Still almost an hour before the alarm rings. Nice.
As I turn, I get slapped in the face. That’ll wake you better than any alarm. Noah is sleeping a foot from me, his arms flung out like the hands on a clock. Mouth agape, face pushed into his pillow. His breathing is regular with the sweet smell that has become so familiar. Whether it was Mommy’s milk at 9 months or Daddy’s pepperoni pizza at 9 years, his breath is like a DNA imprint…uniquely his.
I watch him sleep. What a lovely boy.
Suddenly the arms fling out further, moving like a clock gone crazy. I duck, barely avoiding another hit on my snooze button. He settles as suddenly as he stirred. Eyes still closed, mouth still open, he now shows 10 minutes to 2.
Funny. That’s the time at which he pushed my door open.
“Dad, my stomach hurts. A lot.”
Third time today. Each time it passed, in part by his sitting on the toilet, in part by just telling me, in part by just waiting for time to pass.
But at 10 minutes to 2 in the morning, dragged up from some muddy dream that still sucks at my boots, I have only one desire: return to the swamp of sleep.
“Go get your pillow and hurry back.”
An almost inaudible, “yes” trails after him as he runs for his pillow.
I scoot over, he settles his pillow and drops onto it, turning his back so that I can rub his belly more easily. It’s like synchronized swimming. We’ve done this before. Familiar gestures of caring that he will probably perpetuate with the ones he will love later in his life.
“I’m sure it’ll pass soon, Noah.”
Moments like this remind me how small he is. Full of life, talents, desires. A fully functioning life, that can be snuffed in a moment.
Moments like this fill me with a dread that is as vast as my love. One of these days, I will leave him unprotected as my time comes to an end. Hopefully not for decades, but still…
I stop moving my hands. He’s breathing with the peaceful rhythm of unencumbered sleep. Took him a total of two minutes. Noah says it every time.
“Dad, I don’t know how, but your bed, like, it’s a magic bed. I sleep so well when I sleep in your bed.”
Unfortunately, I sleep very badly when he sleeps in my bed. His arms swing back and forth and around like some Time Machine gone awry. Generally, it’s accompanied by dervish moves that gather the sheets into a ball under his body.
Naked and fearing for my physical integrity, it takes me forever to fall asleep. When I do, I’m often awakened by his thrust and parry.
Sinking into deep peaceful sleep has always been a challenge. Since I’ve become a single parent, I’m like a dragonfly flitting at the surface of sleep, never quite settling.
Mouth open, eyes closed but not tightly. He seems in peace. His eyebrows arch suddenly. He smiles.
A lovely smile.
He turns on his back. His arms go spinning again. Time flies. How much longer will he think that your bed is magical? How will you regret not having enjoyed each one of these moments fully.
Time has slowed. Perhaps if I keep watching him, it’ll come to a stop and the alarm will never go off.