December 03, 2021

He will come around, like he always does.

DOCTOR: He’s been here before. Just give him some time. He will find his routine and comfort zones through all of this.

NURSE (who is new to the hospital): Thank you doctor. I was worried about this one since I’ve not seen this kind of case and symptoms to this extent. Since I didn’t have the experience, that’s why I called you in.

DOCTOR: You do have a good point. It doesn’t effect everybody at the same time or rate. Heck, it may not bother some at all.

NURSE: He said it all started Saturday night when he started moving the clocks in his house back one hour before he went to bed. That thrill of watching college football highlights at 10:30, when it is still 11:30, sounds great and all, but it all went down hill from there when he reset his last clock; the one in his pickup before he went to church Sunday morning. Then, later that day, it’s dark-30 o’clock and he was still five hours from going to bed. That’s when we got him.

DOCTOR: Yes, he’s told that story before. Fortunately, kind of like when you have a bad cold, you figure out what you can do to make yourself most comfortable. It may not be perfect, but at least you’re trying to feel better. He’s knows what to do.

NURSE: Good comparison to having a cold. So, what does he do?

DOCTOR: It doesn’t happen immediately as it’s very circumstantial. When he gets home from work and changes out of his work clothes, he won’t get into sweatpants and a concert T-shirt from 1989 right away. He will put on some jeans. He said if he puts on sweatpants that will increase the temptation to be lazy on the couch knowing it’s already dark.

NURSE: Interesting.

DOCTOR: Yes. He will still try and be active during the evening beyond making dinner and cleaning up afterward. Somehow, wearing clothes like that still gives him the energy and interest to count the sheets of toilet paper, memorize the alphabet in a different order or try and vacuum underneath the carpet. His goal is to stay active so he doesn’t get lazy since it’s dark outside. He has shed a tear during the last out of the last World Series game because baseball is over, and he doesn’t care who played, because he knows those dark days are coming.

NURSE: So what is he like say, after the holidays? Even though after the first day of winter days get longer after that, how does he cope?

DOCTOR: Yes, the holidays are a good distraction for him too. He enjoys planning, buying and preparing Thanksgiving dinner. And you know what Christmas is all about. Starts to pay attention to college basketball. He has distractions. But those cold nights in January do provide a challenge. He will probably start a book, maybe one his parents got him for Christmas, and a cup of hot tea with a bit of sugar in it. That’s a comfortable combination for him. No, he’s not active, but he’s in a safe frame of mind. Years ago he lived with a wood burning stove in his house. Finding and calling people who had scrap wood to burn kept him going those winters.

NURSE: He did mumble something about the driveway. Do you know what that could have meant?

DOCTOR: Oh, yes, snow. He jokes that his only exercise he gets during the winter is shoveling snow off the driveway and sidewalk leading up to the front door. That’s another active thing for him. His chart shows he likes living in Iowa because the seasons are well defined here. He doesn’t mind scooping snow, it’s the below zero stuff he doesn’t like. I wonder if he got a new shovel this year; again, another thing that keeps him anxious and active to fend off the blahs and lazy attitude of the dark days of winter.

NURSE: Wow, doctor. You know his history so well.

DOCTOR: Yes. People shouldn’t be afraid to admit the fall and winter days, when daylight is less and the consecutive days of cloudy gloom that can happen, gets in their head. Just as long as we know how to cope with it. We will release him soon. He will be fine.

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.