A sandcastle for Noah

(Fiction)

I woke up early, as usual. The first thing I did was extend my hand towards the bedside table where I keep my glasses—this getting old stuff is rough. I can no longer even see the text on the white board without them. But I keep hearing that getting old is better than the alternative.

Once I finished squinting my eyes up sufficiently to see the wall at the foot of the bed I tried to narrow in on which little square represents today. It’s a good thing we erase the current day at the end of every day or this would be a challenging task to find the right square first thing in the morning. Ahh, Thursday. A work at home day. How perfectly lovely.

These work at home days sure don’t mean what they used to. I sit in bed for a few minutes thinking about what work needs to be accomplished. Today I’m going to be trying to find patterns in the data I’ve accumulated during our last trip. When I’m out in the field hearing story after story after story they feel like waves upon the sand. I can’t figure out what makes one wave similar or different from another… I just try to stand up to them and not get washed out to sea.

Luckily I get to come home to Wonderland and rest in between trips.

As I start to sit up I look over and see if Noah is awake yet, not yet. He always sleeps harder than normal for a few days when we get home. That’s good. He worries about me during travel and that makes it harder for his body to deal with the strain. He’s not getting any younger either.

Because I’m the first one up this morning I stumble into the kitchen and put the kettle on before going to the bathroom. In what has become my tradition I stop and say a prayer of thanksgiving when using the toilet is easy. Thank you Noah for all the lovely cooking. I haven’t had a nasty IBS flare in years, but I don’t forget. Thank you for loving me enough to take care of me.

When I get back to the kitchen (after carefully washing my hands, of course) I reach into the fridge and pull out a bagel and cream cheese. I cut the bagel in half and put everything in place to toast the bagel once Noah starts to stir. I get the tea pot ready. I set everything for tea out on the table. Just one cup with first breakfast.

I putter around tidying things as I wait for Noah. It won’t be long. He still never sleeps well when I’m not in bed.

A few minutes into puttering I hear the toilet flush and Noah appears. As usual the first thing he does when he sees me is smile. I’m so grateful for this man.

We kiss good morning and I pop the bagel into the toaster. When it is done and cream cheesed the tea is also ready and we both sit down to our half a bagel. I just can’t function in the morning without calories and he has adapted to me after so long.

First breakfast rarely involves much talking. We aren’t awake yet, not really. We sip our cups of tea and reach out to hold hands while we munch on our bagel. Sleepy smiles are most of what we have to offer one another.

After breakfast today it is Noah who nudges his head towards the living room and says, “Shall we get to it?”

“Yes, darling. We really should.” Long experience together has taught them that they will have a better day if they start off with meditating and stretching. They can no longer cruise on the resiliency of youth and they must do actual physical maintenance every day. How boring. Noah sets the timer for thirty minutes of meditating and assumes his posture. I grimace just a bit and settle after him.

No matter how long we do this, I always feel that little pull of resistance. I don’t wanna do what I’m supposed to do. But with a Noah here to suffer when I don’t take care of myself… I’m much better at doing what I’m supposed to do now.

We meditate and then when the timer goes off move into stretching. We try for an hour but one or the other of us usually gets bored about 45 minutes in and for some reason… the other stops within two or three minutes. It’s just not as fun alone.

By this point it is coming on eight o’clock. Time to get dressed for a run and go out. It’s a Thursday: a five mile day. Noah grouses just a bit, as usual, because he really prefers three mile days. I grin as he says for the eleven millionth time, ”You are built for distance… I prefer speed.” Some things are as predictable as the sun rising.

No matter who is in second place as they finish up the last half mile there are always comments about how worthwhile the run is because, “Look at the ass I get to look at.”

Runs around the neighborhood always feel like a special treat after they’ve been gone for a while. Getting back to a feeling of normal allows them to adapt with ease to any uncomfortable traveling situation. The discomfort is only for a little while. Soon they will go home.

The post-running shower involves some groping and promises for what will come later. When you are old it takes a little longer to get the motor running for sex, so we try to maintain flirtation throughout the day. That way we don’t forget.

After getting dressed Noah walks in to the kitchen to make second breakfast, the one with all the protein and vegetables. Someone has to be responsible around here.

I walk into the garage while he does this to start setting up my work station for the day. I’m particular and fussy so I always need to spend some time at this. I adjust my standing desk (the erectness of my posture on any given day impacts how high I want it) and play with the monitors and plug everything in. You’d think I’d have this down pat at this point… but I think the adjustments are part of feeling like I’m home. I pull up all the programs I’m going to need today.

I don’t start reading notes yet. It isn’t time. Instead when I’m done adjusting stuff I go into the kitchen and make our second pot of tea. This time we’ll each have three or so cups out of the pot. Ahhh, tea makes life better.

While he’s cooking Noah tells me stories that he has heard from the kids lately. They each tend to tell one parent about an event knowing that it will be passed along. They treat us like one person and sometimes it is funny. A kid will tell one of us the first part of a story and the other of us the second part of a story and it isn’t until we remember to tell one another that we figure out the whole story. It’s like a puzzle. I think they do it on purpose because they know we like to talk about them.

I’m just glad that they still call so often. None of them kept their promise of wanting to live with us forever, but they do come visit often. To be honest… I appreciate not having to carefully lock the bedroom door every time we have sex.

