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I'm an early riser living with a night owl

After 35 year together, my wife and I live in different time zones. We share the same bed, but we seem to have drifted apart, chronologically speaking.

As someone who needs a considerable amount of time to plan for my busy work day, the early-morning quiet hours when my brain is rested and benefiting from that first caffeine jolt give me the edge I need to make my day run at its best.

For my wife, who needs to feel that tasks are done and things are cleaned up and put away for the family to start the next day before she can relax and fall asleep, the late hours alone let her do what she needs at her own pace.

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When we were first married and it was just the two of us, we were completely in sync. We got up together, taking turns making coffee. We often even showered together, being environmentally conscious. With one car, we left for work together every day, taking turns driving. At the end of the day, we co-ordinated who picked up whom for the return home, taking turns making supper upon arrival. Okay, maybe not quite taking turns, but I cooked sometimes. We did the dishes together, sans dishwasher, and went to bed tired every night after the 11 p.m. news.

Soon came four kids and the traditional roles that followed, which became, well, comfortable. That's when the change started, I think. I am not quite certain whether to chalk it up to biology, psychology or gerontology, or maybe all three, but our internal clocks are no longer aligned.

Mind you, I have always been a morning person, apart from those late teen and early 20s years when peer pressure makes it obligatory to be a creature of the night. I worked a few summers on the afternoon shift and one on the night shift as a student, but it never felt right.

My niche in life has always been in the early morning. I like to get up, have breakfast and get myself ready while I have lots of time to plan for the day. By about 7 each morning I'm set to take on the world. But by the end of a long workday, my brain is in need of some down time. After supper most nights, to my wife's chagrin, I start a slow descent into zombieland.

My wife, however, morphs into the opposite. She starts her days slowly, picking up steam as she goes. By 9 at night, she hits her peak with her brain firing on all cylinders. While mornings for me often begin as early as 3 a.m., my wife finds it hard to drag herself to bed before 2 a.m.

When our kids were infants our patterns really began to emerge. There was no need to discuss who took care of which cry for attention from the crib. The late-night ones logically and instinctively fell to my wife, while I was off dozing in never-never land. In the early mornings, however, I would change the baby, bring him back to bed and plug him in to nurse, with my wife hardly opening an eyelid.

When our children were in their teen years, it was both convenient and reassuring to have at least one parent on guard virtually around the clock for whatever needs or folly would befall them, particularly during the main teen social hours of about 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Dropping them off here, picking them up there, dealing with car problems, fetching stuff or friends, delivering stuff or friends and, of course, doling out wads of cash for pizza, wings, subs, taxis, movies, bowling or whatever.

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Over a period of several years my wife and I were thankfully able to be at home for lunch most days while the kids were away at school. That was when our daily communications were most effective. Just that one hour of peace and quiet while we were both conscious enough to think and talk provided a respite. Occasionally, we even had time to share other activities. Those were good years.

As a virtual Newfoundlander living in Ontario with a virtual British Columbian, home life now in many ways reflects work life. In my current job I often have to organize or participate in national teleconferences and video-conferences. This requires searching out those middle hours of the day that best accommodate the geographical and chronological extremes of colleagues to maintain harmony.

As the kids are now in their mid- to late-20s and have almost, but not completely, left the nest, their support needs have diminished. However, there is another beneficiary of my wife's and my evolving trend to complementary sleep patterns - the cat.

Our cat, who at 20 is himself well on the cusp of his senior years, has gained a second wind in life. Despite the slowing of his pace, a leaping ability that now needs to be supplemented by a stool and hearing that has all but disappeared, his environmental satisfaction is at an all-time high. With an almost around-the-clock entourage at his disposal for feeding, door opening and closing, and affection on demand, he is amazingly content and healthy for his age. Coming at a time in our lives when the thought of being pet-less is becoming attractive, his enjoyment of the fullest extent of his nine lives leaves us conflicted in wondering when nature will take its course.

With almost all facets of life these days becoming global in nature, I guess it should come as no surprise to me that my wife and I have centred our personal diurnal cycles in different time zones. I'm just glad that at least they overlap for a few hours around the same meal table and in the same bed.

John Lynch lives in London, Ont.

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