Nanette’s Rule

Dearest Rachel –

Last night was not one of Chompers’ better nights. You would think that, after having the girls visit during the afternoon, and being exercised outside for quite some time because of it – to say nothing of having stayed up until 11:30 for his late-night pain pill rather than the usual 10:30, due to my own lassitude – he would be more tired than usual, and more willing to sleep during the night.

You would think it, but you would be wrong.

The thing is, given his age and arthritic condition (combined with the fact that he defaults to crossing his back legs, a fact that would be fascinating if it weren’t so infuriating), it takes several tries before he finds a sleeping position he feels comfortable with. Add to that the fact that once he seems comfortable, he may want to get up and get a drink of water, or suddenly realize “wait, no… I’m not comfortable in this position,” all of which starts the clock over again. And usually, by that time, I’ve crossed back over to my side of the bedroom, turned out the lights, and juuuuust closed my eyes, when he comes to these realizations and begins whining, whereupon I need to get up, get back over to your side of the bedroom, and attend to him before he starts barking and waking Daniel up on the other side of the house. Which he can do.

All of which wouldn’t be so terrible if I could sleep in. But as we had decided to attend the first service at church, I had set my alarm at 6:30, in order to shower and dress beforehand, and maybe grab breakfast along the way.

I admit, it would be a cartoonishly funny scene, if it were in a movie, and happening to someone other than myself.

This went on until about 2:30 this morning, when I figured (after all the drinks of water he had) that he might just need to go outside. And sure enough, he did.

So with that out of the way, I laid him on one of the beds he has on your side of the room, and waited as he stumbled around, trying to get comfortable. I keep gathering up newspapers and pairs of shoes while he does this – there is so much of your stuff to go through yet, sweetheart, and I need to do it slowly, lest I miss something you wrote down that I couldn’t bear to part with, like your Christmas message to family and friends from your sophomore year, where you name-checked your closest friends, Elizabeth and myself.

I’m thinking I got back to my side before 3am, but it may have been a near run thing. I wasn’t looking forward to invoking Nanette’s Rule.

You, of course, remember Nanette Larson (no relation – at least, I don’t think so. It’s a fairly common Swedish name, after all). She enrolled at IWU a year after you, and we both met her in BASIC. She was… a character, let’s say. She got a tattoo on her arm between semesters, and whenever someone would point it out, she would react in shock and horror, as if that had happened without her knowledge or consent, before settling into a sort of deadpan reaction of “yeah, what of it?”

That kind of girl.

At any rate, she had a philosophy toward sleep that was rather unusual, but which made a kind of sense (although I never used it – more on that later). She had concluded that, if you were on the verge of pulling an all-nighter, and you were likely to get anything less than three hours of sleep, that it simply wasn’t worth bothering to do so at that point. The time and effort spent trying to get to sleep at that point, combined with the minimal amount of actual sleep you would get, almost guaranteed that you would end up more tired for the attempt than if you decided to just tough it out and stay up the whole night.

You certainly took that piece of advice to heart, not only in college itself but throughout the rest of our lives together. Had to pack for a vacation or a convention (yeah, redundant, I know)? Stay up the whole night to get everything you needed together. Doing a lot of cleanup in the house in preparation for visitors the next day (this was early in our marriage – we both kind of gave up once we had a tight circle of friends that weren’t overly concerned by the mess)? Pull an all-nighter to get everything either cleaned up or put away somewhere where it wouldn’t be found.

I confess, I rarely was a part of any of this. I was the type of kid who, when I got tired, I headed off to bed – and have remained so throughout my life. I never stayed up all night to study for a class, or finish a project, or anything like that – I had to get it done while I was awake; work done at that hour was just worthless, in my opinion. The only time I ever stayed up all night, even in college, was upon meeting this one girl, and we hit things off, and hung out in the common room of the dorm together…

Ahem. Look, it was the common room, nothing much happened that couldn’t in public. Anyway, it was before we were really friends, let alone anything more than that. And the girl and I never did anything like that thereafter, although we remained friends for the rest of my college career.

But still…

So, yeah. He brought me almost to that point, but I would have been a mess at church this morning if he didn’t finally decide he was good to fall asleep, and thus let me join him in slumber for the next four hours – just one hour over the threshold.

You used to always like the fourth Doctor’s quote that “Sleep is for tortoises,” and there’s no denying you lived it, honey. There was just too much for you to get done in the hours you were given.

Guess we know why now. You only had so many hours, after all, and you managed to cram in as much as you could. “It’s not the years in your life that matter, as much as the life in your years.”

You had so much life in your years, darling.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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