Sometime Around 2 A.M.

By Mark E. Smith

I don’t know what time it is? I guess it’s sometime around 2 a.m. It was mere weeks ago that I could simply roll over or sit up and look at the clock. Not anymore.

I awake several times per night like this now, in pain from not being able to roll or shift positions myself. I lay awake until the pain is unbearable, then I wake my wife. Sweetie, can you please roll me over?

Age, disability, illness and surgery has all taken its toll – and much of my physical abilities and health with it.
I suppose I should be devastated, even bitter toward it all. I’ve had to live with cerebral palsy my whole life, now this – how can life be so cruel?

Yet, I don’t feel that way at all. In fact, I feel the opposite – blessed. No, I don’t want any of this, not the debilitating illness or chronic pain or loss of abilities. But, it’s not my call. It’s aging and illness and life at play. Resenting it all wouldn’t change anything other than adding a self-defeating tail spin to my life. Acceptance is liberating.

My wife is right next to me, touching me, side-by-side. We have a king-size bed, and she insists that I somehow end up on her side no matter what. Yet, in reality, I don’t think she’d want it any other way – close, touching, reassuring, especially now, for the both of us.

Life is about change, and questioning it or resenting it over the long run only defeats us. I’m not saying taking time to acknowledge loss or express our feelings toward adverse changes isn’t normal or healthy – absolutely it is. However, there has to be an expiration date for it, or it will consume our lives more adversely than the actual changes.

I’m to the point where my pain is unbearable and I need my wife’s help rolling over. I gently awaken her, and she softly rolls me over, asking in the darkness if I need anything else?

I answer, no. My answer applies to both the immediate and my life in whole. In the silence of the night, I think about my wife and our daughters and the blessed life I have – and I recognize that I’ve never had more.

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Changing Like the Rising Sun

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By Mark E. Smith

My daughter looks so cozy, curled up, under the covers on the sofa bed this morning as the sun rises over the Vegas strip, the full-wall of window glass framing her. She hated the thought of the sofa bed at first, preferring her own bedroom, but now she loves it – it is a tiny Vegas high-rise condo that she agreed after all is perfect for us, just the two of us, the way it’s been for some time. This is a week-long getaway, where I can visit my company’s western manufacturing facility and give a talk at the University of Nevada (UNLV), all while my daughter and I pursue some writing and photography in a town that’s a never-ending flow of story lines and imagery – and a sofa bed turns out to be just fine by her as a place to dream.

Glancing at my own bed, I wonder if I should make it or leave it for Housekeeping to change, but I can’t remember if it’s laundry day? I’ll wait till my daughter awakes, and discuss it with her – she knows the condo’s schedule better than I do, as she pays attention to such details. For now, I’ll sit quietly, watching the Vegas sun rise over my daughter, waiting for her to awake with a smile and a stretch, as she always does, and we’ll talk about whether to cook breakfast or walk to Starbucks or Denny’s, and she’ll tell me whether it’s laundry day.

After this quick trip to the Vegas condo, we’ll be back in Pennsylvania, on our usual schedules, celebrating our birthday that’s only three weeks away. Hers is March 3, and mine is March 2, so beyond the separation of midnight, it’s kind of a shared date, so we just call it our birthday. She’s turning 15, me, 41.

I always said that the joy of parenting is in seeing your child evolve and grow, where there’s no ideal stage, but that the entire process is awe-inspiring. However, as I sit here, I realize that I just want to stop time after all. She’s perfect the way she is – ideals, flaws, no matter – she is perfect, and I just want time to stop, freeze this moment forever, much as she does with her photography.

In three years, she’ll be off to college, and our relationship will evolve in yet more ways. Of course, I want her to move out, attend an ivy-league school, maybe in the northeast, maybe out west, but far from me – she needs to fly on her own, to soar on her own. And, I, too, will be on my own – an empty-nester at such a seemingly young age, likely lost for a while. Maybe I’ll have a live-in girlfriend, or it’ll just be me and the dogs. But, no matter what, I’ll still be lost for a while – and it will be OK. It will all be OK.

And, as I sit here watching my daughter sleep, I can’t help but already miss having her as the everyday center of my life. I was the first to hold her when she was born. As a toddler, she spent more time on my lap than walking. We moved across the country together, sitting side-by-side on the airplane when she was three. I still take her to school each morning. My weeknights and weekends are filled with her band and drama rehearsals. And, the big comfy chair that she sits in while talking to me at night in my master bedroom remains her safe place to let it all out when needed. Yet, as I sit here watching her sleep as the sun rises over Vegas, I know it’s all changing – it’s ever-changing, her, me, life, all changing like the rising sun.

I really should wake her up to talk about breakfast, laundry, and our day’s events. But, I can’t. For a moment, at least, I can just sit here, admire her perfection, and watch the sun rise. Indeed, time can stand still – if only for a precious moment.