If it was easy, they’d call it fun!

My extended family…in our last NE trip

Falling Slowly (Live) by The Swell Season

While I’m writing this during the waning hours of the first holiday of the Summer (even though the calendar isn’t calling it Summer) recognizing, of course, that I didn’t really have a holiday.  I worked.  This isn’t a complaint, really, it’s just reality.  I left after logging video and writing a skeleton of a script that was vastly uninspired and went to Andrea’s sister’s house to meet up with my kids.  They love going over there to see Andrea’s folks and while they won’t admit it, most likely because they want to swim in their pool.

Now, given the headline up there, you wonder why I bring this up.  It’s because I’m really not complaining about working, it’s something everyone really needs to do, whether they want to or not.  The kids came up to me on Sunday and asked if I had to.  I always marvel at how kids – even me, when I was that age – will ask the same question 1,000 different times, getting the same answer, and marvel at how it still isn’t the answer they were looking for.  Sam, one of the twins, is particularly invested in having me spend time with them.  They like it when I’m home.  They like it even more when I’m home and we’re doing something together.  So it should come as no shock that he was slightly crestfallen when he heard, for the 999th time that I wasn’t staying home, their sister was watching them.

But my point isn’t about my job.  I like  my job.  They more or less created this position for me and they treat me very well.  I should not complain.  No, my point is about marriage, family, all of it.  My father always had a line when my kids would complain about the chores over the last year.  “Of course it’s hard work.  If it wasn’t, they’d call it “fun” and everyone would want to do it!”  Sure, work is just that – work.  But there are a lot of things about both marriage and parenting that the uninitiated just don’t seem to grasp, though they love to come to me with their analyses of them.

Let’s start with marriage.  There’s a misconception on both sides.  Those who are opposed think it’s horrible, stifling, whole bit.  Those who are desperately trying to find it think it’s flowers every weekend and fun trips to the Wine Country on every whim.  The truth is that it’s both, and not either . . . not all the time.  It would have been depressingly easy to pick up and leave Andrea on a hundred occasions.  We weren’t making enough money fast enough.  I wasn’t looking hard enough for a house.  I didn’t jump up and down ecstatically exuberant about having twins when we were desperate to keep our house.  I couldn’t grasp how this amazing woman could be jealous of anyone else . . . I loved her more than anyone.  But all these things weighed on our marriage and the weight was back breaking.  Yet for every depressing, sad, grueling struggle, there were the fanciful weekends at Napa.  There was the evening Abbi was born.  There was the panic when she passed out and started bleeding during the C-section for Hannah.  There was every . . . single . . . kiss.

Then there’s kids.  Again, the critics point to diapers and bottles and sleeplessness and worry weighing on you every minute of every day.  The proponents think it’s all piggy back rides and giggling.  The critics don’t realize that the diaper changes and projectile vomiting and sleepless nights are what you pay for the trips to the park and riding bikes together, and when you’re older, watching horrible television to rip it apart with your child.  They also don’t stop to think that every Sunday morning hangover is 10x worse than the sleepless nights that end after about 3 months.  The proponents don’t see the financial stress or the arguments over whether the baby should sleep in the bed with you or the worry when they get sick.

My point here is that it isn’t easy.  It never is.  I was talking with someone recently about marriage and how they’ve been looking and desperately want to find that person to spend their life with.  But all they see is the trappings and the happiness.  The best marriages are the ones that you fight for and drag yourself through the quagmire to keep.  Family is the same way.  Sure, I could spend every night out drinking and partying.  I could hit the road and tour with a band.  I could go to a war zone and cover fighting as a freelance writer.  But I don’t do those things because I fight for what is worth it.  My kids are there for me as much as I am for them.

I bring this all up because I had such a pleasant number of conversations about Andrea today with her sister and my kids.  It’s taken me a long time to get here, too.  I criticized as much as celebrated, but that’s what made us a couple.  You don’t love what attracts you . . . that’s easy.  Love is the maddening, obsessive and strange little things about that other person that make you want to understand them, to figure out why they do those things and share them, not stop them.

It bothers me a lot how grief is treated in books and movies.  It’s  a very throwaway thing.  There’s a prevailing mentality that time heals all wounds and that’s it.  Sure, it does.  But what it doesn’t show is the struggle to just be.  God, how I wish I was a musician.  I don’t wish to have the horrific tragedy that befell the drummer Neil Peart from Rush. . . but I do wish that I’d had the freedom to just jump on a bike and drive until I can’t see straight and get it worked out.  Even if it took 2 years.  I wish I was like Tom Hanks in the movies, where you can move to another city, your kids are OK with it and you seem to be home more than you’re at work.  Yes, I went back to work way too early, even though it was something like 2 months.  I couldn’t write well.  I took on projects that I have yet to finish.  I was a mess and really in no shape to take on that responsibility and still carry the parenting responsibilities.  But I am not Neil or Tom.  The world keeps turning and I either stay in the same place riding the crust of the planet rather than traversing it or I move.  Staying here fails myself and the kids.  I have to work.