After breakfast we both walk out to our computer desks. We don’t talk a lot for a few hours. Noah continues to work on his railroad (his inner metaphor for building coherency in computer programming) and I work on trying to find commonalities in experience between incest participants.

I’m long past being able to think of folks as victims. Even in the cases where they clearly are and are severely traumatized by the experiences. We are all participants—willing or otherwise.

Maybe I work on bridge building; if you want to extend the engineering metaphors.

After a couple of hours of work Noah nudges me (I tend to get tunnel vision) and says, “Let’s go outside for a while.”

I continue to find it funny that he went from being someone who couldn’t follow a schedule to being the schedule keeper. But he likes pushing me through my day. I’m glad he finds it satisfying. We both put hats on. I walk into the yard first and look around for which area needs attention first. I’m long past having to water (thank goodness) but some area always needs weeding or tending.

Noah waits to see where I end up before dragging a chair over to sit near me. He waits while I gather whatever tools I want for right now and when I seem to be settled into work he asks, “Are you ready?” I smile in assent and he opens the book we are reading and launches into it.

Almost forty years of him reading to me and I still can’t take it for granted. I love hearing how he voices characters. I love that I get to interrupt him and ask questions—he is still my walking encyclopedia. “Why did they do that?” “Ahh! That’s an interesting question. They are reacting to this because…” I get the impression that some of his morning work is reading up on the history of whatever story we are currently reading. No one can just know everything as easily as he does. He must be cheating.

But I don’t mind.

Some days I only work for half an hour. Some days we stay out until he is unwilling to wait longer for lunch. It all depends on how much I feel I need to work out from my morning. Some days I cry through this whole period because my work is so sad. Sometimes I focus on the story and can be present. Noah is there no matter where I am emotionally.

When we come inside I usually head for the pornography. It’s a weird switch after reading about sexual trauma for hours in the morning but if I’m going to be emotionally present and able to have sex with Noah… I need the dichotomy. I have a few pornographers in particular I favor because I know that the participants are joyously having the sex I see on screen. I’m very happy to support people getting to make a living however they want to make a living. And it means that by the time Noah has lunch ready I’m usually ready to grope him and talk about what I want him to do with me after lunch.

Long years of marriage have taught us that waiting until the end of the day for sex means… we probably won’t have sex. When we are home we try hard to hit the early afternoon widow when we are both awake and lively enough to enjoy it.

One of the best parts of being married so long is that I no longer feel embarrassed about being where I am on a given day. Some days I want elaborate foreplay and roleplay. Some days I just want to be fucked without preliminaries (although lube—lube is just important). Some days I want to be tied up and spanked first because I need the catharsis. I continue to feel grateful that I have a partner who is so joyously versatile.

When we finish having sex we tend to grab our laptops and move to the couch so we can sit side by side. This is the time of day when we get to do our personal correspondence and catch up on social media. If we get started earlier in the day… we won’t make real work happen at all.

Of course Noah regularly interrupts my reading to say, “Oh look at this one.” His love of comics continues unabated. I don’t mind. At this point he knows which ones will make me grimace and he doesn’t share those.

After a while of sitting on the couch the phone rings. It is our fourth child calling to ask, “I know I should just check the calendar but I’d rather ask you: is it my turn to cook this week?” Our kids may have moved out but we are very lucky they chose to stay close by. Every Sunday everyone comes over. We take turns making dinner, that way everyone gets a chance of making sure they get what they really want at least some of the time. Of course our first child makes a point of inundating me with mushrooms. That’s ok. I get even by putting olives in everything. Fourth child is the family outlier. That kid likes onions. How oh how did you spring from my loins?

I don’t know. But the little turkey has made me get used to French Onion Soup. Ugh. Fine. Be that way.

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” My children mock me with this phrase often. I even eat fish now, sometimes. It took a long time for them to get me to adapt my palate… but I try to be a good sport.

They are worth it. I chat with fourth child for a while about work and friends until I hear another call coming in. “Oh! It’s Aunt Pam. Can I talk to you later?”

“Oh! Tell her to call me when you get off the phone. I want to talk to her about an event I’m working on.” This makes a lot of sense to me. Fourth child is the one who was inspired by Aunt Pam to go work on climate change policy. I promise to pass the message along.

When I get off the phone Noah is already in the kitchen working on dinner. I get up and ask if I can help. Sometimes he lets me, today he says, “Nah. Just keep me company.” So I stand behind him and lean my head on his back while he works. He asks questions about Pam and the kiddo and I relay what I learned.

After a while I move away to set the table and get water for us both.

After we eat Noah goes back to do a bit more work at his computer while I clean up the kitchen. When I finish tidying I go back to my work station and work for a while longer.

When we both feel done with work (sometimes earlier, sometimes later) we wander through the kitchen and have a few bits of chocolate. It’s nice to feel rewarded at the end of the day.

Then we brush our teeth and head to bed. We don’t fall asleep as soon as we should because we stay up talking. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever run out of things I want to say to Noah.

I hope not.

P.S. Hopefully I will write about other kinds of days too, because he is curious what I expect from the future. But these are the days I’m looking forward to the most.

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