It’s a New Year, at least that’s what the calendar says. The Mayan armageddon, the rapture on December 21st. But they’re wrong, the year hasn’t started for us yet.
The change to 2012 has been a strange one for me and my kids. It’s not because the day was particularly difficult. Sure, we felt the sort of twinge of emptiness, seeing that there was that one boisterous personality missing from the room, but it’s not like there was much we could do about that. I didn’t want to be out, partying, reminded of the fact that I didn’t have my love standing next to me when the clock struck midnight.
The kids and I stayed home, starting a fire, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores, waiting until 8:45 to go into the house and watch Kathy Griffin strip and Anderson Cooper look uncomfortable as the clock started to count down. After it dropped, my oldest, Abbi, and I had small glasses of champagne and quickly turned on the Wii system and played Pictionary with the little ones. By 10:30 they were in bed and Abbi and I spent the night watching Blazing Saddles instead of watching Jenny McCarthy make out with whatever random guy she met in Times Square this year.
And it was nice. I mean, sure, it’s not dropping balloons from the ceiling or fireworks outside, but it was calm, it was fun, and the kids didn’t get upset or sad. They laughed. They chased each other in the back yard; they got messy with melted marshmallow; they fell and got muddy chasing a soccer ball in the dark. They did everything but wallow, which I was hoping would happen for the night.
But bear in mind that even though we’ve made it through the opening day of 2012 it doesn’t mean we’re all set and the year begins for us. Where you probably sat and thought about the 364 more to come we have to count down the days until March 26th. We’ve made it through most the major holidays and family moments. Just a couple weeks after Andrea’s funeral I had to plan a birthday party for the boys. This wouldn’t be a big deal for most people, I’m sure, but Andrea always knew what to buy for presents. She had amazing plans for parties. Everything was perfect in her world. Now, not only had they lost their Mom, but they had only me to figure out what to do, how to put it together, how to celebrate, what presents, all of it. It was a testament to the boys that they had a good time even without their Mom there.
Hannah and I share a birthday. When she turned 12, I had to miss it because I’d started a new job and she was in Nebraska with my parents. Without that summer “camp” in the Midwest, I’d never be able to survive the summers. We Skype‘d on her birthday, showing her the present I’d made (piecing together the best parts to make one solid, Claptonesque “Blacky” guitar) and saying Happy Birthday. I made a pilgrimage to Los Angeles by driving the Pacific Coast Highway alone and taking 10 hours – double the normal time – just to see the ocean and try to get some calm.
Andrea’s birthday became a family holiday. I never got it right so I got each child a little present and made a fancy cake and we celebrated the day together. It was sad and uncomfortable, but we made it through.
Abbi’s birthday was small. She didn’t want anything big and we gave her a bunch of stuff and had a fancy cake and she seemed happy and sad at the same time.
Christmas was empty without her, but we made it different enough that we didn’t really hate the day, we enjoyed ourselves.
But New Year’s isn’t the signal to the end of the worst year ever. It’s just another signpost. We still have to face the next event. For the kids it’s just a terrible day. For me, it’s double depressing. The day Andrea died, the 26th of March, is also the day I married her. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that a day you celebrated, the day you should have amazing, loving and soft memories is forever colored grey by the terrible events that swirled around the end of her life. Over 20 years I knew Andrea, more than half my life, and was married 18 of those. Now I’m left to watch the world move around me and wonder what I’m supposed to do from here.
The most obvious is to be their Dad. I know that. I don’t know how we’re going to handle March – the month, the week, the day of her death. I know I’m going to ask for time off, to ask that I not be here when we reach the day. One of my best friends had lost her sister years ago. When the day would arrive she didn’t really want to share what made the day so hard, she just wasn’t at work. She wasn’t around. I didn’t pry, I knew that when she wanted to let me or others know what she was going through she would, and eventually we became close enough that she knew she could lean on me if she started to stumble. When Andrea died, she was one of the earliest calls I made. In fact, I thought of her, of how she dealt with the horrible emotions such a strange anniversary brings.
I don’t know what the day will bring. All I can say is that until we make it through March 26th, 2012 doesn’t start for us. Not really. It’s the worst chapter of our story so far, I know it already. We just haven’t written how it’s going to go yet. I ache for the day to pass yet worry that we’re getting farther and farther from her as we get past these points in our lives.
It’s a New Year, it’s 2012. The naysayers say that it’s the end of the world but they were wrong. For us, it already ended. We already started picking up the pieces and rebuilding.