On Friday nights I used to stay up late because a local channel played Sci-Fi movie reruns from the 1950s.

Nobody prepares you for the idea that you are not going to sleep all that well when you’re older, but eventually you find out it’s true. For years, elderly people tried to warn you that this would happen, and you never took them seriously.

After all, you were a young man. You had nothing to worry about. You slept so hard that all you ever wanted to do was sleep. Even when your mother came bursting into your room shouting, “I made spicy chicken casserole just the way you like it!”

And believe me, you would climb Mount Vesuvius for your mother’s spicy chicken casserole. Even so. You kept sleeping because you were a greasy little brat with a lightning fast metabolism and no joint pain.

When I was a young buck, I could sleep like nobody’s business. It was one of my many unusual talents—like swallowing my tongue, playing a Strauss waltz on my armpit, or commonly referring to myself as a “young buck.”

I stayed up as late as I wanted, eating a steady diet of battery-acid-like food. And whenever I got pooped, I would just curl up and go to sleep somewhere, even if I happened to be in a place where it was kosher to sleep. Such as Jerry’s Cue Club Pool Hall.

The next morning, I’d wake up feeling refreshed and ready to eat more acidic food.

On Friday nights I used to stay up late because a local channel played Sci-Fi movie reruns from the 1950s. These were B-movies with leading male actors who used enough Brylcreem to mortar a two-story brick home. Their leading ladies were overly dramatic and often had unnaturally small waists that, anatomically speaking, looked like they didn’t contain a pancreas or spleen.

These movies were the highlight of the week. I would stay up all night watching films like:

“Them!” A 1954 black-and-white gem starring James Arness (Marshal Dillon from “Gunsmoke”) chasing giant ants across New Mexico. These killer ants were going around ruining railyards, cities, armies, and Methodist picnics.

And “The Blob,” (1958) which followed the lives of two teenagers (Steve and Jane) who defended their hometown against an alien form of gelatinous goop (the Blob) which rolled down Mainstreet, engulfing everything, killing innocent women and children (like my aunt’s congealed salad).

One of my personal favorite movies was “The Monster from Green Hell,” (1957) starring Jim Davis and Barbara Tuner. This masterpiece is about enormous wasps from outer space that are insusceptible to gunfire, dynamite, and military strikes.

The movie ends in an epic battle when a wasp the size of an Ikea gets swept away in a volcanic lava flow. It’s never made clear where the wasps originated, but I would bet good money they came from the eve of my uncle’s garage.

I watched these movies after everyone was asleep. Most of the time I would be eating something acidic like leftover spicy chicken casserole, or potted meat on Saltine crackers with spray cheese—don’t criticize it until you’ve tried it.

Occasionally, I would eat SPAM. But I should mention here: A few years ago, I pronounced my love of SPAM in this column and the same week I received an anonymous Amazon shipment of twenty-four cans of SPAM. Let me state clearly, in case anyone is wondering: I also like hundred-dollar bills.

So after these movies finished, I would go to sleep with a stomach full of processed meat-like paste and aerosol cheese and sleep like a log. Acid reflux? Give me a break.

But when you become an adult, something changes. You don’t sleep the way you used to. You lie in bed staring at the ceiling, wondering if your AC is actually on because you don’t hear the compressor. And above all, you wish you wouldn’t have eaten jalapenos at dinner.

So you crawl out of bed and check the thermostat. You go to the refrigerator and stare at leftovers. You’re a little hungry, but like I said, you’re an adult. If you even touch your wife’s leftover spicy chicken casserole you will not sleep until you turn sixty-five.

So you sit on the sofa and turn on the television. You flip channels. The volume is low. You stop flipping. You smile.

On the screen is a giant blob, oozing down a mainstreet, killing everything in its path. People are screaming, fires break out, guns firing.

And this is ironic.

Because when I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to be a grown man. I was tired of being a child. But it’s funny, because I didn’t see how wonderful it all was. Not really.

I think what I miss most about those childhood days was the cheerfulness I always seemed to have. Kids are happy for no apparent reason. They can become giddy over anything. Baseball. Fishing. A five-dollar bill. Spray cheese. You name it.

But somewhere along the way you discover that the adult version of happiness is different. It’s quieter. Sometimes it’s harder to find. Sometimes it’s nearly impossible. Sometimes you have to fake it.

But when you do find the real thing, even if it only lasts a few hours, or minutes, you realize what a precious gift it is.

I would keep writing, but I think I’m finally sleepy enough to go to bed. Say a prayer for me.

Because I just ate an entire pan of leftover spicy chicken casserole.

