sixth step

[Image is a seven-panel comic. In the first panel, a stick-figure guy says to a stick-figure gal, “Hey, do you think you could maybe stop talking about disabilities and chronic illnesses? It’s kind of annoying and makes me feel uncomfortable.” In the second panel, the girl squints at him and says, “Hmmm…” The third panel is a wide shot of the two, and the girl is walking away, still going, “Hmmmmmmmmm…” In the fourth panel, she returns with a box and a megaphone. The box has the word “soap” written on it. She is still “Hmmmmm”-ing. In the fifth panel, she sets the box down. In the sixth panel, she steps onto the box, holds the megaphone, and says, “Ahem.” In the final panel, she is yelling the word “NOOOOOOOOO” through the microphone, blowing the guy away.]

I’ve been sharing and posting all sorts of chronic illness and disability related stuff on Facebook under the guise of “October is Dysautonomia Awareness Month and I’ll shut up on November first!” But let’s face it–I’m never gonna shut up. NEVER.

this cute lil sixth grader stepped on the heel of my shoe today and when she and apologized i turned around to tell her it was okay and she said “oh my god!! you’re so pretty!!” and introduced me to her friends

a slice of life

The house is quiet when he gets home.

It’s not surprising since it’s still early, and Jonny’s never been anything resembling a morning person in the twenty years they’ve known each other. The sun’s barely peeking over the horizon as he closes the front door behind him, the clatter of his keys on the table echoing through the hallway. From experience, he knows it won’t wake anyone in the house up.

He kicks off his shoes before he makes his way upstairs, not bothering to miss the creaking sixth step as he takes them two at a time. There’s no point in looking in the kids’ bedrooms, because Jonny accidentally started the tradition of watching Wednesday Night Rivalry in their bed with Ben and Izzy, and they’ve never let him miss a week since. Izzy’s too young to really understand, but there’s a video on his phone of her pointing at the television and saying daddy, and when he can’t sleep in the crappy airport hotel he plays it on repeat.

They’ve never told anyone that their kids sleep with Jonny once a week, because they’ve learned from experience that other parents have an opinion on everything from Ben wearing pink to Izzy being slow to start talking because she was being raised bilingual. Patrick’s learned to tune most of it out, but Jonny only ever wants to be the best at everything he tries, and that includes being a parent. It’s better for both of them that it remains their secret.

In truth, there’s nothing Patrick loves more than coming home and finding the three people he loves the most sprawled in their giant bed.

When he pushes the door open, it’s no surprise to see Jonny spread eagled on his side of the bed, face smashed into the pillows, breathing stupidly loudly because he insists on sleeping on his front. Izzy’s asleep next to him, curled into his side. She looks angelic in sleep; her golden curls are matted on one side of her head, her tiny thumb tucked into her mouth, but it’s the only time she’s really ever quiet. Ben’s on the other side of the bed, mouth open and sleeping in a position that’s identical to his father. He’s half Kane and half Toews thanks to Jackie, but he’s really just a tiny Tazer, dedicated and serious and a perpetual hater of mornings, even at only four years old.

Jonny’s somehow managed to create a pile of clothing on the floor despite him being gone for less than twenty four hours, and he strips his hoodie and socks and tosses them on top of it, marvelling at how Jonny can still be such a slob.

Now he’s got better things to do than pick an argument that Patrick never wins though, and he lifts the edge of the duvet up and slides over to wrap an arm around his husband, hand sliding under the long faded Hawks t-shirt that Jonny favors at night. Sometimes he doesn’t wake and sometimes he does, but either way, Patrick’s going to be next to him when Jonny finally joins the world of the living.

He lets his eyes drift shut, enjoying the warmth of Jonny next to him when he hears a quiet hey, and when he opens his eyes Jonny’s awake, barely, his eyes soft and unfocused on Patrick. Jonny in the morning is unguarded, his emotions not yet hidden by coffee and Canadianness, and Patrick really loves him like this.

