Would you, Could You, In the Dark?
My husband tiptoed into our bedroom at 5:30 this morning and gently wakened me. “I need a favour,” he said. “Can you send an announcement to my students saying class is cancelled? There’s a foot of snow outside, the wind’s blowing at eighty kilometers an hour, and visibility is near zero on the roads. There’s no way I can get to work.”
NOTE: my husband teaches advanced computer programming at a local community college; on Mondays he has a class at 8:00 a.m. at a campus approximately 40 km [25 miles] away (since he likes to get there early, he usually leaves about 5:45 a.m.) And while he is absolutely brilliant at understanding and communicating the most complex concepts related to computers, he has an aversion to mastering new software – particularly the learning management system recently adopted by the college for the purpose of ‘sharing course-related information with students’. Since I’ve always been adept at figuring out the ‘user end’ of applications, I learned it pretty quickly and have taken on the task of posting class notices, announcing quiz and test dates, and uploading class plans and other ‘handouts’ for him (considering how much he does for me, I figure it’s the least I can do. It is also much easier on my nerves than listening to him grumble and complain about it, or having to explain to him – for the umpteenth time – how to do something; it’s easier to simply do it myself [and doesn’t he know it!])
Anyway, back to my story. It was a dark and stormy morning. I slipped on my housecoat and headed out to the computer. While I posted the requisite announcement and sent the confirmation emails to students and administrative staff, my husband made me a cup of tea and took it back down to the bedroom. When I was done, we sat in bed together (he with his second cup of coffee and me with my tea) and chatted about the weather and the cold, snowy, generally-all-around-crappy winter we’ve been having. And it felt very much like ‘old times’. You see, when I was also teaching, getting up at 5:30 was pretty normal. Usually one or the other (or sometimes both) of us would have an 8:00 a.m. class pretty much every day of the week. We’d rise well before dawn, have our tea/coffee in bed, get dressed, and head out to face the day (for two years we worked at the same college, so we’d often drive in together; when I switched Colleges, he’d head east and I’d go west). Going to work in the dark (and often returning in the dark) was just part of the routine.
Now, however, I am officially ‘retired’, and I don’t have to get up in the dark anymore. For the first two years (I haven’t worked since the summer of 2010), I have to admit that I found it hard to ‘sleep in’. My husband was very stealthy when he’d get up at some unholy hour (what I now consider ‘the middle of the night’), but I was still aware of his movements, and almost always heard the ‘click’ of the front door closing as he headed off to work. Generally, I’d force myself to stay in bed for another hour or so – sometimes just lying there staring into the darkness, sometimes watching the news on TV, occasionally getting up to make a cup of tea and then returning to bed with the newspaper. Gradually, however, I learned to stop listening to my husband’s movements and let myself sleep for as long as I want. I generally still know when he’s left the bed, the bedroom, and the house, but it no longer ‘registers’ as something I need to focus on. And so, finally, after fifty-odd years of getting up early five (or more) days of the week for school or work or the demands of little children, I’ve managed to convince myself that it’s okay to stay in bed, let my system determine when I’ve had ‘enough’ sleep, and ‘rest my weary bones’ until sometime after the sun comes up.
I do admit to experiencing the teeniest, tiniest bit of guilt when I hear my husband rustling around and leaving the house in the dark on a cold, snowy, blowy morning. But I don’t want to get up and go with him. I’d rather snuggle back down under the covers and remind myself that his time is coming (he’ll be retiring in just over three years) and that I’ve earned this little slice of luxury now that I’m on … the other side of 55.