It isn’t easy.  If it was, those cliche’d lines in the movies about how “I’m happy, I celebrate her life, I’m just so fortunate that I had the time I did . . . ” would be something I’d embrace.  Sure, they’re all true statements.

But they suck.

Yeah, I’m happy I had the time I did, but why did she have to be so maddeningly inflexible sometimes?  I’m thrilled she doesn’t hurt any more but she’s at peace and I’m hurting even worse.  I wonder if, wherever she is . . . if she’s somewhere . . . does she miss the touch, the smell, that physical and chemical attachment, or is she so at peace she doesn’t need it any more?  My fingers ache to touch her cheek again.  My body shudders when I think about her next to me and I realize she’s not there.  My kids wonder where she is.  Does she see what her kids are going through without her?  Does she realize what leaving did to them?!  This is my point.  I’m still trying, working, doing my best.  She has it easy now.  She had a difficult and horrible week in the hospital, but so did I.  Now it’s easy for her.

Finally, after more than a year, I can speak her name without having the wave pull me under.  The wound still bleeds, it always will, but I can tell the full picture.  It’s not just the best times I remember now, I can talk about how she didn’t see the things around her, just what she wanted to get the achievement.  I can hear her telling me the bathroom is clean, but it’s not cleaned the way she would clean it.  I can also hear her shrieking in delight when our kids would do something great.  I can feel the radiant smile when the kids do something that makes me just so proud.

But it’s work.  The kids are work.  The grief is a lot of work.  But it’s work that’s worthwhile.

After all, if it was easy, they’d call it fun.

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5 thoughts on “If it was easy, they’d call it fun!”

  1. Sharing life with someone is precious – I know you see that, perhaps more so now that Andrea is gone.
    Surely, you described the opponents and proponents of marriage and family as polar opposites because that’s easier to nutshell — but I don’t know many people over age 30 who think marriage is flowers and trips to Napa and that babies don ‘t get sick. (okay, maybe make that 37!)
    As the single, over 40 who would really love to share her life with someone, I know it’s not all sunshine and roses – but I also know that having your face smashed in the dirt and spit on HAS to be better when there’s someone at your side… to whom it matters that your face got smashed in the dirt.
    Having someone care is always better than having no one to care.
    Just having someone… one person on your side – is worth any of the agony, I’m convinced.

  2. Oh, I don’t disagree, Tammy. It is, in fact, the biggest hole in my life right now. I had that and it’s gone now. Not just when you get smashed to the ground but when you have the great triumphs or the pride of your children.
    Still, though, I meet and have met so many recently that paint kids, marriage, all of it in such shades of black and white it seemed an apt simile.
    And it is hard work. In this day and age, the idea of sticking with something, even if it’s uncomfortable, isn’t palatable. It’s easier to divorce or leave, what have you than it is to actually buckle down. It’s hard to go back and see why you fell in love.
    Love, you see, is not enough. Andrea and I were friends . . . best friends, in fact . . . when we crossed over that line and started dating.
    Without trying to make it seem so, it is . . . work. Marriage, kids, all of it is work. It’s exhausting, it’s treacherous, and if you find the one person you think is worthwhile, it’s absolutely beautiful. You don’t care about the little things or the annoyances. You work on yourself to make the other person happy because THEY make you happy. You want them to see the best in you and if you’re more than in love, you like each other, being with them is easy . . . even when it’s hard.
    I guess you might miss my point that you have to put in the work. It must be worth it . . . or it wouldn’t be called marriage or parenting. If it was always easy, it’d be called fun. If it was never easy, they’d call it work. It’s just not easy, or hard, or it wouldn’t be worthwhile so when you lose that, even to a lesser degree when you break up with someone, the loss is all you see. The perfection is all you remember. You don’t see that she never drove the car, even when you didn’t feel well and it drove you NUTS! You don’t remember that she could cook a gourmet meal but even when your day went from 8 to 8 you got home and had to make dinner for everyone. You don’t remember that she couldn’t handle whining or crying and spoiled the kids to their detriment.
    But when she was here, I put up with that. Even her father thought the only person that could calm and care for her the way she needed was me, something I dispute. But I knew her, like I’ve never known anyone, so I worked and learned and figured those things out.
    Yes, it’s worthwhile, more than anything. But you have to be ready to commit to all of it. Compromise is simply all of it. It’s not easy. I had it, but I’m not willing to just have someone there. I had the person I was willing to work for. Now I have the kids. I cannot see the energy or time to do that all over again, I have to do it with them. But I can now see the faults that made her lovely to me, not just the perfection.

    1. Yes. I didn’t mean to sound harsh. It’s just hard to hear that so many people think that those of us who have never married (but still possess that heart’s desire) , have some cockamamie , foolish idea of what marriage is.
      Yes, of course it’s hard. But it’s good. If it wasn’t good it wouldn’t be called marriage – it wouldn’t be the only sacrament two people are called to together – and blessed to unite.

