My father, Simon Graham, has spent 41 of his 63 years engaged in the enterprise of parenthood. A cursory review of his progress thus far reveals a man of modest accomplishments:
One wife; two children (only one of them has neglected the teachings of his father and fallen into bad company); seven grandchildren, mostly attractive; one business–an electronics repair firm, still solvent as of the latest quarterly filings. A leadership position in his church, and no vices of note.
A solid resume for a sharecropper’s son from rural Horry County, S.C.–at least, by my measure. If you find it lacking, I urge patience. At the tender age of 63, Strom Thurmond had only served two full terms in U.S. Senate. He set a record before he left.
My father still has plenty of time.
As I consider my father’s accomplishments, I could mention his strong work ethic, or his ability to entertain children with engaging conversation. But it is my family’s tradition of modesty that has thus far prevented me from even hinting at my father’s most amazing accomplishment to date: He is a nap master.
Simon Graham is not a mere nap taker. No casual cat napper he, no seeker of the occasional summer siesta. He doesn’t drift off during football games or spend half the night sleeping in the front-room recliner while infomercials fill the TV screen. Hah! Anyone can do that. That’s not napping, that’s just sleeping.
No, my father is a true nap aficionado. He is disciplined. He is determined. He has developed effective nap strategies. Every morning when he gets out of bed, he knows it’s out there, waiting for him. One day–one nap. Count on it.
Because my father is the perfect napping machine.
I saw it not long ago when my parents traveled out of town to help my family move into a house–evidence that parental love is unconditional. Most of us would rather donate an organ than help schlep our best friend’s chiffarobe up a flight of stairs.
But there they were on a sunny Saturday, wrapping china and loading boxes into a rented truck. My father is not afraid of hard work. However, he is at the age where he’s not afraid to avoid it, either. Every so often I’d catch him pulling a Fred Sanford, walking out of the house with a single lamp in hand, or a seat cushion.
Still, it was tiring work for all concerned and when noontime arrived, the entire crew was hot, sweaty and worn. We were also watching my dad. It was noon, and “noon” means “nap.”
The new house was a wreck. Not a single bed was assembled. Every room was filled with unopened boxes, piles of clothes, or armloads of scattered toys. How would the Nap Master fulfill his solemn oath to honor the midday sun god with an offering of thirty winks?
My father wasn’t fazed. He grabbed a thick alpaca rug, a throw pillow, went into the coolest room in the house and stretched out right on the floor. In one minute–60 seconds flat–he was asleep.
That is the mark of the Nap Master. Anyone can lie down in a bed or on a sofa and, if left alone long enough (or forced to watch golf on television), eventually nod off. Not the Nap Master. He sleeps when he is ready. He sleeps where ever he is, regardless of the surroundings. He lives in the sea of tranquility.
I remember when my father worked as a shop technician for General Electric. The corporate tightwads he worked for allowed just 30 minutes for lunch each day. Now, my dad loves his naps, but he’s never skipped a meal in his life. It seemed the irresistible force had met the immovable appetite.
Then, one weekday when school was out, I had to spend the day with Dad. I watched as he threw his lunch in the microwave just a minute or two before the noon lunch break. At the stroke 12:00 P.M., he was seated before a hot meal, listening to Paul Harvey on the A.M. radio. At: 07, the plate was clean and put away. One minute later, my father was in the back of the shop, stretched out on a cheap, full-length mesh lawn chair he kept folded up in back. With the lights on and the shop noise in the background, he promptly went to sleep. Then, without prompting of any kind, he awoke, smiling and refreshed, precisely at 12:25 P.M.
GE never lost a penny, thanks to a precision operation so meticulously executed it made the D-Day invasion plan look like a soccer riot.
I regret to say I did not inherit this skill, or this passion, from my father. I hate napping. When I occasionally imbibe, I suffer for the rest of the day from a sleep hangover–achy, out-of-sorts and my breath tastes like the napping gnome dumped toxic waste in my mouth while I slept.
Napping is also not time effective for an amateur like me. It takes me forever to fall asleep. My father must have either a cleaner conscience or a weaker memory because when I lay down, I inevitably reflect back on the day’s events. This reflection inevitably leads to recriminations, head-slapping thoughts of things I shouldn’t have said, or witty comebacks I should have made, or parenting mistakes I should have avoided and now must repair.
But before I even get through the first thoughts of “Did I really say that about my mother in law?” my father is already snoring, lost in the sleep of the just.
I think the secret of being a Nap Master–and perhaps a Life Master–is the ability to learn from the past, and then to let go of it. This is a skill my father and my wife both employ.
I, on the other hand, live by the creed “Know Thyself.” I believe the only life worth living is a life of self-contemplation. This, the philosophers assure me, will lead to a life of peace and understanding.
I just won’t get much sleep.
–Radio-talk-host Michael Graham is an NRO contributor.