On any given night, from about 10 pm to whenever gets the job done, you’re likely to find a single light on in my house–one in the living room by a recliner we inherited from my wife’s grandfather. And in that chair, you are likely to find a disheveled, stubbly-faced thirty-something man hunched over a laptop, cussing out a Microsoft Word document at a volume that will wake neither the sleeping three-year-olds around the corner nor a pregnant woman passed out on the nine-pillow sculpture she has meticulously perfected over the past few weeks. While verbally abusing his own abused verbiage, he’ll likely be nursing a craft IPA or a bowl of ice cream (or both)–you know, just to take the edge off.
In case you haven’t already Sherlocked where I’m going with this, the insomniac in question is me.
While sleep and I are super duper BFFs and take cute selfies with each other like every single night, I elect to stay up after corralling the kids into the bathroom so they can spend 15 minutes whining about not wanting to brush their teeth and two minutes actually doing it; after reading multiple bedtime stories and refusing third encores; after watching my unborn child kick around my wife’s uterus while taking in whatever’s on our DVR; after my wife crashes in the middle of a show and I’m fighting sleep myself even though it’s only 9:30. Yes, despite all of this, I stay up because I have unfinished bidness. Even though I’ve found a big boy job I absolutely love and am working it full-time, I still have that all important, all-encompassing, all-kinds-of-psychotic last step of my PhD to plow through–my dissertation.
I’ll admit I take weekends off, and even a weekday here and there, but since about May of this year, I’ve been on this late-night regiment for a consistent four nights a week. Come 10 pm, I’m in that chair. Thinking. Number-crunching. Writing. Chasing. Snoozing. Wiping the drool off my face. Deleting the full page and a half of letter W’s my dead hand made while I was unconscious. Taking a sip of beer. Taking another five sips. Sighing loudly. Thinking. Number-crunching. Writing. Chasing.
In mid-September I cleared the first hurdle and laid the first draft of my thesis to rest–all 229 pages of it–and turned it into the chair of my committee for his feedback. Then came revisions, which bled into October, and once that was finally done, November’s late nights have been spent tackling the slideshow for presentation at my defense.
For those unfamiliar with the process, after writing and revising your kajillion-page dissertation, you are then asked to “defend” it to a committee of faculty chosen by you. This committee reviews your thesis, and then, at the “defense,” you present your findings in person, followed by the committee asking questions to challenge the validity and thoroughness of your work while barraging you with paintball guns to break your concentration. If the committee is satisfied with the answers you provide, 99 red balloons fall from the ceiling and Bill Murray inexplicably wanders in from the street to shake your hand and congratulate you on becoming a doctor just before performing an impromptu karaoke rendition of The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” On the other hand, if the committee is not satisfied, you are handcuffed by an enormous sluglike creature named Jabba and shuttled out to the middle of the desert to be cast into a Sarlacc pit for all eternity.
Good News: For the first time in our seven-year relationship, my wife and I purchased a brand new mattress and boxspring. We got a smokin’ deal on top of a rebate and we will now be spending our nights on cloudlike memory foam.
Bad News: The new bed is about eight inches higher, so my pregnant wife can’t get in and out of bed without a stool.
Me: “But it’s nice once you get up here, right?”
Wife: “Shut up.”
I watched the sun as it crawled toward the horizon through a line of palm trees just off in the distance. Despite it being early October, the temperature was still in the mid-eighties, meaning a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops were the only way to go. A cool breeze blew through my toes as I finished off my Philly cheesesteak and glanced at my wife and kids around the table.
No, we were not on vacation. We were not at the beach. In fact, we were actually sitting outside at a restaurant only a few miles from our house. This is Arizona’s “Fall,” and after four months of 110-degree weather, it reminds us every year the real reason we live here.
Gazing at the orange sky silhouetted by palms, I told my wife, “I know you grew up here, but every time I see a sight like this, it still feels like I’m on vacation.” (I was raised in Connecticut, where it was not uncommon to expect snow on Halloween.)
“Yep,” she replied. “This is like the best time of year. And it goes by so fast.” She’s right. As soon as the weather cools off, it always feels like a dead sprint through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
But this evening, with autumn still new and shiny, time seemed to stand still.
“Are we still getting ice cream?” asked my son, who had just finished his chicken nuggets.
“Well, yeah, Buddy,” my wife replied. “We are, but we’re still waiting for Sister to finish her dinner.”
My son eyed his sister, who was leisurely nibbling on her fries, with plenty still piled on her plate. He grimaced. “Is this a dessert place, too?”
“No, Buddy. They only have chicken nuggets and French fries and Mommy and Daddy’s cheesesteaks.” (And yes, in case you’re wondering, cheesesteaks followed by ice cream were, in fact, my pregnant wife’s idea. Boo-yah.)
Looking up from her fries, my daughter chimed in. “I saw cookies inside.”
“Making a human is hard work, you know? This is why women shouldn’t have to do ANYthing else. And I know that sets feminists back 100 to 200 years, but I don’t care. If you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t have to do ANYthing. It’s the truth.” — My Wife
Me: Hey sweetie, if The Baby in Mommy’s Tummy is a girl, what do you think we should name her?
Daughter: Bubble Guppy.
Me: Like, one of the characters’ names on Bubble Guppies? Like Oona, or Deema?
Daughter: No. Just Bubble Guppy.
Me: Okay, what if it’s a boy?
Daughter: Bubble Guppy Boy.
Me: Well, that settles that.