At four in the morning, there is a crash. I jump up, Hal jumps up, the dog jumps up. It is the lamp, the gaudy lamp with pointy ceramic flowers, the one Hal inherited from his parents – the kind you’d see at someone’s beach house in the 1950’s. It has fallen off the night table, a victim of Hal’s nightmares. Hal thought he was fighting someone, punching away, but it was only the lamp. He acts out nightmares as if he is living them in real life. The lamp did not break; it is indestructible. I couldn’t help but think it could have been me he punched instead. I put it back on the nightstand and turn it on, finding that it still works. Hal is sleepy-eyed, groggy, barely remembering the dream. The dog keeps staring at the floor where the lamp fell, not understanding where the crashing sound came from. She is afraid and wants to leave the room. We give her special permission to sleep with us, just this one night.
Parkinson’s nightmares are common. Hal’s says they are the most frightening dreams he’s ever had. It’s usually the Gestapo or the mob who’s after him. Before the nightmares arrived a few years ago, Hal was dreamless. He’s gone from having no dream life to having the most intense dreams he’s experienced. He takes Klonopin for the nightmares, just half a pill, but sometimes they still come.
The bedside table is now pushed back against the wall so he can’t fistfight the lamp. Throughout the night, I check to see how close he is to the edge of the bed, encouraging him to move further in so he doesn’t fall out if a nightmare does come.
“Why don’t you get one of those hospital bed railings?” someone in my support group once asked. “Not yet,” I replied, “we’re not quite ready for that,” imagining that bed rails are the beginning of some kind of end.