Thank goodness for our internal clocks.
David’s is a clock that craves extremes: he wants to wake up when the sun is full shining and not fall into bed until pitch-midnight. I, on the other hand, am my father’s daughter. Once dinner dishes are put away, I am already on a short road to sleep. And as the sun is just beginning to peek (in summer), or hasn’t even come close (in winter), I’m padding into the kitchen in my pajamas with my heart set on a cup of tea and a book of poetry.
Daddy was always up early. I can still see him, in his sweatpants and slippers, sitting in his armchair with, yes, a mug of tea and a book. Me coming down second and him smiling as he looked up – hi, bunny – and our morning beginning together. While our family was on vacation at the ocean, we’d share toast and then venture outside. “Let’s let Mom & Matt sleep in,” we’d say, as we laced up sneakers and pulled on fleece jackets. And we’d walk out into the chilly Northern California morning, eyes on the waves as we walked to the beach. So much life and love in our day before it had really begun. And if we have all that before the sun is fully risen, it sets our whole day on a good trajectory. We’ve had a good day even before we sat down to breakfast.
And now, years after his death and miles from the California coast, I maintain this rhythm. The morning is my private room. In our (sweet, beloved) small apartment, we have very little space to ourselves. But for David, the late hours are a haven, and for me, the early. I can reconnect to myself, the self that is alone and only-me, and not David’s wife. I read, and I listen to pieces of music that I loved before I met him (Smétana’s Ma Vlast, Joni Mitchell, The Indigo Girls). I write in my journal and browse through anthologies. I can hear the clock ticking. I can hear other early risers in our apartment complex start their cars’ engines as they begin a long commute. Sometimes, when the light is just right, I’ll slip outside to the end of our block to watch the sunrise.
In a little while, David will stumble sleepily into the kitchen. He’ll greet me with one word (hi) or two (good morning) as he makes his coffee. And the real-world day will begin.
But these first few hours in the early morning are mine. A separate time that I claim and cling to as my own. And I thank goodness for that.