Easter in our house was never an easy holiday. Never. I’m not one to push my faith on anyone, and I’m not going to do it here, but being Catholic I do get frustrated when I go to church as often as I can only to break – or feel like breaking – several commandments in the parking lot of the church on two days out of the year: Christmas and Easter. Those two days are when the holiday Catholics come out. If you’re not that into the religion or the mass or the routine, why in God’s name do you come on those two days? I mean, if you go and then it gives you something and brings you back more than twice a year, good on you. Have at it. If it doesn’t, I don’t get angry. Faith, to me, is a very personal thing. I struggle with it, almost daily now after losing my wife. Particularly when my wife’s was so strong at the end of her life and then having her lost to us I have very personal and agonizing struggles with it I won’t go into here.
But back to Easter. This year it went smoothly. Way too smoothly. Hannah, the middle girl, was forced to cut her hair, making it shorter and easier to deal with. She fought every step of the way and now loves her haircut, loathe to admit that her Dad, the male testosterone generator might actually have been right about it. Last night the girls went upstairs and Abbi, the oldest, started working on her hairdo and got most of it ready. By morning, she simply had to finish curling it and let Hannah – the tomboy – *gasp* wear her dress! It was cute, amazing and absolutely beautiful.
Where the hiccups started, I suppose, were that having four children of diverse ages make for masses and changes in scheduling you’re not aware of when you have two parents and shared burdens. Four kids, two choirs, two masses: that was my schedule today on Easter Sunday. The young kids in the Church at 9am, the oldest in the band in the 11:15am in the Social Center. Abbi tried telling me that I could stay home but there was no way, when she had a solo, I was going to stay home. So four hours of church in one day with the same priest, same readings, same homily. I’m quite holy, all you heathens, so I may as well find some water to walk on. I left the 9am to come home and see Abbi still readying herself, much like her mother, who procrastinated every holiday, and saying she’s “almost ready.”
We made it, though late for her rehearsal, not late for the mass. This was different for me and for the kids. Being late isn’t something I liked, but we had a reputation for it. Andrea was never on time. When you’re young and dating it’s “fashionably late” but when you’re a parent and trying to get to Easter Sunday services it’s just plain late. Andrea was always the perfectionist trying to make all four kids perfect. When Abbi could do her hair she forced us to endure her and Abbi arguing over the hair. Then Hannah, who hates anything to do with being a girl, had to scream, cry and force me to come up and supervise because she fought her mom tooth and nail. By this point, Andrea would be a sweaty mess, unable to get ready and just getting in the shower. As a result, I’d take the kids to the church for the hour rehearsal before mass and have to come back home, wait for my wife who refused to drive to the church, and then end up so late we were unable to get a seat – which my wife, who could have avoided it by being a bit more flexible – would complain about until the mass was over and her knees and my back were screaming in pain.
Today wasn’t close to that. I had a seat with friends in the church for the 9am and heard the 3 kids sing and it made me smile. My oldest sang two solos and it made my eyes misty. At both masses I was asked by friends how many seats I was saving and it dawned on me, easy as it was to not have to save seats, that I was quite alone. My kids were up there and I was the sole person out in the crowd. It had gone smoothly. No, none of us looked perfect, but even with their perfectionist mother, we never did. I was just amazed we’d gotten dressed up and gotten there on time.,
But I missed her today, my wife. I missed the chaos. I missed being the white knight coming in to save her from the screaming child. I missed secretly liking driving and getting a stolen 10 minutes in the car listening to my wife angrily tell me not to cuss at the insanely inept drivers who feel the need to back their SUV’s into the parking spaces rather than just pull in because it saves them 10 seconds on the way out of the church. (and taking 2-3 spots at a pop!) I realized that I felt that wound dripping and bleeding just a bit more.
A year ago I had two amazing parents with me to help me to get everyone ready and to be with me. We were just a couple short weeks after losing Andrea and I cannot really say whether I remember much other than getting into the church for mass. I remember the ache that I felt when I had to sit in the church again just a few weeks after being in there on one of the worst days I had ever experienced. Today wasn’t the same. I wasn’t aching as much, but I felt the emptiness. I had been to the church, we went to one of Andrea’s aunt’s houses to have Easter festivities and lunch. We played games, got wet with water balloons, and it was fun. It just was fun in a different way.
As we were readying to get everyone ready for bed my oldest asked if I was OK. I am sure she meant the pulled hamstring I got when playing football in the park with them, but I told her “I missed your Mom a lot today” and I realized after I’d said it that it wasn’t fair to her. She certainly misses her Mom, maybe worse. She’ll experience amazing things and need myriads of advice and no matter how or who tries to help her with those things it’s never coming. I feel the hole and it’s not fair to let her know that, she needs me to be the man who feels it but endures. She needs to know that no matter what happens I’ll be there, solid and sturdy. It’s been more than a year and I still don’t have it right. The house is a mess. The laundry’s piled up. The meals are random. All the plans and ideas I’d instigated those first weeks have started to waver and I wish they hadn’t.
We’re feeling the chaos, but it’s not the chaos that ends in a sweeping pleasantry. It’s plain chaotic. With Andrea it was metered and measured. We flew around in a flurry of activity and craziness but always ended up figuring it out in the end. We always ended up together and able to face anything and I stood there holding her hand through the stressful points of the day.
Today I saw my kids and realized I could look to either side of me and the only person I could tell these things to was myself. I knew it was the case, it’s not a surprise, but I found myself confused and surprised with the way I missed her today. I just hand’t realized it was possible until this moment that I was missing the chaos. Worse yet, I am sorry that I don’t know if I want to get it back.