How do you treat a birthday? Particularly a birthday for someone who’s not here any more? Do you keep celebrating? Do you lock yourself in a room and hide? Do you cry? Do you mope?
My wife, Andrea Andrews Manoucheri, passed away on March 26th 2011. Seven months later her birthday arrived and I had thought long and hard about how I wanted to handle it.
Some background for you: I never got Andrea’s birthday right. I tried, though I failed. I faced two really major problems: incredibly high expectations on her part and working in an industry that kept me late on her birthday just about every single year. November ratings are insanely important in television and ultimately October 30th fell in that first week every year. That made my arrival for her birthday dinner, cake, presents, all of that, hard to gauge. For my part, I always promised I’d try to get home and I’d always be late.
So when October 30th, 2011, came around I was already prepared.
We’d honor Andrea, my wife and the kids’ Mom, by celebrating the day. It wasn’t just about her…this was a day to honor those who we loved and whom she had touched.
I know what you’re thinking. You think this is my trying to make up for being a heel for so many years.
Well . . . you might actually be right. That was not, though, the main thrust of my idea.
My children faced a lot after losing their mother. There was no illness, no preparation for losing their Mom forever. One day she was here, the next gone. Every event – birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas – was like a sandstorm on the horizon. You knew it was coming. You can either prepare for it, hunkering down and ride the storm out . . . or you can let it hit you and take you down, those were my supposed choices.
I decided those weren’t good enough.
I decided to ride the wave…sand in the underwear and all.
People have asked how we can look happy, flourishing even? It’s simple . . . losing Andrea was a defining moment, but it did’t define us.
So when October 30th, 2011, approached I heard a song on the radio – Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day. There’s no sentiment in the song, that is simply the title.
Ride the wave.
We would celebrate this day . . . we would love those who helped us and reach out to those we care about just because we can. We will celebrate what we’ve done so far this year and dream about what we’re going to do next year.
This was the legacy Andrea gave us. This woman, a bottle of fire, lightning in a cage, was a spark of life and enjoyment and adventure. We had grown tired and down. We aren’t any more.
So when the day comes, we’re a bit sad. Hell, I’ll be honest, it’s been a really hard week and I’m more than a little down as I write this. I always see that beautiful smile and the sparkling blue eyes from that picture up there when this day comes around. I also see the storm grey eyes of my oldest daughter, the Paul Newman blue of my son Noah, the gunsteel blue of his brother Sam…and the chocolate brown of my middle daughter. I see the blue of Andrea’s sister, the green/blue of Andrea’s best friend . . . and the caring, loving eyes of my family as they held us up for months after we lost one of the most important people in our lives.
Today isn’t a day to make up past transgressions. It’s not apologizing, it’s embracing.
Happy birthday, my love! It was your day . . . now it is everyone’s!
Today we love, we live, and we have a life of adventure.
Today . . . is Celebration Day!