1.14.2022 – that morning headache

that morning headache
flat thick heavy ache feeling
on top of my head

My mornings aren’t what they used to be.

Back in the day there was this commercial that showed people driving tanks and dropping out of helicopters and running across deserts, all first thing in the morning.

The tagline was something like, ‘The U S ARMY – we do more before 8AM …’

That was me for a big part of my life.

Not only did I have to get up and get started, no small task, I had to get the kids up and going and either off to school or to school.

It was a part of being a Dad I had not envisioned.

There is an episode of that old show, Frasier, where Dr. Frasier Crane tries to explain, in detail, the way HIS day has to start so that HE can function.

Boy Howdy!, but that was me.

Most of ‘my way to start the day’ went away for a long time.

Like I said, getting kids up and going.

Getting kids off to school.

Getting kids TO school.

Getting to work.

Believe there is ‘getting to work’ and there is ‘getting to work.’

At one point I was getting up and then getting up kids and then getting kids TO school to a school that was in a different direction from downtown Atlanta that I needed to go and then getting to work in downtown Atlanta.

When I used the term, ‘dawn broke …’, it had an entirely different meaning.

It seems to me that I went to bed filled with both anxiety and apprehension.

Anxiety and apprehension not over what the new day MIGHT bring.

Though there was a lot of concern over what MIGHT show up each day.

But my plate was quite full with what I KNEW was coming.

I didn’t suffer in silence.

Seems like there is a family story of one of the kids asking “Why is Dad so crabby in the morning?”

Of late, my morning roll call is down to just me again.

My morning commute is to walk upstairs.

I almost look forward to getting in to bed and not much more on my mind than maybe the weather.

Still, there is HOW I wake up.

Of late, there are three ways I wake up.

My favorite is to come back to consciousness from REM dream sleep and let the realization that it is time to get up slowly, dreamily, drowsily, sink in.

Then there is waking up for the day, most likely to the sound of the beeping of the coffee maker and it is time to get out of bed so I get out of bed.

Maybe in those cases I am already awake, lying in bed, waiting for those beeps.

Then there are those headache mornings.

They usually start sometime early in the morning when I roll over to look at the clock and its 3AM.

The time about which Francis S. Fitzgerald said, “In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.”

(Yes – F. Scott Fitzgerald was named after Francis Scott Key … if that didn’t contribute to the …)

And there is a flat, thick ache across the top of my head.

My first thoughts are of despair.

Oh great, the headache.

The 2nd thought is how to hold it off.

I try to arrange head on the pillow to either put some pressure on the ache in hopes that the ache might go away or relive the pressure on the ache in hopes that the ache might go away.

I have been doing this for years and for years I still try the same things.

I try but I know it is not going away.

Then I get to resolve.

Resolve that I know I will have a headache when I get up, that it will rob my morning, if not the whole day, of action, of the new day’s freshness.

Resolve that even though I know this, I can fight back with my morning shower, my morning coffee and my morning advil.

And with that in mind, I settle down to wait to get out of bed.

I don’t like the headache but, like my morning, they aren’t what they used to be.

My and a morning headache have reached the nuisance stage of a relationship and while I wish it would go away, I will push on.

There was I time that when the morning headache hit, I would find myself at work after getting the kids to school and getting myself to work and having no clear recollection of how I got there.

And that was a good day with a bad headache.

Like my new mornings, much of what caused the headaches is gone.

Much of the stress and anxiety and lifestyle that contributed to the headache is muted.

I might even venture that I know what is the main cause of today’s headache and it is physical rather than mental.

And it is something that I am doing to myself, every day all through the day.

It is these screens!

I stare at the these doggone screens all day long.

My computer screen.

My TV screen.

My iPhone screen.

My iPad screen.

My kindle screen.

Screens to the point of screaming!

I use all the tricks.

I dim the screens.

I set timers to have my tablets go darker at 8PM.

I have the ‘blue screen’ shades for my glasses.

But when I get an e book I can’t put down …

When I start reading something on a tablet and forget the rest of the world …

When I focus on my work and anyone had to poke me with a sharp stick to get my attention …

The last thing on my mind is a headache.

Is there anything new here?

Screens and eyestrain are just a latest in eyestrain.

The classic, ‘2 Years Before the Mast’ was written because a Doctor told the author, Richard Henry Dana Jr., that he might be able to hold off his apparent oncoming blindness by taking a long sea voyage.

Mr. Dana, Jr. signed on as a novice shipmate and sailed off to California in 1839 to find that after a couple of weeks away from law school and legal textbooks, his eyesight returned.

Not that he was able to get out his contract on the ship for the rest of those 2 years, but he did get a classic book out of the deal.

Another story in the back of my mind is one told by a now I-can’t-remember sports writer in Washington, DC whose Father worked at the Library of Congress.

The sports writer, it may have been Shirley Povich, recalled that when his Dad worked on a Saturday, he would tag along.

His Dad would lead him back in the stacks to the GV8 section where the baseball books were and click on a light and leave him there for the day.

‘Don’t go blind,’ his Dad would say as he went off to his job.

What can I say?

You would think that after all these years I would learn something.

And maybe I have.

Maybe my lesson is that, if the price of reading is the headache, well, where are the books?

I did though recently go off on a rant.

A rant about ebooks and epubs and mobis and kindles.

When I worked for the Grand Rapids Public Library, the old card catalog was still in place but not maintained.

Everything was on the computer terminal systems.

From time to time the system would be down.

Patrons would come to the desk and ask about a book.

I got up on my platform and would say that unfortunately the system was down.

Then I would point, majestically and slowly like Moses parting the Red Sea, at the old card catalog and say that in the 110 years of its existence, the GRPL Card Catalog never crashed.

Though that did present a really scary mental image.

What’s that saying?

The best way to hide something is misfile it in a library?

My rant to my ever faithful audience made up of my wife was that at one time I owned 1,000’s of books in my personal library and when we moved, I had to moved literally 1,000’s of books.

From that point of view, e-readers were a blessing.

Holding one small tablet in my hands and I had access to 1,000’s of books saved on my tablet and through the internet, I could access any book any where.


My rant continued with the anguish and righteousness of Orson Welles playing the Clarence Darrow character in the 1959 film, Compulsion. (worth the watch if you haven’t seen it – might change your life)

Without electricity.

Without power.

I would have nothing.

I would have nothing to read.

“Books don’t need batteries,” I said.

“Books don’t need to be plugged in,” I said.

“No power – nothing to read,” I said in a voice crying in the wilderness.

My wife listened to me as she has learned to listen to me when I get into a rant.

“At night, you would still need a light to read your books,” she said.

My wife is very good looking too.

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