It happened gradually, almost unintentionally, but I have this new habit (though I’m not naming it routine yet) of sliding my feet out of bed in the dark, hours before the kids are up. Born out of necessity, maybe, but I’ve grown to crave the solitude of these early morning hours.
Mark has always been an early riser. It’s part and parcel for his job. In construction, they like to start making noise as soon as it’s just barely good manners, and his hour-long commute has always forced him out of the nest before dawn. This is most certainly routine with him; ruts have worn down smooth.
He never knows if I’m getting up or not. I surprised him this morning, my mouth unable to form sounds let alone words yet, and my eyes crinkled into a crease from the bright light. His back was to me when I entered the kitchen, leaned over as he was, spreading peanut butter on bread. I wrapped my arms around his waist, though, and let my waking weight rest on his for a moment.
A moment of quiet together, and when he reaches for a Ziploc bag I turn and shuffle to the bathroom to brush my teeth. By the time I come back to the kitchen to put the kettle on he is clicking closed his lunch cooler. I follow him down the basement stairs plunking myself down two-thirds of the way down as he keeps time in his morning rituals.
He begins telling me about this thing that happened the day before at work – this meeting, and these guys, and this thing that was said. He breaks off these pieces of his day, of days that make his life, and he offers it to me: here. And it is communion. I’m catching these broken-off pieces, gathering up the scattered crumbs, trying not to lose any. To see how it at all fits together, how this story of his yesterday gets glued onto the other parts, the parts that I heard at dinner: the phone call, the delivery, the thing that he heard on the radio driving home. And I’m grateful. He gives me these pieces, trusts me to hold them for him.
He throws his long underwear shirt at me, laughing at some joke he’s proud he made. I catch it, quick reflexes, and bending my head low into it, I scrunch up my nose pressed against it. This balled up black shirt – it’s him. It feels like Mark, smells like him. Next, his sweatpants land it my lap, and I’m trying not to lose my balance on the step, laughing with him at this shared nothingness.
Upstairs, I shove his pajamas in our bed, hand him his coffee mug. He’s one foot out the door now, and the day marches on, but he lean back, arms loaded down with tools, and so much more. He does this, and he takes me into his warmth, even with no arms really to hug me, and we pause once more before he steps heavy down our front stoop and headlong into his day.
The quiet stillness in the house has become loud, now, and it takes a moment for the vacuum of air to settle back, laying thick in the places that Mark left.
But it does, and I do, and I’m caught up in my work until I put my mug of tea once more to my mouth and it’s cold, and empty. Something about this jolts me to attention and I realize the sun will be rising any moment. I click off the big happy light on my desk, spinning 180* to stare out the window. While I’ve been getting up early, something about the drone of my own solitude keeps me hyper-focused on what’s in front of me. I have yet to watch that sunrise, that magical gift of God-beauty when light overtakes the dark. I have not thought to pay attention, to set my mind to it, and instead of witnessing this transformation little my little, I am greeted by this daylight when I pull myself away from my desk and into the tasks of making breakfast, shooing little ones towards the bathroom.
Today, though, it is different. Today, my timing is right, and I’m still alone. I edge myself closer to the window, straining my eyes to look harder, to really see. I can feel a shifting inside me, an edgy anticipation for getting this part right. But my eyes are finding it harder to focus, the scraggly lines of the trees blurry one into another. It’s dark gray out, murky. I’ve been sitting, and watching, but for how long I cannot say. This gray has pulled up a bit, and there is less weight to it, but I have yet to see the sun. There is no rainbow of colors, hardly a brightness to be named. I’m watching, trying to understand if the sunrise has happened yet, and this soft padding of feet makes me jump. I hadn’t heard the footsteps on the stairs, hadn’t heard the door open. But Grant is there, with his black ski hat askew on his head, and his eyes blinking out the sleep.
I pat the edge of the coffee table that I’m sitting on, and he sits with me a minute. Together we watch in slight surrender to the bleak sky changing tones, but not yet giving us the glory. At some point it becomes clear that the daylight is here; it is no longer a night sky.