Crossing Muddy Waters. . .


My amazing kids, taken by "Hunny Bee Photograpy": Amy Renz (NPR Story on John Hiatt’s “Crossing Muddy Waters” LP)

Now that we’ve made it a full year, I started to debate whether I continue my nightly retinue of typing in our personal struggles each day.  Not that I wanted to stop the blog, but not sure if I could do much of the time it took to write all of this every single night.

But then when I took the kids to school on Friday I got news that another child in my sons’ class had lost their Mom.  The kids had a choir festival that day, one that brought schools from all around the valley and both sang and then learned a song together so that the 500 or more kids could sing for their parents at the end.  When I arrived at the school all the kids were assembled and the teachers were standing around looking like they’d been punched in the stomach and I realized that this must have been how things looked when Andrea passed away.  The teachers and staff were all very concerned that my kids and I would be horribly affected by the loss.  The reason is that it was so similar: an infection, followed by pneumonia, then unexpectedly when things looked like they were getting better, passed away.

My son, Noah, the philosopher of our family, said he wanted to put a poster board together and have all the kids sign it and give it to the family.  He remembered all the cards, thoughts, and paper cranes that we had received and then asked if he could do the same for this family.  It was not something I had asked him to do, simply wanted to have it happen for his this family.  “Nobody deserves that,” says Noah, and he means it.  No tears, no wailing, just wanting to be helpful.

So I decided to continue, every night where possible, not because of the fact that I want publicity, but because in looking back I realized that so much of the last month had been spent looking backwards, staring at what we lost, and not really looking forward again.  After all, the blog is called “Our Story Begins”.

Yes, the loss of another family is something that gave us a brief amount of pause.  We were not indifferent, we were realizing how well we’ve done up to this point, only from the help of so many other people.  We realized that the anniversary of the day we lost her didn’t hit as hard because we started that video project that is just a few blog posts ago.  We had processed what was going to happen already.  Had we not, we might have fallen apart that day, but we got to look at all the amazing people and things we’d done, gained, and continued as Andrea’s story ended abruptly a year ago.

That doesn’t mean it got easier.  Not only was there the issue of the loss of another Mom at the school, but the atypical daily difficulties of raising four kids.  I sat in our car on Friday, waiting for the kids to come out and there was a knock on the passenger window that literally scared the hell out of me!  My daughter is standing there, in tears, having a panic attack.  You see, we’d made a deal after she’d improved her grades at the end of the semester.  If she turned in everypiece of homework, no zeros, no F’s, she’d be able to keep her ticket to see the “Black Keys” concert in May with me and her sister.  Otherwise, some friend of Abbi’s would be going with us to Oakland that night.  She stood there in a tizzy because she’d shown up to school, no math homework in her hand, because her older sister, Abbi, told her that she didn’t need to turn it in.  She was going to a choir festival, after all.

My advice to my daughter, though, the night before, was to finish her work, put it in her backpack, and take it anyway.  You never know what would happen each day.  She might have to turn in that work.  First thing during homeroom?  “There’s a schedule change, kids, you’re doing math first and then . . . ”  It turned her into a panic because, no surprise here, Hannah listened to her sister, not her Dad, and hadn’t brought any of her homework or books with her.  She panicked and then started hyperventilating because she was seeing zeros, F’s, all her homework left at home.  I looked at her and asked what lesson she’d learned here today.  “Listen to Dad and not Abbi.”

Good lesson.

You see, I’ve had so much of the unexpected and the crazy problems hit that I now am no longer surprised when the worst happens.  Sure, it hits hard, it hurts, but after losing my wife, house, and job in the same month?  How can you not be worried about the worst?  Why invite the problems?

“Am I still going to be able to go to the concert, Dad?” was Hannah’s question.
“We’ll see.  I told you to bring your stuff.  If you get zeros, that’s the reality.  If you can tell your teachers you thought you weren’t going to be here and need to turn  it in on Monday, maybe they’ll take that.  If that’s the case, you won’t get zeros and you’ll get to go.”

Hannah stared at me.  Blankly.  I wasn’t sure if it sank in with her. 

“I understand you’re upset and it will be a lot of work, but you made the deal.  You have to live with it.”

The upside was the fact that she didn’t have to worry about it.  None of the teachers thought she was going to be there.  They all told her they’d planned on it being there Monday, not Friday.  She lucked out.  But she learned a lesson, too.  One I hope she learned much earlier than I did: your parents do seem to know more than you thought when you’re a teenager.  I know that now, I am able to stand on my own two feet and live because of my parents.  Hannah’s starting to learn  the same thing, I hope.

We’re crossing the river.  The water’s muddy, but we might actually reach the other side if we work together.

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