Years ago, when I was still climbing out of the hole I’d dug for myself, I used to tell Andrea that dancing wasn’t something she wanted to see me do.
“I make music specifically so I don’t have to dance,” was my line. It’s not really as though I hated it, I just thought I looked reaaallllly silly doing it. I just hadn’t really taken the time to see that, unless you’d taken lessons, gone to Arthur Murray or something (look it up, I know some of you don’t know who that is) EVERYBODY looked silly dancing.
But it’s funny, there are two kinds of people that push and push me to move on. The funny thing is, they both are just trying to make themselves feel better, and it annoys the hell out of me, it really does. I’m not trying to offend, just educate.
The first are absolutely determined that I can’t possibly handle this. I HAVE to get to counseling, now, immediately, quickly. I’m insane if I don’t because the emotional anvils, boulders, shock waves will come falling down on me like so many Acme devices in Wile E. Coyote’s desert. Why? Because I’m taking too long. I’m not fixed. I’m still here, the guy that’s alone, lost his wife, annoying them with his calm daily work and refusal to be whatever the hell it is they think I should be. Sorry folks, I didn’t conform to social criteria as a kid, what makes you think it’s happening now?
The second group are the people I like to call the “Sleepless in Seattle”-ers. They are determined to convince me that I’m going to move on. I use the movie because it simultaneously gets the grief part right and yet throws me toward the whole “magic” part and never remembers the ghost of Tom Hanks’ wife lingering in his life. I get a lot of lines from these folks: “you’ll start to heal, eventually you’ll start to date, you’ll meet somebody . . . ” Those folks are trying to be subtle, creeping the idea into my head. Then there’s my least-favorite: “Those who have loved before are TWICE as likely to love again!”
Now, I’m not saying it’s a bad movie, it was actually one of Andrea’s (OK, mine, too) favorites, but now, when I’m actually in a similar position to Tom Hanks’ character (ironically named Sam, my son’s name) it’s got a whole different feel and is very hard to watch. The sleepless nights, the daily activity but melancholy nights . . . those are all spot-on. But what it doesn’t really delve into is why everyone wants you to get there. What Nora Ephron DOES get right is the beginning of the film. The “don’t mind him, he’s just the guy who lost his wife” part. I agree with how he feels at first, it’s hard to imagine how this would work, because as Ephron’s line puts it, “that’s fine, no problem, I’ll just grow a new heart.”
I guess that’s why getting that second chance at what they deem “Magic” seems so incongruous. Andrea and I got together in spite of ourselves, let’s face it. I mean, we almost never went out again. We’d gone out, had a lot of fun, even stayed out having a couple drinks and seemed to click. She loved to stay up, be out with friends, and I thought we might actually start going out. A bunch of guys from my speech class in college heard I was in a band and during one of our study sessions, at 9:30 at night, decided that I should grab the ugly, Peto-Bismol colored Ibanez guitar one of them had laying on the floor and we should hit up a jam session at a nearby bar. So in a brazen state of self-confidence, I hit the pay-phone in the front of the bar (Yes, they had those, well before cell phones, you had to have change and everything and pay physical money to make a call) and fished a piece of paper in my pocket where Andrea had scrawled her number. I actually got through all seven digits, not hovering after six, in a panic.
I asked for Andrea, as one of her roommates answered. When she came on the phone, I told her I’d headed out for drinks, was going to actually play guitar on-stage, would she like to join us? Her answer . . . “oooh. Yeah. You see, I just washed my face and . . . geez, I don’t know, I just can’t.”
Yes, yes, I get it, women of the world. This actually WAS a legitimate excuse. She’d taken off all her makeup, she’d done her whole bedtime routine, it was fine. But to 20-year-old Dave who actually took the leap and made the call . . . it sounded like the equivalent of “I’d love to, but I really need to wash my hair”. The funny thing is, I took this guy’s ugly, awful guitar, got my spot with the band, called out the chords, and just beat the crap out of the guitar. I played a couple Hendrix pieces, a Muddy Waters cover, and finished to see my speech buddies’ jaws hanging open. The head of the jam session gave me his card and begged me to come to the next jam. I, however, downed my drink, laughed as 5 guitarists tried to play “Free Bird” and wondered how this amazing woman could have given me her number, told me to call, then just blew me off.
