Aaron Burr told me it would be like this. Well, really, it was Gore Vidal's fictional writing about the elderly Burr that gave me my first insight into the experience of old age. At least twenty-five years ago the hardcover edition of Burr: A Novel called to me from the stacks of the Swanson Public Library at 90th and Dodge in Omaha. I will have to read Burr again to find if Vidal's character has the insomniac discussions with his internal organs that I seem to remember.

Awakened again by a nurse assistant who needs to take Dad's vital signs. The wheeled blood pressure machine rolls and bumps off the hall carpet and onto the linoleum. Fluorescent light flicks on and quivers. Again the jerk out of sleep with the immediate childlike fear that I'll fall "out of bed" off the skinny couch/cot. My head and limbs feel heavy and tingly. Dad's awake now, chatting, thinking he'd like some ice cream. By 2:39 the ice cream and nurse aide are gone. Light and muffled sounds from the hallway. Dad's snoring, open-mouthed, dry-throated, seven feet away. Wide awake I begin counting all the libraries I ever visited. Some number past forty-six, I fall asleep again.

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