The power went out last night, something that seems to be happening a lot lately in our neck of the woods. It certainly wasn’t the heat, that was not a factor. Nobody seemed to have hit a power pole and knocked out a transformer. PG&E, our power company, never bothered to call us to tell us what was happening. Though I saw about a half-dozen trucks and bunch of guys in PG&E uniforms down the road with a water main gushing water down the road and tinkering with the power lines. They never bothered to tell us it might go out.
Hannah, my middle, had homework to do. She was shouting from upstairs that she couldn’t do it without light. I don’t disagree, but it was obvious she wasn’t too upset by the lack of light due to her brain shutting off all problem-solving skills as well. My oldest daughter, now just a week from leaving home for college, had found literally every candle in the house and lit them up for light. My twin boys liked it . . . for awhile. Then they got bored and took showers by candlelight as well.
I walked up the stairs, took a couple candles I had sitting in my bathroom and bedroom – not sure why I had them in there, no romance going on in my household – and took them to Hannah’s room. After lighting them up she declared “hey! There we go!” and she was back to her old studious self. I’m not certain much homework was actually done up to that point, I think her secret communiques to her friends from middle school were actually dominating her time. With no power she was forced to do homework, which was a good thing.
Earlier in the day I had told my kids to call their grandma – their Mom’s Mom – and tell her “happy birthday.” They gladly did it . . . and I’d have taken them all to visit her a suburb over from us, except I had an appointment at my sons’ school. It was a strange day, this one. I left work, got home, changed clothes, and went to “back-to-school night.” It’s a hard thing to be slapped in the face with what your struggles are and know the slap isn’t an intentional one. I showed up at the school and had to simply attend the classroom that was closest to me. That was Noah, one of the twins’ classroom. I found his teacher’s door first. As I sat there, we had a card from my son, which was sweet and I’m not going to duplicate for his privacy. He’s done exceptionally well considering how much change he’s had to face and the fact it all changes again next year for middle school. Still…it’s a good thing. He gets an almost-fresh start.
Someone from his old school initially started a rumor that Noah had punched a kid in the face and gotten expelled and that’s why he was at this school. After a couple days with Noah keeping to himself, being shy, and generally not being a powder keg – which he’s not – and the rumor died off because, let’s face it, that’s kinda boring when he doesn’t haul off and attack someone, right?
But I understand both his and and his brother, Sam’s, shyness. I sat in a room where every parent knew every other. I grew frustrated with the obsession over the change from “STAR Testing” because some parents are more concerned with the testing results than the concepts. I love that “no child left behind” is left behind. I like the new federalized core curriculum and had read up on it. I never took those tests well and neither did my kids, yet the STAR tests are a favorite subject of so many parents who think it’s an indication of intelligence. It’s not. It’s an indication of test-taking. (yes, my opinion, leave me alone in my convictions, please, and don’t email or comment. You won’t change my mind) Sam’s teacher is telling me about options for both his migraines and for his slight stutter that comes out when he’s too excited to think about his words and he stumbles over them. She’s not concerned just giving me options. I like that.
But I noticed all through the process that I was alone. There were so many couples there. “I’m ___________’s Mom…and I’m his Dad” and I found myself noticing how much easier it would have been if I had my wife here to attend the other classroom. Part of me felt bad it was all about the convenience and not the affection, but reality transgresses the heart sometimes.
In the night, with the power out, Andrea’s sister forwarded a picture to us brought by their Aunt. It was of my girls – Abbi, Hannah, and Andrea – my wife – with her sister’s step-daughter and Andrea’s aunt Carol. Carol died not long after Andrea, cancer overtaking her. It wasn’t the most amazing picture of her, no, but it’s the normality of it that I miss, I suppose. It’s not that I want others to feel guilty, nor do I think I’m bad off. I’m okay with the juggle, it’s just that some days it affects me more than others, I suppose.
Maybe it was the candles. Maybe it was the darkness, or maybe it was the whole day, a stressful juggle at work, the race home to get to school, the nightly routine still in play, and then going over everything the kids need for school. I missed her. It’s not that I don’t miss my wife every day . . . but it wasn’t as sad or poignant most days of late. Tonight it is…sometimes you miss the smile or the scent or the fact you look at the mirror and think in terms of whether she’d tell you that the outfit you’re wearing looks okay. Sometimes you just need another body to help with things.
Sometimes you just wish you had someone next to you when the power goes out.