“Hey, babe,” he replies, squirming closer as Jonny lifts his free arm so Patrick can tuck himself under it. Jonny’s smiling, just a little, and Patrick can’t help pressing a kiss to his lips, a quick hello;. The rest will come later, once Ben’s at pre-school and Izzy’s at daycare, and they have the whole house to themselves.

“Missed you,” Jonny mumbles into the pillow, soft and sleepy, already on his way back to the land of the dead. Patrick doesn’t blame him; it is early, and he doesn’t expect Jonny to remember this later. He rarely does.

“You too, Taze,” he says quietly, but Jonny’s already back asleep, quiet snores replacing his weird loud breathing. Patrick’s used to it by now though, and he curls into Jonny as much as he can, plastering himself along his side.

He rarely sleeps when he gets home since one of them has to be up in an hour to get the kids ready, and that person is rarely Jonny, but the quiet moments like this give him time to reflect on the life that they’ve built together. It hasn’t always been perfect and peaceful; their teammates had been accepting, but they’d been ostracised by management, made a spectacle of by the NHL, but they’d stuck together and they’d been stronger for it. Jonny had promised him for better for worse long before they’d stood together and said their wedding vows, and Patrick had never forgotten that.

It’s part of why he loves Jonny so much. It’s why he loves their family so much; he sees Jonny in their kids every day, everything from Izzy’s stubbornness to Ben’s seriousness. It’s taken them a long time to get here, but now they are, Patrick can’t imagine ever wanting to give it up.

“I love you,” he murmurs to Jonny, barely loud enough for even himself to hear. He doesn’t expect a reply from Jonny, but he gets a soft smile, and Patrick traces it with his thumb, watching the lines of Jonny’s forehead smooth out in sleep.

He never thought he could love anything more than hockey, anything more than winning, but if he had to choose between his cup rings and this slice of domesticity, there wouldn’t even be a competition. This is his life now.

And he feels like the luckiest man in the world.

TO THE NEXT PERSON WHO CALLS MY HOUSE “HOME”

The floor creaks in front of the entry hall. Same with just left of the bathroom sink. Same with the sixth step from the top. Adds character, I think.

One of the living room fans always shakes when it’s on too fast. It’s not loose or unstable or broken, just… rowdy.

If you look at the drywall in the basement by the door, you’ll see that it’s a different color than the rest. There used to be a hole in the middle, so we replaced it. Sorry about that; some anger just can’t be contained. Or maybe some drywall is just too thin.

When Christmas comes, always put the tree in front of the windows, even if you have to move the furniture. Maybe especially then. Change is good for you, and anyway the lights look so nice from outside.

If you look closely at the driveway next to the front step, you’ll see two paw prints in the concrete. The neighbors’ dogs were always welcome at our house; I hope you feel the same.

There used to be twice as many trees in the strip of land between our yard and the next. They cut them down for the power line’s sake, then the oil line’s, then the house’s. Plant some more, will you? I think the deer miss them.

You have the luxury of having the most beautiful part of the neighborhood right outside your front door. When spring comes, pay attention to the way the cul-de-sac blossoms into life. You don’t want to miss it.

The pine branches of the neighbor’s yard will always be in your way. You’ll want to cut them back, or cut them down, but I promise that the moment you see them glistening in the rain, droplets poised on the needles like tiny jewels, you’ll change your mind.

There are a few faded bloodstains in the carpet of the back bedroom that just won’t come out. In case you’re wondering, I’m okay now. Lived to call my scars “character.”

—  Origins. // J.S.

I always skip the sixth step of the stairwell at my dad’s house. I’ve done it for so long that it’s become a natural part of how I run up or down the stairs - even when I come back for the first time in a couple of years. The reason I started doing it? When my friend and I were about nine, we were pretending the stairs were enchanted like at Hogwarts and that every sixth step was a false one, like the kinds Neville always fell into. Sixteen years later and I still do it out of habit.