The other day I cleaned my kitchen, wiped down all the counter tops and the stove, swept the floor, started the dishwasher, and cleaned the guest bathroom. It was 3:00 in the morning. I thought about vacuuming too, but the dog was sleeping, so I just dusted and tidied the living room instead. Didn’t want to wake her up. After my cleaning spree, it was about 4:00 in the morning, and so I thought I’d peek in on my husband. See how he was doing. He was fine—propped up against a pile of pillows, engrossed in whatever article he was reading on his tablet. He looked up at me and smiled.
I shrugged, “Nothing much. Just putzing about. Getting some chores done.”
“I can hear the dishwasher going.” He observed. “What time is it?”
“Just after 4:00.” I told him. He laughed at this.
“We are upside down and all out of whack, aren’t we? Just cuz I am, doesn’t mean you have to be too. You should get some sleep.”
“Can’t.” I sighed. “I can’t sleep when you’re up. I know it’s weird. But it’s true.”
“I know.” He said back, a little sadly, like this truth was a regretful one.
I leaned against the doorway and watched him for a moment. I know he can’t sleep because of his medication, or his pain, or his nausea, or his restlessness, or perhaps his dread and all the terrifying thoughts that come with it. I know that he wants to sleep. I know that he would give anything for a good old-fashioned eight hours.
“Want a sleeping pill?” I suggested. “Might help you relax if nothing else.”
“Nah. I don’t need any more pills.”
“Cup of tea?”
“I’m good. Don’t fuss.”
“I wish you could sleep.”
“I do sleep.” He said casually, “Just not when it’s convenient. I know it’s hard to plan anything. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. Just don’t freak out if I vacuum and do some laundry.”
“Why don’t you read for a while?” He lowered his tablet and looked hard at me. I could see his concern. “Your eyes will get tired and you’ll sleep. Go sit on your lazyboy chair, put your feet up and get under an afghan blanket with a book. You’ll be asleep in no time.”
“Ya, maybe I’ll try that.”
“I’m fine, you know.” He told me. “It’s okay. Everything is okay.”
“Alright then. Goodnight. I love you.” My hand went to door knob, starting to close it.
“I love you too, Pumpkin.” He called after me. “Don’t stay up.”
I tidy up the rest of what I was doing. Pass on putting on the kettle, and grab a bottle of water instead. Turn off lights. Tuck the dog’s blanket around her and change her water bowl. The doors are all locked. The phones are charging in their cradles. The living room is dimly lit. I sit down in the lazyboy, draw my favorite fuzzy blankie over me, and pick up one of my “to read” books on my end table. The Picture of Dorian Grey. I open the book and browse through it. It’s short. Maybe I’ll start it tonight and finish it tomorrow.
I’ve always been a night owl. Even as a child. Robert Louis Stevenson said, “there is a romance about all those who are abroad in the black hours.” I don’t know how romantic it is to be up and wide awake while the rest of the world—the normal people—are sleeping. I’ve also heard night owls referred to as Fire Watchers—those who watch over the ones who sleep. I suppose there is a little bit of romance in that.
I have always shared Peter’s hours—even when he was still working, and preferred to do the graveyard shift. It’s always been that way. When he’s up, I’m up. When he’s asleep, I’m asleep. I was also like that with my son when he was very little. I guess there’s a positive in that now though since sometimes my husband will wake and need something. I’m usually right there, if that’s the case. I know he gets relief from knowing this.
But what does it matter anyway? I ask myself this constantly. We have to find out own normal in the midst of a very big abnormal. I have about ten pairs of pajamas—they are comfortable and washable—and I rarely wear anything else at home unless we have company, and then it depends on who is the company. If it’s family? Pajamas. Close friends? Pajamas. My husband is the same way. We have thrown off all the complexities of matching socks and coordinating outfits for something that is fully functional, yet reflective of our desire for simplicity…we take it wherever we can get it. He wears pajamas too…pajama bottoms and T-shirts. It’s about the comfort. Comfort is everything. People who know us well understand.
No bed times, no wake times, no set meal times, no schedule of any kind, except for the constant stream of appointments and medications. As an offset, there are lots of pillows and blankets in every room. It goes that way for us now. I suppose it’s normal for us to withdraw into our little world. Neither of us can bear the stress anymore—the Monster is taxing. In our jammies, we’re safe where we are. This is not to say that we don’t leave the house. We do. We go for the odd walk when he feels up to it. We sometimes slip out to a movie. I do the grocery shopping and pay the bills. We get to our doctor appointments. Sometimes my husband will go lay on his friend’s couch and watch the game. But mostly, our life has become very quiet and slow-paced. We prefer it that way. The Monster is asleep, so we tiptoe around him.
I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about this “Us Against the Monster” series. I’ve re-read some of the past blogs and think that too much of them are either sad or filled with frustration. I have to say that my husband and I don’t live in that sadness and frustration every single minute of every day anymore. With this terrible “long goodbye” that we have been faced with, we have learned to cling to the myriad of other things that are normal to us. We still lay in bed together, hold hands, and whisper back and forth. We still tell each other secrets. We just refuse the constant sadness, stress, and fear now. In truth, it does raise its ugly head now and again, it’s just that now it seems to lose its way in the dimly lit quiet of the wee hours. I suppose we still are who we always were, but now we prefer to live our life together at any weird hour, and always in our pajamas.