So break the bread and pour the wine.
I need no blessings but I’m counting mine . . .
I don’t normally start with a song lyric (well, unless you count the post where I started with Rush’s Dreamline, but hey, it’s Neal Peart, obviously!) The lines up there, though, seem oddly appropriate to the way this last couple weeks has played out. On the weekend I made my daughter cry, not on purpose, but because I was so focused on the events to come, the finishing of this anniversary project, that I hadn’t looked at what was around me. I was focused on the ethereal and not the physical, so to speak.
The best example or reasoning would again be my son, Noah. He woke up with a bad dream, unable to sleep again. For the first time in awhile, after coming to terms with the fact that life, the song I’m writing, the recording process, none of it has to be perfect, I was sleeping lightly enough – the way I used to sleep – that I heard him come out, his little feet making only a hint of sound on the carpet in the hallway as he walked. He wouldn’t tell me about the dream, but I just tapped the pillow next to me and said “climb in, kiddo.”
I have been so focused on what to expect with the coming couple weeks that I haven’t taken the time to look at what’s right there in front of me. I’ve used the line before, sure, and commented that we have more than we really should, considering everything we’ve been through. I lost my wife, lost my house, more or less lost my job, even. When it should have been at its absolute darkest I was able to pull through with the help of my family and friends. The weeks after the funeral we didn’t have to cook a meal. I mean, nearly a full month’s worth of lasagnas, comfort food, deserts, you name it, were in our fridge and freezer. My kids ate it and my parents went about putting the house in order while I sat and tried to put our lives in order.
But it all changed. I had been negotiating with a rival station and they gave me a job – a better job than I had. They understand my situation and are not put off by the fact that sometimes I have to drop everything because, well, I’m it for the kids. Sick days, doctor or dentist visits, days off for strange holidays I never got off, all those are things I have to contend with. They don’t bat an eye, and that’s something I just wasn’t used to. Within weeks of that job offer a property manager emailed me with a house and had already arranged that I could move in, if it was a good fit, in spite of my credit and loss of half our family income. I re-connected with a former colleague – Rene Syler – and now write for her website, www.goodenoughmother.com.
None of this would have happened in the plot of the story we were writing just over a year ago. That story ended, rather abruptly, and changed completely the family dynamic and the way we look at the world. I mean, it hurts, even today. Last night, while reading freaking Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire I found myself choked up. It wasn’t even a terribly bad section. The character who died had died two chapters ago. But I could see in my sons’ faces that when the main character talked about getting a hug from his friend’s Mom, saying he’d never really remembered how it felt to get a hug like that, to have someone love them so unconditionally – well, I could just tell what was on their minds. I was thinking it, too, though thinking farther ahead.
Noah and Sam, you see, are only 8. I have lots of memories from that era, sure, but not as many as from, say, 18. I look at them and wonder if the memories of their Mom are fading and if they’ll fade to the point where they don’t have the deep connection their sisters do? What is it like not having that soft, caring, loving feeling next to you? I mean, i try, sure. I love them as much as their Mom did. But I love them far differently, too. To start, I didn’t carry them for 9 months inside me, there’s no deep, biological connection like that. I can’t give them the connection a woman would. The subtle caring, the gentle touch just isn’t there. I was always the disciplinarian in the house. I kept them in line. I was the person their Mom called when she couldn’t control them and was at her wit’s end. I start to choke up because I know what they’re going to miss – I had it. It saddens me because they won’t.
So when I heard that song, saw the Facebook update while the computer was on saying it was David Gilmour’s birthday, it really did make me take stock in what I was doing.
Like the lyrics say, “I need no blessings, but I’m counting mine.”
We could have just fallen apart this last year. It would have been really, really easy to do. What stopped that from happening was the blessings around us. I don’t say this in a religious way, it’s not something that should be off-putting to my non-Catholic or atheist friends. (I’ve never been one to try and convert, particularly to those not wanting to be converted!) The last year was filled with not-so-subtle reminders of what made us who we are. My Mom and Dad – two people who don’t just dislike but loathe California honestly lived here for nearly half a year. Two days before Andrea passed away – on their way to visit my brother in Texas, they completely changed their plans. I called them in the middle of a deep, pleasant sleep in a motel in Okalahoma and while still on the phone with me, while I hyperventilated, they had packed up and started driving West, right from where they were. I didn’t ask, nor did I expect them to. I needed a friendly voice. What I got was support and love. They got here just after I had informed the kids and lived with us until they knew I’d moved into and settled into a new home.
Our friends amaze me. I have called my sister-in-law and family friends in a panic when I had kids at school with a fever or throwing up and they dropped everything – literally – to help me get them picked up. At one point a friend was out for ice cream and left the 31-derful in order to go get Noah when he was sick because I was knee-deep in story meetings. They got us support but also gave us hope. When I couldn’t decide whether or not to change our routine on Christmas because I was unsure they called out of the blue and asked us to come over for a pre-Christmas celebration at their house. We spent too many hours there and they never complained. It softened the day.
There’s physical stuff, sure. I have a new car from cashing in the retirement options from my old job. Moving Abbi to a new school was really hard but now she’s actually coming to embrace and live the public school life. I have my daughter driving and helping me more and more each day. The kids get better every day at doing their chores.
I’ve said before, our lives would be perfect – simply amazing in fact – if Andrea was here. But much of our lives – the house we’re in, the meals we eat (we’ve drastically improved our pallette since she passed away), the exercise and better shape we’re in, all of those would never have happened had she stayed. The music we listen to at dinner, the guitars out and the songwriting would have taken a back seat. Would I trade them back to have her back – back the way she was before all the problems, the difficulties, the heartache? Yes. Absolutely.
The difference now, though? I appreciate what I now miss so very much. I hate that I didn’t appreciate her or what she gave me like I do now. Yes, hindsight is 20/20 and I can’t change it. But now, I also have so much going for me. I have an amazing job, a great house, we’re stable, we make ends meet – for the most part – and I can’t keep looking backwards, even though I can’t help it. I walk forward with my head slightly askew looking always back, a little less each day, at the road – the story – we leave behind.
But as the song says, “life is much more than money buys. When I see the faith in my children’s eyes.”
When I look at my son content and no longer scared because he’s lying there next to me, I realize it.
This earthly heaven is enough for me.