He so rarely catches any of the colds going around that I am not used to hearing him cough.
Now I have to pee. My mouth is as dry as cracker dust a million miles from a glass of water. Then a short-but-sharp stab of pain in my eyes lets me know that mouth isn’t the only thing that is dry.
“Ok,” I think sleepily. “Three things: Pee, drink water, squirt eyes.”
Sitting up wearily, I remind myself to take care of my bodily needs like I take care of my beloved dogs when they awaken in the middle of the night. Kindly, and without resentment.
Jim looking on the mountains.
As I take care of the three needs that presented themselves a few minutes ago, I am aware that I don’t resent being awakened in the least.
My mind drifts back 37 years to a time when I had pneumonia, trying to sleep at 8 months pregnant with my fourth child. Fits of coughing had torn an umbilical hernia in the center of my swollen belly, and I was miserable.
My husband at the time flipped over next to me in a burst of irritation.
“GOD!!!” he exclaimed. “Can you STOP coughing?!!”
Poor guy. Who knows how many nights in the long months-long saga of my bout with walking pneumonia he had already been kept awake?
And every night, I hated the coughing, too -- not only because it kept us both awake, but because I hated getting yelled at…
I am relieved of this memory as another memory surfaces… a sweeter one.
It is autumn, 2002. I am lying in bed at a Drury Inn with Jim’s warm body wrapped around mine, feeling his warmth against my back.
A sense of dread fills me. A nagging cough is tickling the back of my throat, wanting out.
Just getting over a cold, I try to suppress it, desperate not to wake him.
Will he be angry? Irritated at being awakened? I must not bother him!
Unable to hold back the cough, I creep out of bed and cross the room, shoving my face into the crook of my elbow, coughing as quietly as I can manage.
A high-backed chair stands sentry in the corner of the room. Curling up into the firmness of the chair, I pull my knees to my chest and hug them. Whenever a coughing spasm surfaces, I press my mouth into the crook of my elbow.
Maybe Jim won’t hear me. Maybe my coughing won’t be the end of this wonderful relationship. We had only been dating a few months, but things were already pretty serious.
The room is silent. The darkness of the room reassures me as I set about my plan to spend the rest of the night hugging my knees in that chair.
Then I hear a rustled stirring.
“Where did you go?” Jim whispers softly from across the room.
Allowing myself to remain hidden like a shadow in the safety of my corner, I gather my courage.
“I’m over here. In the chair,” I whisper.
“Are you ok?” Jim asks gently.
Still fearing his wrath, which to be fair, I had never witnessed -- I attempt to explain.
“I’m coughing, and I don’t want to keep you awake. I should stay over here. My ex used to hate it when I kept him awake with my coughing.”
Jim’s soft rumbly voice reaches through the darkness like a comforting embrace.
“It doesn’t work like that,” he says as he lifts the covers invitingly, clearly wanting me to climb back into bed.
As I curl back into the fold of his arms, I don’t know what to think.
Twenty-five years in my former marriage had created hard-and-fast rules and reactions, based on training I didn’t even realize I had taken on. It happens to us all from time to time: We apply our automated reactions and beliefs, brought forward from previous experiences, into new situations where those reactions no longer apply.
As light slowly dawned, I had a revelation.
I awoke to the realization that, for the first time in my life, the rules of the game are changing.
Being with someone who truly loves me -- someone who has loved me from the moment he laid eyes on me -- would take some getting used to.
Lori and Jim with their warmest smile
And now, back to the present moment…
Do I care that I am up in the middle of the night, writing this?
Not at all. It is the least I can do for this man who has given himself to me so totally.
Love has embodied itself. It is manifest. It is Jim.