      You’ll never know the loneliness of going through life alone, because you will always have your kids. Even loving something that you actually hate about the person you love is worth it compared to waking up in an empty bed every morning and going to sleep in an empty bed every night of your life.
      When you describe that… that I can relate to. I feel that agony in a different way.

      But, you’ll be pleased to know that as of last week, I have given up! I’ve been waiting for God to tell me if I was supposed to give up and He has.
      Empty bed, empty kitchen, dinner for one still sucks, but it’s not my problem any more!

      1. It’s not harsh, and I don’t believe that all people (most particularly you) think marriage is unbridled passion and rose petals on the bed every night. But there are so many that do.

        But I do know what it’s like to go through life alone. Yes, I was young when I met Andrea. But up to that point I was very alone. I went out on dates and nobody got me or wanted to listen or saw value in the things I wanted. I was silly, geeky, lacking confidence, and everything just seemed to point to a lifetime of loneliness. Where my brothers had dates I had failures.

        But I gave up, just like you say you are, and she just . . . appeared. Even then, I fought it, thinking she was the atypical, shallow, annoying California blonde. Instead, when the sports jock or the cute intern went up and flirted, she spent as much time with me and joked with me and made me feel . . . comfortable. I wanted so badly to ignore her and I couldn’t. Nor could she me. I was trying too hard and in the end you just need to live your life, not pursue it.

        But again, I have my children, sure, but they’re a totally different ballgame. I’m not trying to be a martyr, not at all, and I survive now because of them. I wouldn’t have made it without them. But now i look to a future where my house is empty in just 9 short years. Nine! That, and kids are amazing and beautiful and worthwhile. . . But you don’t share your whole life with them. I can’t express intimate details to them. My point that I guess I should have made was this: It’s really hard, particularly for someone like me, to let another person that deep into yourself. I have very few people I call “friends” it’s an over-used term. My Dad’s the same way. As a result, nobody wound their way around my heart, my soul, like Andrea did. Not a one.

        And she wasn’t my type at all! I had only ever had a date or two with one other blonde. California seemed totally opposite to my mentality. She just got under my skin like a virus. I had crushes, I had dating experiences, but nobody was that connected. Now, though, When Abbi does something amazing or looks spectacular for prom . . . I have nobody to share that with like I did Andrea. When I hurt, nobody understands like Andrea did, and you can’t tell your kids, they need your strength. She was so much a part of me – not just my emotions or my experiences – she was part of me. It was like having someone reach into my chest and grab my rib and tear it out. Now there’s a hole and a scar where it came out. I can survive without that, it hurts like hell and it’s always a little sensitive as a result. Now that I’ve had that rapturous and maddening love . . . it’s horribly hard to think about facing it again. Is it better to have loved and lost? I don’t really know. Not now.

        So should you avoid it? No. God, I miss her and it and want no more than to reminisce with her about the past. If we’d never fought, never felt, never had all those tribulations I think I’d be just fine. Not hurt, not happy, just even. Those people around me who’ve just analyzed their lives to death or jumped in without thinking at all have no idea. They have no idea what it’s all really about. It’s truly the “two become one” mentality. Not just sacramentally but emotionally, sexually, physically, all of it. You cannot make a singular decision. You cannot ignore the other’s family. The guys who spend more than one vacation with their buddies and not their wives. The parents who never take their kids to see the country. The wives who go to book club or parent groups and bitch their husbands aren’t smart or trustworthy enough to be left with the kids…those people don’t really know. They aren’t working.

        That was the point, I think. I now see I miss those maddening and horribly difficult things about her. Just as much as the beautiful things. There are the lucky ones . . . like you . . . who get it. Just let it happen, however it happens. Gregg Allman said in his new bio that he thinks the only way it can work is if you’re friends. Love’s just not enough, and he’s right.

        So give up looking, sure, but don’t close down. Stay open, observant, and it will come from the place you least expect.

  3. Dave, you are fantastic.
    I know that while we have probably very similar childhood backgrounds, our adulthood backgrounds are worlds apart.
    Yes, you have a gaping hole that Andrea left behind, and I don’t dismiss that at all.
    I have a gaping hole of emptiness that will never be filled, even if I do – one day – find someone who wants to share my life – there will always be the knowledge that I missed out on being a young bride, a young mother… a mother at all. (seriously, I had to grieve my fertility. did everything but bury it!)

    I’m not comparing holes. Not saying one is bigger than the other.
    But we will never know what the pain of those holes feels like for the other.

    I’m not shutting down. I’m just going to relax. I’ve been trying to find or force square pegs into this hole of mine for so long – I’m just going to quit caring.
    I still hope to find love someday.
    But someday, you’ll have weddings and grandchildren and great-grandchildren – and true, you won’t be able to share all that with Andrea – but it’s still something to look forward to.

    ❤ to you friend!

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