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An hour in the life

I’m the first one up.
I’ve always been an early riser. “Lay-a-beds,” were not tolerated in the Fleck household. If you tried to sleep past dawn, Dad would come through, whistle loudly and then shout “daylight’s burning.” Also, and more importantly, I had two older brothers. Last one up might miss a strip of bacon. Call me what you like, just don’t call me late for breakfast.
So around 6:30 a.m., I roll out of bed and head downstairs, a crack from my right knee marks my arthritic pace. The Mister Coffee is locked and loaded thanks to Sabra, so it only takes a click of a switch to get it dripping.
Next, I look for my socks. I have what is known in the medical world as hot feet. It’s true. Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve needed to regulate my body temperature by exposing my feet. In a movie, on a long car ride or even at church, I’ll slip my shoes off to give the old dogs a little air. At home or at informal social settings with family or close friends, I’ll also lose the socks. So when I get up, they could be hiding anywhere but usually they’re sitting under my chair for watching television.
My shoes are easier to locate. Sabra insists I take them off at the door. After nearly 20 years of extensive training, I now remember to do so most of the time. Properly shod, I head out the door to get the newspaper. The “Des Moines Register” is available on the Internet nowadays and it’s very readable on a tablet or computer. But I learned to love the smell of paper and ink as a child and I find something soothing even in the crinkle of the pages. By the time I’m finished with the front page, the coffee pot spits a short stream of steam and I pour myself a cup.
Next to wake is our furnace. The thermostat is automatic so every day, precisely at 7 a.m., it snaps on to raise the house temperature from sixty-two to sixty-eight degrees. This in turn rouses Meow, one of our two cats. Meow and Conan, the other cat, get along fairly well during the day, but at night Conan is territorial and king of the hill created by Sabra’s sleeping form under the covers. He curls directly on top of her, soaking up the warmth and guards his spot diligently from intrusion. Occasionally, Meow will try to ingratiate herself onto to the coveted location, but Conan repels her with a hiss and even a swat.
So when the furnace fires up, Meow is quick to relocate to a heating vent. She prefers to sit on the air deflectors we have put on the vents, but over the years she’s crushed the plastic gizmos in our bedroom and then the others on the second floor. So now she heads downstairs to perch on the one in our living room, from which she can watch me.
Then, sometime around 7:30 a.m., Sabra wakes with three– not two, not four– loud yawns as she stretches on the edge of the bed. The kitchen is below our bedroom and I can follow her progress as she goes through her morning routine of getting dressed, making the bed and washing her face before heading downstairs. The sound and cadence of her step are unique, and I’ve become intimately familiar over the years with the all-business tap, tap, tap of her steps. Sabra can pick me out in a crowd because of my natural handsomeness (and orange hat); I can distinguish her simply by the sound of her footsteps.
Through all of this Pearl, our labradoodle, snoozes peacefully. Through years of the same routine she knows nothing– as in the morning feed– is going to happen until her person actually passes through the bedroom threshold and heads downstairs. But the instant Sabra’s foot breaks the plane of that door, she’s up and at ‘em. By then, Meow has rejoined the retinue and all three critters shoot out the door and fly down the steps to the basement to take their positions in front of their respective bowls.
Animals fed, Sabra heads back up the stairs to where I am finishing up the paper and getting my second and last cup of coffee. We pass in the hallway, kiss and are off to start our day.