There’s always been a debate, particularly between the sexes, I suppose, about whether or not people change. Are you, men, women, children, basically the people you are for life?
I think there’s a basic personality that everyone has. That’s a truism, I noticed it with my twin boys. Noah, the persnickety one with the constant drive and wonder about how everything works. Sam, the flirt, the wrestler build and laid back kid. Noah gets mad at the drop of a hat. Sam is a slow burn and then explodes. Neither of them changed those particular things about their personalities since the day they started looking me in the eye.
But people change. I have no doubts whatsoever.
Noah, for example. He was a selfish kid, there’s just no two ways about it. Don’t get me wrong, when you’re 3, 4, 8 even you don’t really have yourself to blame. He wanted his way and he would scream, holler, throw violent tantrums even. Why? Because he knew full well that his mother and grandmother just couldn’t handle them. Not for more than a few minutes. Now me . . . I’d put him in a time out in his bedroom or the laundry room and ignore it, eventually he’d stop. But if either his Mom or Grandma were around . . . God help the world. He knew one of them would cave in.
But almost the day after his mother passed that changed. Completely. Is he still selfish? Does he still want to be the center of attention? Well…yes, of course. He’s a kid, after all. But he’s not the same kid. We haven’t had a violent or noisy tantrum since March 26th, 2011. Not one. Not a single…solitary…tantrum. He asks for things, sure, and he’ll keep asking. He’s a kid, I’d be disappointed if he didn’t try to ask for things. But he’s never gotten to that point again.
Abbi, my oldest, she’s changed. She had her life planned out . . . according the plan her mother had pushed, prodded and told her was the sensible way to go. Never mind that Abbi always was a dramatic kid – in the best way – and loved to act and be on a stage. She loves to sing, loves to play characters, always loved to put on a show. She wanted to write screenplays and act on a stage and she was putting that away because the sensible side of her said she should be in some medical profession to make money. She’d inherited that part of her Mom’s personality. After that day in March, though, she started to see my logic: success isn’t measured in dollars and cents. If it was, I’d certainly have moved professions years ago. Abbi is now focused on her life in the dramatic arts. She’s going to college for it. She’s expanding her world. She’s an amazing kid and while the change is more toward her basic personality, she still has changed. She’s learned to balance the drive and the creativity. She’s a different kid . . . I’d argue even better than she was, just like Noah.
Sam . . . he’s more loving toward me. He’s not clingy, but he opens up more and talks more. He’s more cautious than he was, which is good at times, and that’s a change. He was wild, carefree, and dangerous sometimes, like his Mom. He’s still a flirt, kind of like she was, but he’s more careful. That’s good.
Hannah is closer to me than ever. She embraced music, which she loves. Those are major shifts. The obsessive worries are waning, that’s a major change. She used to eat, uncontrollably, in a subconscious fear of nearly every scary thing. Now she’s embracing being a girl and standing up for herself more. I’m very proud of her.
I’ve changed, too. I’m nothing like the man that met Andrea twenty odd years ago. That may seem a criticism, but it’s really not. I changed then . . . embracing who I was and realizing there was reason to be confident in myself. Now, I’m a lot different. I shoulder much more responsibility. I take care of myself and the kids more. I take care of the house better than I ever did. I do laundry, all of that. I already did most the cooking, cleaning, lunches, baking . . . those chores were mine. Andrea wasn’t able to do much toward the end and I was already doing it. Then I was tired and worried. Now I’m tired, but happy.
Am I different enough from the man who was married? Yes. I think so. I write . . .daily. I’m in a different job. I do things entirely differently than when I was married. Much of that is from necessity, but much of that is also what I know. Marriage is about compromise and duality. You are two people who live as one and I do miss that . . . a lot. But there were things that I now know would frustrate the hell out of me if I went back. I love having music on all the time – Andrea didn’t like it. My guitars and amps are out. part of the house . . . and it drove her nuts. She wanted to decorate her way and her way only, and I didn’t really mind much . . . then. Now, I’d be loathe to take them down. It’s an eclectic mix, our home. Abbi loves her drama. Noah loves his trains and video games. Sam loves books and 39 Clues. Hannah . . . loves to read and write.
We all love music.
Music while we work, clean, eat dinner. I have LP’s still . . . not because I’m hipster cool, but because I just like them. Always have, and love the sound of a needle on vinyl. I still have an ipod, I have CD’s . . . but when I’m home, I like the vinyl. Andrea didn’t.
So yes . . . everybody ought to make a change. We did. All of us. Sure, it was out of necessity, but here’s the thing: if Andrea came back tomorrow, I don’t know that it would be easy. It would be very, very, hard. We’ve started to live with living without her. To have her march in, try to dominate all those things we’ve done – by necessity – would really hurt. It would be awkward and hard. We’d do it, but I’m not sure how good it would turn out.
It’s a hard lesson to see that you’ve changed without that person, your wife, the woman you loved. It’s harder even to see you changed . . .and much of it is for the better.
Dickens had a quote: “I’ve been bent and broken – I hope – into a better shape.” That is us…we’re not level with the ground, but we were tore down.
But we’re in a better shape.