19 comments

  1. Johnny Hurst - September 23, 2019 8:17 am

    I’m reading this at 4:15 A.M. because I’m 62…….and my hip and shoulder were hurting so I had to get up. I have fond memories of weekends when if I got up at 11:00 A.M. it was early. Those were the days.

    Reply
  2. Connie Havard Ryland - September 23, 2019 8:51 am

    I’m reading this at 3:30 am, since I can not sleep. One of the absolute down sides of getting old. I usually don’t get more than 5 hours of sleep a night, but sometimes, like tonight, I don’t get that much. Thanks for the reminder that I’m not alone.

    Reply
  3. Nancy - September 23, 2019 9:13 am

    I’m still up at 4:00am, but you have solved one of life’s mysteries for me! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Every afternoon after school a local tv station showed an old movie. They called it The Big Show. And I watched a movie about the giant ants! And I have always wondered what the name of that movie was. And now I know “Them!”

    Reply
  4. Mary Ellen Hall - September 23, 2019 10:36 am

    This is ALL SO TRUE-THANKS SEAN!!

    Reply
  5. Lynda Fry - September 23, 2019 12:19 pm

    You crack me up!! Would love to meet you. But just know that it must have been the moon! I had a bad dream last night that seemed to go on and on . . . First bad dream I have had in 20 years! I am 76 and loving your column!! My favorite email of the day!

    Reply
  6. Connie Griggs - September 23, 2019 12:28 pm

    Will you share the recipe for the spicy chicken casserole? 😀

    Reply
  7. Joe Patterson - September 23, 2019 1:24 pm

    Thanks and worrying about nothing

    Reply
  8. jackmokan - September 23, 2019 1:40 pm

    I remember seeing “The Blob” at the theater when I was 8 years old, and slept like a lamb!

    Reply
  9. Pat Green - September 23, 2019 1:48 pm

    Sean, I’m new to reading your column or blog or whatever it’s called these days. I love it! Have you done one in southern sayings! One of my favorites is “I used to could” as in I used to could sleep all night!

    Reply
  10. Mary T. - September 23, 2019 3:20 pm

    “Them” was the first horror movie I saw. All us children ran to the front of the theater, parents in the back. When the first ant appeared my feet weren’t the only ones running to sit with mom and dad.

    Reply
  11. Linda Moon - September 23, 2019 3:51 pm

    The older one gets, sleep can occur at random times — usually during the day or at church services. Those old movies help me sleep, especially after I’ve watched James Arness in THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. He was the actual THING! Movies with anatomically correct women keep me awake, however, because women in my family have pancreases and spleens that are obviously displayed right around our non-existent waistlines. Adulthood can be very hard, but gifts of happiness can make us appreciate each day we have. There IS an alternative to growing old! I like this gift of being old!!

    Reply
  12. Sandra - September 23, 2019 4:04 pm

    Speaking of joint pain… I’ve laughed as I read this, and hoping that tomorrow will bring me at least a few weeks of good sleep before the “next joint” kicks in. Two new knees and a little hardware in the back… as as of tomorrow, I’ll have a new hip! Like I said, wishing for a few nights of good sleep once this happens!!!!

    Reply
  13. Suzanne - September 23, 2019 5:51 pm

    I am OLD and have major sleep issues, but right now all I want is spicy chicken casserole! 😂 Please share. 🙏

    Reply
  14. Shelton A. - September 23, 2019 6:05 pm

    Sleep well tonight with no acid reflux and no just staring at the ceiling. I’d like a box of 100’s too, please.

    Reply
  15. lovemonteelou - September 24, 2019 1:04 am

    Exactly

    Reply
  16. That's jack - September 24, 2019 1:44 am

    AHHH, hold on a few years. when you are 80 you will go to sleep quick after working hours making a nature trail for you dog. You can believe that! Now relapse and sleep.
    Sherry & jack over in NC fixing to go to the mountains.

    Reply
  17. Myra G. - September 24, 2019 12:47 pm

    I agree with Suzanne … won’t you share some of Jamie’s recipes? (Please)

    Reply
  18. Estelle - October 8, 2019 1:20 am

    I’m 77 years old my dog is 11 (that’s 77 in people years. We have the same sleep pattern. If we’re up at nite then when we get to sleep we’ll sleep 4 or 5 hrs then take a nap in the afternoon. I told her she couldn’t go without me. 😍😇😴forever

    Reply
  19. Mary M Chilson - October 18, 2019 3:14 am

    Thanks for the warning.
    I am only 70. I can sleep anywhere, anytime. I can also stay up all night if the party or card game lasts that long.
    I will get back to you when I am a little older and sleep becomes an issue.

    Great show tonight; enjoyed meeting you and your lovely wife.

    Reply

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