It was like any other fall morning. The rising sun sneaked quietly through the bedroom window, painting the walls white – erasing the night, shadow by shadow.
As if being invited to a sunrise party, my eyes slowly opened and the light pumped blood into my head, groggy with unfinished dreams. I observed the several pictures on the wall beginning to awake with brilliant color. I noticed one picture was a little crooked. “You can always count on one being crooked,” I mumbled. “Damn night gremlins.” I made a mental note to straighten it ... again, later.
I debated whether I should get up or try to get back to sleep. No rush ... so I just lay there, thinking intensely about nothing. It’s funny about retirement. When you’re a slave to the beat of marching drums you hate that damned alarm clock that starts the parade every morning. You look forward to retirement, a world without clocks where you can sleep in as often as you please; a world of guilt-free laziness with no bosses, no demands – just freedom. Then retirement arrives, and you morph into a jungle beast, awakening with the alarm of the sun, hunting for worthwhile projects during the day, and retreating to your lair when sun fades. You naively discover that being alive will always have rhythms and actions.
As usual I got antsy just lying in the bed. There was a lot to do – and it seemed to take me twice as long using this aging body that I’m trapped in. I remembered the dead mass of shoots and vines that had to be cut down in the front garden surrounding the trellis. Those beautiful flowers of yesterday had become today’s work and trash. And the leaves needed to be raked and burned, once more. When were they ever going to stop falling? Then there was the vegetable garden with its withered vines and twisted wire frames that looked like Hiroshima after the blast. Yeah, it was fall, all right, the season for the cremation of the dead. Nature’s payback for beauty and food rendered. Too bad the kids aren’t home anymore.
Then I remembered that I had to take my wife to a doctor’s appointment that morning. I forgot what time. Better ask her. It dawned on me that she hadn’t stirred during the several minutes I’d been awake. I couldn’t hear her breathing, either, even though she was only a foot away on the queen-size bed. Her wheezing and snoring often wake me up. My imagination ran wild. She was awfully quiet and still. I felt a twinge of fear. I was almost afraid to lean over and touch her. Maybe not knowing is better than knowing. “This is ridiculous,” I muttered.
Suddenly that fight that we had last night over nothing seemed monstrous, and unforgivable. The warm bed grew colder and a chill ran up my spine. What if there wasn’t anymore? What if there wasn’t any more sharing of the joys, the pains, the hugs, the secret jokes, and the intimacy that only many years living together brings. What if there wasn’t any more arguing and making up? And we didn’t even make up last night ...
Maybe this was the morning ... the inevitable, “nevermore” sunrise ... the one that brought both light and dark? My heart began to race, and I urgently turned and shook my wife’s arm.
Ah! It felt warm and pliable. That was a good sign. Relieved, I shook harder.
Awakened, she bellowed: “What are you doing? That hurts. What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Sorry dear,” I replied in a whisper. “Didn’t mean to startle you. I wanted to ask you something, but it can wait. Go back to sleep.”
Best I say nothing later about an old man’s fears. Let the sun wake her up gently so we together can enjoy today’s party until the sun sets.