Appreciating My Partner
My 14-year-old daughter woke me up at 4:45 a.m. “Do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” I asked groggily.
“You don’t hear anything?” Panic rose in Sara’s voice.
“No.” I sat up.
“You don’t hear that?” she said, just after I too heard a high-pitched chirp.
“Yes,” I said. “It sounds like a smoke detector with low batteries.”
“You hear it, too!” She sounded relieved. “I thought my dreams to be on Broadway were over and I’d have to live with a jump scare every 30 seconds for the rest of my life.”
Sara and I stood in the hallway, waiting for the intermittent sound, and then we tried to figure out where it was coming from. It was so piercing that it was hard to tell.
There was a smoke detector in each bedroom, and the door was closed to one of those rooms where my husband, Todd, slept. And beyond Todd’s bedroom, there was another smoke detector in his office where his nighttime caregiver was hanging out. But I wasn’t convinced the noise was a smoke detector, because they are powered by the electrical wiring in our house.
Sara and I stood in our bedrooms, and it seemed that the chirping was loudest in Sara’s room. Looking right at her smoke detector, we still couldn’t be sure it was the source of the sound.
I noticed that the carbon monoxide detector, which was usually plugged into an outlet in the hallway, was missing. That CO detector had chirped in the past when it had come unplugged.
I wondered if somehow the device ended up in Sara’s room. I dug through her laundry basket. She checked her miscellaneous bin. After tearing apart her room, we determined it must be coming from the ceiling, from the smoke detector.
I climbed on a chair and twisted it off the ceiling, and it hung from the wires. I couldn’t unplug it, because it was hardwired — there was nothing to disconnect. So I woke Todd.
He wouldn’t be able to help me physically, having lost all strength in his arms and legs due to ALS. But he understands how these things work, and he could tell me what to do.
He told me that the smoke detectors have battery backups, and it was beeping due to a low battery. Five minutes later, after fetching a ladder from the garage and replacing the battery, our middle-of-the-night adventure was over, and we were back in bed.
Sara and I laughed about it a few hours later on the way to school. “I hope I never own a house by myself,” she commented.
She went off to school grateful that there’s nothing wrong with her ears, and I drove home grateful that I still have my husband to help me figure out house stuff.
Later that morning, I found out that Todd heard the chirping earlier in the night and had his caregiver grab the carbon monoxide detector. When the chirping continued, he realized it was one of the smoke detectors — he just hoped the noise wouldn’t wake us. Todd tells me we’ve replaced the batteries in the smoke detectors before when they had chirped, but apparently, I didn’t even remember those mid-day projects. But now, I don’t think I’ll forget this bit of household maintenance.
I am thankful to have Todd as a partner. He needs me to physically care for him every day, and he helps me in other practical ways — like giving direction on household and vehicle maintenance. He provides tech support when I have a computer problem, and I’m lucky to have an in-house graphic designer. He created the covers for my Copper Island Novels.
We are partners on a deeper level beyond an exchange of labor. He’s my best friend and co-parent. We enjoy watching movies and shows, and discussing what works and doesn’t work in the writing and character development. We delight in the growth of our children. After giving them my best feedback on whatever situation the kids are dealing with at school, I send them to Todd’s office to tell their dad about it, knowing he will provide another perspective.
Todd and I are in it together, navigating life in the same boat. This is one stormy sea, but there’s no one I’d rather ride it out with for as long as we have.
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