I used to be a man in control. It was my job, my life, my memories . . . and most of all, my emotions. I mean, I had my hard times. Marriage isn’t always easy, I knew that. Nothing as amazing and worthwhile as Andrea, my late wife, was easy. My marriage was amazing, fun, playful, stressful, difficult, all of it. When I would see photos, the pictures of our honeymoon, dating, marriage, all of it were memories that we would occasionally talk about and go through and at the time we’d be really happy. It made me miss the amazing, great times, and I’d reminisce with her.
But now that control is something I seem to have a harder time holding onto. Today was a strange day for that reason. My sons woke up being more than a little obstreperous. One would poke at the other and then at their sisters. On top of that I had to clean up the house, something that seems to get to me over and over again. The week seems to build up the mess, stress, and downright temper and just build up until Saturday and Sunday and start all over again. Today was the peak of it all, I had to clean up the house room by room. My middle daughter continues to fight doing her chores and screaming and hollering at me about the fact that I hadn’t let her go to this Friday’s concert.
Part of the needs of the day included eliminating a bunch of paperwork from years past. I’d been more than a bit upset, and this was no small amount of anger. My back hurt, my legs were sore, I was sweating something fierce, and I was wanting nothing more than to tear the kids a new one every time they started at each other – none of them realizing that I had to do my weekend work and their chores as well. Before I started looking through the papers I had already started yelling at the kids. Hannah was asking me constantly to go outside or make S’mores or start a fire in our fire pit. I wasn’t very happy about the fact that they wanted nothing better than to go out or do more things on the weekend with me and I’ve got to vacuum, wash clothes, do the dishes Hannah didn’t, all of it.
I ended up having to tell her and her 3 siblings that we’d get to do so many more things on the weekends if they would all do their assigned chores. As it is is now, I do what I can until near falling down from exhaustion during the week and then we get to the weekend and I’m having to catch up to zero, not get ahead of the things that should have been fixed before the week was over. I even told the kids that: we’d do far more things every weekend if I wasn’t just running around doing their chores and my own at the same time.
Then in the middle of all of it, I started shredding all the old tax returns that were more than ten years old in some instances. In the middle of it was a file I hadn’t realized we had. In it was a ton of stuff from Andrea’s high school and college years. A picture of her getting her diploma from high school. In the middle of all of it was a letter of acceptance from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. It’s just a silly letter, I know it. But I find this piece of paper in the middle of talking with my daughter about where she’s going to college and where she wants to live, what she wants to do with her life, all of it. I look at the letter and realize that she was a heartbeat away from going to UCLA for her freshman year – or worse, just before our dating to American University on the East Coast. This stupid letter, something I nearly shredded with all the student loan paperwork and everything, etc. This letter was the major stroke in her life that brought her to me. I know that’s a lot of emotion and memory to place on a sheet of paper, but it’s not really something I can help.
I’ve describe the memories to other people as a wave – a washing over of just a confusing conglomeration of emotions that hits me and I feel and do things I never thought I’d feel. I smile while feeling the roughest of emotions that burn in the pit of my chest. I hurt and love her at the same time. It’s not the best of things to have when you’re already burning with anger and frustration over my kids. The result is my being depressed and angry at the same time. My kids ask if I’m going to build a fire and make treats – something I didn’t ever say I would do – and I start to go off on them, maybe more than they even deserve. It’s not nice, it’s definitely not pleasant, and I wish I could say it’s the first time I’ve done it but I’d be wrong.
That damn piece of paper – I know it was the piece of paper that completely changed all our lives. But what if it hadn’t happened? What if we’d not met would she still be here? The world would still be bright. The beautiful, fun woman would still be out there somewhere, maybe, and I could have sought her out and found her, maybe all over again, maybe for the first time. I know I can’t change that and it could easily have been exactly the same. This could have been a fixed point in time, something unable to change, a thing that’s destined to happen, that cannot be forced to change. So many things are good as a result of it: I have the kids, the biggest thing; I have a great job that I would never have had if I hadn’t gotten the confidence to do this from her.
I realized this weekend, too, that I have to just buck up and do all this. It’s not raising the kids that’s stressful or bothersome to me. For me, raising the kids is the easy part. No, the behavior problems aren’t easy or fun. The fights are frustrating. The laziness kills me. But at the end of the day, my Mom cleaned up and pushed us harder and harder to clean up and do our chores. I can’t just let it happen. I have to do it and make them do it with me. I have to offer up consequences and follow through on them.
I see the paper and I think if she remembered it in her time. I wonder if she thought that a simple letter from an admissions department set up the rest of her life – a life that was far too short.
I wonder if she remembered what brought us to here. I was sad about where things were . . . until things like that letter come up . . . until I remember that she was mine. It’s not something I can change, and I’m not sure if I could if I wanted to.