Believe it or not, I think this is actually from the show I saw – my very first concert! Gotta love YouTube.
Don’t worry, I’m not sitting in some sort of isolation tank with a bag of ‘shrooms and de-evolving to my Neanderthal ancestry. (If you get the reference, I’m impressed. As a teenager I always thought Blair Brown was gorgeous) But I have found myself dwelling a lot on things that swirled before and after the last 20 years.
I’m not sure why that is, frankly.
OK, I’m lying a little bit, I have an idea. Just like the title of my blog and the sign on our wall says, “The Place Our Story Begins”, there’s a new story begun in this part of our lives. Others try to tell me that it’s simply another chapter, but I just don’t see it that way. A chapter is a part of the story, something that pushes the plot, either by giving you background or furthering the device so you ultimately move forward toward the end of your story line. The events of the last eight months have – in no way at all – furthered our story. In fact, if anything (if you’ll pardon the cliche’d use of an old phrase) for every step forward we think we’re taking, we end up taking two steps back.
No, we’re not in another chapter, this is absolutely another story. I guess the best way to reason this out for you is that we had mapped out the previous story. The chapters were laid, the road of our life paved right there in front of us. Andrea changed my life, for sure, and the diversion from the road I’d been on wasn’t a poor one. It was the proper choice, a change for the better that put me onto the right path. It was another chapter. This amazing woman had found the person inside me that was hoping to see the light of day and helped him to come out. She put us onto the path together so that the stories merged – kind of like those old ’70s and ’80s dramas or when CSI Vegas ends up in New York and another series emerges. Same producers, similar writers, but the story changes a bit. That was what happened with us.
But we’ve burned that chapter outline, like so many bridges on the road we’d paved. (Remember that line, it’s a lyric in a forthcoming song I’ve written) Our story was all but written. Sure, there were some dramatic plot twists. A year into marriage, we were pregnant with our first child. We were young, at least for us, having a daughter at the age of 24. Andrea, I can say with utmost confidence, was totally freaked out. As much as everyone was excited and happy, throwing baby shower after baby shower and inundating her with gifts, she was scared and didn’t think she could handle it. Sure, I was scared, but we couldn’t both freak out. So I didn’t. I didn’t think at the time that I wanted to be a parent, I still had so many amazing things I wanted to do with my wife. I was just getting used to saying I was married; just getting used to feeling this amazing woman’s skin next to mine as I drifted to sleep each night. We were still crazy in love, hungry for each other, and we were now throwing a baby into the equation.
But here’s the thing: I always thought, and said to myself: “no big deal, we’re having the baby young. We can still have those adventures, those trips overseas or goofy idealistic projects once she grows up. We’ll still be young enough.” At no point did I ever think that we’d never get to have those times together. We were supposed to pick up the giddy adventurous life again later, when we’d grown up a little ourselves. That was the way the story was supposed to go. We were supposed to get our “happily ever after” but instead we got the Shakespearean tragedy.
I’m not asking for your pity or people to think about us like we’re so messed up we can’t function, that’s not the case. Nor do I want anyone to get the mistaken impression that I didn’t or don’t want my children around. That’s about as far from the truth as you can get.
But we didn’t always see eye-to-eye when it came to how we became parents. Andrea wasn’t happy, in fact, she was hyperventilating when she saw that little “+” on the pregnancy test. I think she took three of them, asking me to go out and buy another set of tests so she could make absolutely certain that she hadn’t messed up somewhere along the line. Not that she could, you pee on a stick and wait ten or twenty minutes. It’s pretty simple, I think. It was one time of many that I had to talk her down, explain how we’d do this, tell her what we could do, how we’d live, what would happen. It was the first and only time she’d freaked out when pregnant. It was the only time I didn’t.
With Abbi, a name I liked but would have changed had I known then she was named after a soap opera character, I did tons of prep work. I stenciled roses on the ceiling of what would be her bedroom in our apartment. I helped pick out a crib. I set up the room, rocking chair and baby monitors included. I did a ton of work to prepare for the arrival of this tiny little person. What Andrea didn’t know was how freaked out I was, too.
You have to understand, with each pregnancy I saw our time together pushing farther and farther away. I saw dollar signs flying out the door. Where she freaked out and couldn’t understand how we’d survive I was fine. But with Hannah and the boys I was in a panic. She was ecstatic, happy as a clam. If she could have had 4 more kids I think she would have. I was scared. I couldn’t tell Andrea “no” and we were already in trouble financially, losing ground on our bills, living at times off our credit cards. I couldn’t see an end in sight. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t, nor would I ever, consider aborting the pregnancy. I’m not taking a moral a political stand by saying that, I just couldn’t have done it. The only time we even had the discussion was when they thought Hannah, our middle, had some major genetic abnormalities because of anomalies on a hormone test. For a month, while we waited for the results of an amniocentesis, we were scared, not for ourselves but for the baby and what might happen. Again – freaked out.
Now, the story’s over. It really is, and that’s so very hard to accept. You have to understand, we were supposed to do it all over again. I didn’t want the kids to leave quickly and I really don’t want them to now. But I wasn’t scared and panicked about it like other parents. I was looking forward to it, almost. I wanted to go out to dinner, go to concerts, go see the pyramids at Giza! I was really just dying to see that first week alone together when we could go out, hold hands, and jump off the cliffs of insanity together again. I didn’t have major plans, I just knew that once the children were gone it didn’t matter because they were still my kids – like me with my parents, they’d call me and talk. Regardless, I’d have Andrea, the love of my life, to lay on my shoulder, figuring it out as we went.
So it’s all the more confusing to me that I watch myself delve so far back. I’m telling stories to the kids of my first concert, with my older brother, seeing the band Kansas at Omaha’s Civic Auditorium – the band amazing, but dual headlining with Heart who were so awful that night that we left 2 songs into their set. I sit in the car with old Robert Cray CD’s in the player, discs that I had bought before I ever dated her. Even my high school and early college years are creeping in. My childhood.
I’m not sure if it’s the realization of my own mortality that is weighing on me. The optimist – the guy inside that’s been most absent in the past few months – thinks I’m just retelling the other stories. I’m looking at the story of my life and finding the happier moments. I’m avoiding the last chapters as my brain processes its day when I lose the grip on consciousness.
I know why I’m doing it, it’s just hard to admit it. I don’t want to act like my sons, who buy a new book and immediately skip to the end, reading how the wizard defeats the evil nemesis. I don’t want to look at the end of the story.
Problem is I already know how the story ended, I read it once before.
I just didn’t want it to end.