It happened this weekend. The transition, that is.
Just about everything we’ve done over the last 8 1/2 months has had the influence, feel and presence of my wife swirling around it. When I make breakfast for the kids, I take out the kid plates, these day-glo plastic rhomboids made by Ikea. Andrea picked those out. They seemed easier and less breakable for the boys in particular. When we moved here and bought them at the massive Swedish testament to vanilla modernity across the river in West Sacramento.
I tuck in the kids and they all have sheets, bedspreads, dressers, beds . . . all of it picked out (with my “approval” meaning sure, I’m asking you what you think, but it’s the bed we’re going to buy anyway, it just makes you feel better) by Andrea.
Hell, my clothing, haircut, all of it are influenced by her amazing spark of creativity and style. It’s not that I don’t want it, I loved it, every minute of it. But the problem is, these pieces are the only things left. When the plastic starts to thin, the clothing frays, the bedspreads and sheets stain . . . what then?
Well, we move on. I didn’t want to, and it’s so hard to do it because she’s been the driving force behind my transition in to normalcy. I was an angry, gangly, annoyingly stubborn kid with a horrible haircut, no sense of style and less than zero self-confidence. It isn’t a shallow thing to say that this amazing woman changed that – changed me. With her gone, where do I go from here? Will I change with the times the way I should, or will I sit here, pining over the loss, will I stagnate and remain the same?
It’s easy to understand how I could do this. There is something that’s hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t suffered this kind of loss. I still feel her presence, the physical, tangible, tactile feeling. There’s the thought she’s in the bed next to me in the twilight of sleep. There’s the gut reaction to turn and tell her something amazing happened or to vent when the bad did. But she’s not there, and it’s horrible to realize it because for a fleeting moment you relive the months leading up to that moment all over again.
And you like it.
Yes, you heard me right, I hate the pain and I revel in it as well. The part people don’t realize is that you are so tied to this amazing person, you love her so much, that you live in and relish the pain that comes with missing her because that’s the only thing you have left. There’s a part of me, however crazy, that feels like the less the pain hits, the less of her that stays behind. I want her there. I am a better man for having met her, so will I keep being that man now that she’s gone?
It would be so easy to fall into place. I’ve already started. I’ve been listening to old LP’s, living in the memories of our early dating and marriage. I pine for the woman who drew me in. I reminisce on the seductive nature of the woman who just hypnotized me with her smiling eyes. I have watched John Hughes movies. I subjected myself to Sleepless in Seattle because it was her favorite movie. I listen to crappy ’80s/’90s stations because they remind me of her and of that time and I hurt, I tear up and I love it. I’m inclined to just let the flood hit, drown in the memories.
It would be so easy to stay there.
But there are four little people who don’t. That’s what pulls me out of the past and pushes me forward. Andrea strove for perfection, in all things. If she got less than an “A” in a class, even in Pharmacy School, which she attended after our oldest was born, she was motivated by that perfection. She rubbed off on me to a degree, but there’s something she just didn’t realize, something that caused arguments; something that I have come to both realize and embrace.
It’s the imperfections that make it perfect.
Our house is now a mish-mash of Christmas decorations. The perfect stockings on the fireplace, the combination of homemade ones on the banister. We have two trees, most of the decorations homemade. I put up my stereo even though Andrea hated it because it was old and clunky and was “obvious” in how it sat in the living room. I have guitars hanging up and sitting out because they are part of me. There’s the perfection, too, the decorations, the paintings, the artwork, the sconces, all of it an amazing tribute to this beautiful woman.
Then this weekend we did it. Something she’d never have bought, something with no connection. I was buying Christmas presents and needed a piece for our decorations at the hardware store. They had a little metal fire pit, like a Chimera, for sale and I bought one. We needed something to just have fun and there’s something about a fire, be it in the fireplace or the back yard.
I lit the fire, we put chairs around, got out the marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers. I got the skewers from inside the house and we made S’Mores. They were messy, crazy, hot, silly . . . and it was just us. Andrea wouldn’t have wanted that fire. She would have done the food, but not the fire pit. It wasn’t her.
The thing is, to survive, to help these kids move on, we have to make our own memories, not live in the past ones. Not keep doing the same old routine or the same traditions. They’re gone. Don’t take this too far. I’m not erasing her, she’s far too special and far too amazing, and every day, I have reason to feel the hurt and let it wash over me in enjoyment. The kids need to know it’s OK to have an amazing and happy time without her, though. Not everything has to touch on her.
So we’ve re-done the decorations. We added more lights, though she’d have hated that. I’ve bought the Christmas presents by myself. We’ll open the presents on Christmas Eve instead of Day, because that’s how MY family did, and now that’ show OUR family will do it.
It’s high time I broke out the pen and started writing the story for real. We’ve had enough flashback, enough recap of our last writing. It’s just that the hardest part is putting the pen to the page and writing because it makes it real. She’s actually gone.
But when I look and my daughter posts on her Facebook page for all to see: “Roasting marshmallows in the backyard, making s’mores and going to bed smelling like a chimney…life is good,” I realized we’ve started writing without even knowing it.
I guess, in the end, it can’t happen because today I’m not drowning.
01 I’m Not Drowning by Steve Winwood from the LP Nine Lives