my husband plugged in or to sigh loudly so that he would remove the mask.  Even his snoring was better than this.
“I’ll put some felt in, like the doctor did.”  But all we could find was gauze, which we folded and cut in a rough approximation of the doctor’s twenty dollar fix. 
“Dite.  Done.”
I slipped in my mouth guard.  “Night.”
Within three minutes the gauze started fluttering around his mask.  My husband snorted.  He coughed.
“Maybe you should take that gauze out.”
He barked out a laugh.  “Deah.”  Pause.  “Die.”  Pause.  “Dite.”  Pause.  “Die.”
I’m not sure if he inhaled the gauze or if he removed it but two seconds later, he started whooshing again. 
This whooshing is like driving down the highway with one window partway open and the air pressure inside the car unbalanced.  This whooshing is like a tea kettle about ready to boil.  This whooshing is like a radio tuned to static and playing full blast.  This whooshing makes you want to take action.  To do something.  But there’s nothing to do except poke my husband and hope that he readjusts his mask.
And as I lay there, listening to the whooshing and the farting of my husband’s mask, I found myself wondering how this could possibly be called a solution to my husband’s sleep issues, any more than braces would be a solution to my appearance. 
Perhaps in the morning, I will order a didgeridoo.  And then I will set my hair in tight curlers and fit a shower cap over my head and plug it into my husband’s sleep machine.
I do need to keep up appearances, after all.

Labels: , , , ,

26 Comments:

At July 12, 2011 at 2:03 PM , Anonymous Terry Stoufer said...

I have not thought of my mother's hairdryer in many, many years. And you brought me back. I can even smell that air that would come out of it. You have such clear, vivid memories.
And I love the stories of your experiences of sleeping with Darth. Quite comical!

 
At July 12, 2011 at 2:32 PM , Anonymous jaum said...

You shouls write for these reality programs.... Not the script all of us would choose for our selves but REAL!... and that's what I liked best in this blog.... no fairy tales here, no holltywood ending, but the little annoying things in all our lives... you make it funny and if you can laugh at it... it ain't all that bad.

 
At July 12, 2011 at 3:19 PM , Anonymous Thelma Zirkelbach said...

Love it.

 
At July 12, 2011 at 4:10 PM , Anonymous Cheryl P. said...

I hadn't thought of those old fashioned hair dryers in years.

The sleep machine sounds as bad if not worse than the snoring as far as you being able to get some rest. My dad had terrible sleep apnea and I know that it does cause not only the snoring but the missed breaths are a more than disconcerting.

It's great that you approach all of that with a sense of humor.

 
At July 12, 2011 at 10:50 PM , Anonymous Songbyrd1958 said...

Oh, my word! Laughing while shaking my head. My mother and sister had the same hair dryer.It might have melted at some point also. I wear a night guard and it's very attractive. (not) My husband snores and was sent to the sleep lab and fitted with a Cpap machine which give him such claustrophobic attacks that he would rip it off in the middle of the night and fling it across the room. come to think of it, I did that with my mouth guard the first few weeks I wore it. anyway, the sleep apnea is very mild for my husband. the snoring not so much. we're managing. dat dite.

 
At July 13, 2011 at 5:25 AM , Anonymous Coming East said...

I was wondering how you were going to tie all those stories together. You did a great job! I have to laugh, though, reading your story and the comments about their mother's hair dryers. Not only my mother, but I had one of those hair dryers as well! I'm older than I think! What a story, my poor sleep-deprived blogging friend!

 
At July 13, 2011 at 7:14 AM , Anonymous Amber said...

I love this. I have a hubs that snores so badly he is sleeping in another room now. Interesting to know that the "darth vader" route is even noisier. :)

 
At July 13, 2011 at 7:35 AM , Anonymous Ms Ixy said...

Haha! When my husband snores, I kick him until he stops. It has crossed my mind that it could be much worse, which you have aptly described. And I've called my husband's mother too when he wouldn't listen to me about an important health issue. I felt stupid, but it worked...he went to his appointment that afternoon.

 
At July 13, 2011 at 11:00 AM , Anonymous Dr Tanenbaum said...

