I seem to be batting a thousand tonight. Where normally it would be the night where I pushed to finish everything for the morning, getting ready for the morning’s events, pushing to get the kids to school, all of that, I find myself in a bit of a whirlwind of offspring emotion.
This weekend I started the process for creating something to post for the anniversary of my wife, Andrea’s, passing. I had recorded something – a remake of a piece I’d written for her some twenty odd years ago. But even I hadn’t realized how knee-deep in the technical process I was. It so drove me to get it perfect or as good as I can that I hadn’t realized what the piece itself was going to do to everyone else. You see, they sat there throughout the weekend listening and I sat there with my ProTools system open, the guitar, the Dobro, all of it playing the same piece, over and over and over again.
It’s important to explain the recording process to you at this point. Being that I was recording alone, using my guitars and vocals, the rhythm line of the song has to be recorded over, and over, and over again depending on how long it takes to either get the track right, or in my case, record the Dobro line, the electric guitar rhythm line and then the guitar solo track. Mess up the 5 minutes of rhythm and you either have to “punch in” to continue the line, hoping you can’t hear the edit, or you record the five minutes of music again. After that, you still have to put vocals on there, duplicate that track and add reverb or other effects to your vocals, and keep moving the song forward.
What I had forgotten was how hard this was going to be. I powered through this. I pushed to make sure that I got it right, trying harder to focus on the technical, not the emotional. But I laid down one vocal line . . . just one . . . and I couldn’t go any more. I had written the song for Andrea and then . . . re-wrote it for me. I hadn’t thought how hard it would be to actually have to sing the lyrics and it wasn’t a great performance as a result. I couldn’t sing it more than once. I lived with the vocals, a little weak, a bit sharp, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I was trying really hard to make it perfect.
My momentary lapse of reason was that while I reviewed the piece I asked the kids what they thought. For the younger three, Hannah, Noah and Sam, there was little to think about. It was a song, one I’d written, sure, but for them it wasn’t a deep, hard-hitting connection. Unfortunately, though, I hadn’t thought about what it would do to my oldest. You see, I had written this song more than twenty years ago, but I recorded it much later. It even got some minor airplay in the Midwest. I was never happy with it – the arrangement, the tone, the lyrics, they all seemed to fall short to me. More importantly, it just didn’t seem the best tribute to the woman I loved and cared so much for.
My attempt to rectify that, to make it more the arrangement I wanted, what she deserved, I just hadn’t thought about the fact that Abbi had heard that song . . . the original piece . . . played. It was played in the house, in the car, on the CD we’d first recorded. It was the one song Andrea actually told people I had written. It was the one thing my being a musician created for her and she liked that. Hearing the guitars play it over and over again was probably bad enough. Hearing the revamped lyrics and the possible crack in my voice just hurt her to no end.
It’s rare to me that I see a reaction like that in the music I’ve written – a reaction so personal and deep. I had actually thought it was too simplistic, too basic. But seeing my daughter’s reaction she said it was beautiful. She didn’t want to change it. But she couldn’t keep listening to it. It was too hard on her. She broke down in tears and couldn’t stop crying. That was my first problem.
The second? I was a victim of the difference in the sexes. You see, men and women look at problems differently. It’s even worse if you’re a Dad and not a Mom or a daughter. Abbi had a problem with her homework. It’s that she had so much, had done an essay incorrectly, and just was frustrated as hell about all of it. She came in nearly in tears, stressed out, and just wanting to throw in the towel.
I tried my hardest to do what she really wanted, to listen and that’s all. I lasted as long as I could, but the more I listened and reassured the more she got upset at how much she was stressed out.
I couldn’t take it any more. I did what just about every other man in the world does, I tried to help her fix the problem. You see, that’s a big difference between men and women. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m not even saying that it’s appropriate, but where my wife would have hugged her and just reassured her, maybe found something comforting to do or say, I finally started giving her things to do to fix the situation. I told her to start another subject, start at one problem and work to the others. Get a few hours sleep, then get back up and finish her work.
Guys want to fix what’s wrong. When Andrea was sad or hurt I wanted to get rid of what was hurting her. I couldn’t do Abbi’s homework so I tried to help her solve how to get it done. When she just got more frustrated I got frustrated myself and started to do the worst thing in the world – I told her she’d had all weekend to do this stuff so it’s not like she had anyone else to blame. I was so good for such a good amount of time but then I ran out of patience. I became the stereotypical Dad and guy.
So by night’s end, I had her in my arms and reassuring her anyway. But she also took one piece of advice and got some rest before getting up really early and then moving on to the homework again.
It is the hardest thing I have to contend with, this change in how I approach things. As long as my lapses are momentary, though, maybe I can at least get my kids to believe I haven’t totally messed things up.