So I spend a lot of time talking about all the things I should do here. I should take the kids around the country. I should find a cool thing to do each weekend. I should have adventures. I should – and this one was pretty important – do things that I know I would never have done nearly two years ago . . . things that Andrea, my late wife, would never have considered. I’ve sort of taken that line on as a credo. We’ve done it, too.
One of the major parts? No secret if you’ve read here before: music. I used to have continual arguments with Andrea about music. Not what we should or should not have on the radio. (those were there, but more in jest) Not why when we were in college I put pictures of Garth Brooks on a dart board in the control room of the TV station where we worked. Not even why we had a stack of Garth’s photos ready to replace them once she ripped the now pock-marked Garth from the dart board. I’ll be honest, I bought the dart board and hung it up in the control room specifically so we could throw darts at it. It’s not that I had that tremendous a hatred for Garth Brooks. I did it because it garnered attention from a certain blonde in the newsroom. (If I have to spell it out more than that you should stop reading now)
But we had considerable arguments about my being a musician. We started dating, you see, when I was in a lull in my musical “career.” My original band had broken up, gotten back together and taken multiple hiatuses in the time I’d been with them. This was a prolonged hiatus and I certainly wasn’t in a position where I knew how to start my own band up yet.
Still, we got married, these people were part of my life and the creation of my musical life were getting continually placed on the back burner. When we hit financial straits she would see the guitars I’d worked so hard to attain – so hard to maintain and play – as dollar signs, not as what I saw them. These were symbols of my life so far. I wasn’t one of those guys who picked up a guitar to meet girls, do drugs, or party all night. Quite frankly, if you saw what most local bands go through to hit the stage and then leave it you’d wonder why anyone would ever do it if you didn’t love it.
I won those arguments, and there were many. But it didn’t mean I loved her less. She had amazing things that I treasured. She had intense things that drove me crazy as well. That’s everything about marriage, I suppose. You love the insanity and treasure the beauty.
So when she passed I was determined to do things that she wouldn’t have considered. I looked at when the kids leave and am determined to go to Egypt to see the pyramids – something she wouldn’t even consider. I want to go through Britain and France. I want to go off the beaten path, see Hadrian’s Wall, go to the Marshall amplifier factory, maybe go on Land Rover’s obstacle course. She wanted none of it.
With the kids I wanted to do things they could tell stories about. I wanted to drive to the Grand Canyon and on the way go waaay out of the way and get a picture of myself standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona. Just because. I wanted to record a video of us playing a song for my friend. I wanted to be silly and funny and crazy. It was part of what made Andrea so amazing in the beginning and part of what she lost in the years after.
But this weekend the craziness, it seems, wasn’t necessary. I got one of those little fire pits for the back yard last year, just because we were walking through the hardware store and Abbi, my oldest, saw it and said she thought it would be fun. Andrea didn’t like it, didn’t go outside much in the last year because she had a hard time walking around. When we put it up we used it a lot. This last weekend, we didn’t go anywhere, but I took the kids to the movies and thought it was a necessity to entertain them for the last week, which had been really hard.
But as much as they loved Hotel Transylvania (which I thought was just OK, by the way) they didn’t walk around all day talking about it. When I came home with firewood for the fire, along with graham crackers and fun-sized chocolate bars, though, they were ecstatic.
It’s then I realized the biggest thing is something I’d been teaching them but not listening to myself. It’s about being together. It’s about being with people you love. It’s about calling your family or texting a friend and looking up at the stars and knowing they’re looking up there at them, too. I spent more than an hour out there with Noah, looking at the stars, trying to find planets and constellations.
By night’s end, they had forgotten the movie. But they couldn’t stop talking about the fire and even though it was warm outside, they loved it.
Again, hate to beat the slogan to death, but it’s true: we’re better together than when we’re apart.