Ha! Have you tried any other sleep apnea treatments? I'm a TMJ and Sleep Apnea Specialist in NYC and I just blogged about snoring and sleep apnea. I included some other treatment options, check it out and I hope it helps! http://www.tanenbaumtmj.com/blog/2011/07/13/snoring-and-sleep-apnea-treatment/

 
At July 13, 2011 at 8:30 PM , Anonymous Meg Chuprevich said...

Loved this, such wonderful interconnected stories. Added your blog to my google reader, look forward reading about your future adventures:)

 
At July 14, 2011 at 6:24 AM , Anonymous cassie said...

I hate the dentist. This makes me feel so much better about it. And I love the anecdote in the beginning about your mothers hair accessories. :)

 
At July 14, 2011 at 8:17 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I find it interesting that my dentist looks in my mouth for a total of sixty seconds after the hygenist does all the work and then charges me sixty dollars for an oral exam. Of course the cleaning and the x-rays are additional. I'd love to make sixty dollars a minute.

 
At July 14, 2011 at 8:17 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Meg!

 
At July 14, 2011 at 8:18 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Glad I'm not the only one having to resort to tattling...

 
At July 14, 2011 at 8:19 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

It's funny - After I wrote this, I discovered that a lot of apnea sufferers also describe this situation as a Darth Vador syndrome. You'd think there'd be a more silent solution.

 
At July 14, 2011 at 8:20 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Ha! Yes, I was wondering as well. I scratched that out in the middle of the night as Darth farted and whooshed beside me and all of a sudden, looking at his machine, the image of that dryer popped into my head. I'd completely forgotten about that thing.

 
At July 14, 2011 at 8:20 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Glad you're managing and thanks for reading!

 
At July 14, 2011 at 8:21 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Cheryl. It is funny except when you're trying to get some sleep!

 
At July 14, 2011 at 8:21 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading!

 
At July 14, 2011 at 8:22 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

No fairy tales here! But we're hoping to go to the fabric store today to get some felt...I'll let you know how that works out.

 
At July 14, 2011 at 8:22 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Terry!

 
At July 18, 2011 at 9:54 AM , Anonymous Katie687 said...

Oh my gosh. I laughed so hard, I had to look around to see if anyone was listening to me. I had forgotten mom's hair dryer and the subsequent melting, but when I read this entry, I totally remember that day. BTW - I have a friend that uses a C-pap machine. I recently went an a trip to Nashville and we shared a room. Her machine was not noisy at all, in fact, I did not even hear it. She said that there are models that work better, but insurance companies don't want to pay for them. She was persistant and got want she needed and the insurance company eventually did pay for it. I will get the info to you.

 
At July 18, 2011 at 12:01 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

We'd love that information--well, I would anyway. I'll check with Darth.

 
At July 15, 2012 at 6:56 AM , Anonymous Energywriter said...

So funny - each segment. You've got this humor thing down pat.
I remember those hair dryers. So awful! My dad, the Marquis de Sade, took a picture of me wearing one, in my pjs and stuffig popcorn in my face. He believed in "candid" shots.
I'm supposed to get my mouth guard next week. Thanks for the warning. I like to eat a bit of chocolate before I fade into dreamland. I guess this means I'll have to eat the chocolate before I retire then brush teeth so I don't gunk up the guard.
Darth Vader, what a story! Will all your future posts refer to hubby as Darth?

 
At January 30, 2013 at 5:57 PM , OpenID Winopants said...

Hilarious. Mask farts? ahahaha.
The image of you two going to bed together with your less-than-attractive sleep aids was perfect. I can't wear my mouth guard cause it makes me drool like a St Bernard

 
At January 30, 2013 at 6:38 PM , Blogger Joe said...

You should write for the only-seen-late-at-night commercials for the sleep machines. "Don't you just hate those awful mask-farts? Sure - we all do! But our new Excalibur model features the latest in advanced mask fart-squelching technology, and the whooshing rarely exceeds 98 decibels..."
Anyway - thanks for the laugh. Funny, funny stuff!

 

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