But she hadn’t. She must have sensed something, probably because I closed down and hid in the control room, but she did what Andrea did . . . wouldn’t let me hide from it. She had a knack for hitting me in the head with the proverbial 2×4 to make me see reality. I just had stewed for a few days because she had some time off. Just when I was about to give up and chalk this up to my being . . . well, me, she tracked me down and said she’d have done it ANY other night, she just couldn’t that night. I gave her crap about this nearly every year. What she didn’t know was all she had to really do was flash that smile and I melted anyway. You want that movie magic? That’s where it was. One flash, one twinkle of her smile and I didn’t have a care.
If you’ve been part of the magic, why would you rush back into the sludge that led up to it?
There’s just such a huge push to make sure that you move on. You’re still sitting there, cleaning up from the day, basically dying for that second wind and the coffee to take effect so you can take on the 3rd job of the day: maid/butler/chef/laundress/sock darner/pants mender/counselor/dishwasher/repairman. People also seem to think that because I talk about all that work that it’s simply a matter of having someone there to help you that’s making things so hard.
Get over it.
If that was all I needed, I’d find a way to just hire some person to come in and do all this stuff. It’s not at all about the work, the activities or raising the kids. I actually like to cook. I have always loved being with my kids. They’re the greatest thing in my life, and quite frankly all I have left of my wife. What I miss is just so intangible. It’s not as simple as Tom Hanks saying “ah, babe, I miss you so much it hurts…” that’s a given!
It’s the stupid little stuff, the things that hurt and depress and aggravate you all at the same time. It’s seeing a drawing your son did on the floor, picking it up and looking up to say “look at this” and realizing there’s nobody there. It’s reaching over to the spot where you held her hand when the house finally went quiet and realizing you’re not going to find those fingers. It’s wondering how you’re going to help your daughter deal with the problems unique to being a girl and realizing you are all she has.
I guess what I’m saying is what all that symbolism of marriage and relationships is about – symbols most people don’t realize are truly appropriate. The thing that your wedding band represents isn’t just some big old rock that’s sitting on top some gold or platinum, it’s supposed to be a circle. It’s supposed to represent one whole life, unbreakable, binding, one blending to the other. The idea given that you no longer are two people, you are one, that’s something you don’t really realize until it’s gone. We were still individuals, we kept our characteristics. We had our own jobs, our own likes and dislikes.
But Andrea was ripped away from us – and that’s the appropriate descriptor, ripped. If you’ve ever had a piece of your skin torn away, or a nail tear through your skin, it’s the emotional equivalent of that kind of pain. It’s deep, it’s hard, it’s really, really painful and takes forever to heal. So if you’ve been through that, if you’ve been so invested and bound to this other soul for that long, why would your first inclination be to jump directly into finding someone else? I found the person that – forgive the cheesy analogy – completed me. I had the circle, the combination of souls, the person who finished my thoughts. The person who inspired me to write intense, creative words; to make music and write songs; to influence my thoughts and put them into some sort of artistic endeavor is gone. I’ve had as many years with her as I did without her, half my life.
I cannot see the future because for decades that future included Andrea. Now I have to come to terms with that. I can’t say I’ll never date someone or that the spark, the magic won’t happen. But having someone try to force me to make it happen won’t work either.
So you’ll excuse me if I’d like to think about and absorb the fact that I’m now half the man I used to be. Maybe not that much. She was part of me. When the music played, she laughed, sang off key . . . and she danced, whether it looked good or not . . . and by then she didn’t care if she’d washed her face or not.
But now, if Donald Fagen will forgive the reference:
“…we can’t dance together. No we can’t talk at all.”