It actually started a few weeks back when my oldest daughter caught a bug of some sort. She was sincerely sick, and being 16 I let her stay home to rest on her own. It’s not my preference, but what am I to do?
It’s all a case of household economics. I mentioned before that I left my job. The reality is, the job I left, on paper, showed me working for the company for more than a decade. It wasn’t just that I loved the people I worked with, particularly early on when I worked in Texas for them. But I was embedded, long-term, with a deep relationship with the legal department, who had helped bolster my knowledge of writing a script without getting sued. I had finally reached the point where I would get 3 weeks vacation, although every vacation request I put in was returned with a fair amount of guilt for being out of the office for more than 24 hours. Never mind that the boss left town for a week to interview for another job once. The biggest thing was that sick time. I can get over everything else. I certainly feel it was morally reprehensible to force me our just a couple weeks after I placed my wife’s body in the ground. But the time off, the personal days, holidays, all of it were things I needed as a single Dad.
So with a new job, no sick time, no vacation time (I’m in the hole, actually) Abbi stayed home. I excused her absences, calling the school. Didn’t matter. Miss 2 days, a whopping 80 points from PE, and you have to make up 8 days. Why? How the f*%k should I know?! It makes little sense. Do parents out there actually excuse their kids because they just don’t WANT to go to PE class? What the hell kind of parenting is that? Even when Andrea was around I wouldn’t have done that!
So make up the hours, she did. But then, so did I. First was that lovely 5k my body is still thanking me for. Now, Frolf. That’s right, in a move that could only be in California, the makeup hours for PE couldn’t be at the driving range a mere 5 minutes from our house. Oh, no, we have to play frisbee golf. Not just frisbee golf, either, but frolf in a place populated by the strangest group of shirtless thugs in tribal tattoos and facial hair “teeing off” behind groups of hippy’s that look like a gaggle of clones from the Mystery Machine, if they all dressed like Shaggy and smelled like Scooby and Scrappy. This “sport” (and I use THAT term very loosely) was played in a park (again, loose definition) whose fairway was so uneven and neglected that you could see the water channels in the hardened mud that was more populated with burrs than anything green. Into this wonderful world walked myself and the 4 kids.
All through the process, I kept thinking how Andrea would never have gone for this. Beyond the anger with having to make up 8 classes for the 2 Abbi missed, to subject us to the most insane of activities in a group of questionable characters would have pushed her catatonic. Never mind that toward the end her knees were in such horrible shape that walking up and down dusty hills with no cushioning in her knees would have tortured her.
This is not painting a poor picture of Andrea. The men in front of us used the f-word about twice per phrase. Not that I am easily offended, but I have a pair of 8-year-olds here with me. Hannah is one of the kindest and most innocent 12-year-olds I have ever known. To expose them to this was beyond silly. But we needed the extra 10 points from this to go with the 20 (that’s right, only 20 points for running a freaking 5k to help prevent SEX TRAFFICKING!) from the race she was going to hopefully make up the points she missed.
We had a lot of fun, though. Once we’d left the thugs and hippy’s ahead and behind us, it was the 5 of us. Alone in the woods. It’s an apt metaphor, I suppose. We are very much alone in the woods right now.
I realize it’s been half a year. Sometimes, I think people are obsessed with making sure that you know you’re going to be OK. They want to make sure that you know you’re going to heal and then move on, start dating, even fall in love again. Why? Because our society and Hollywood have told us we have to. That’s my conclusion. Tom Hanks loses his wife in “Sleepless in Seattle” (Andrea’s favorite Rom-Com, by the way) and they all tell him that. I like his angry rant, by the way. “Love yourself, love another, hug yourself, hug your therapist, or work…work will help. Work will get you through!” (copyright Nora Ephron and her distributors. This is quoted but not a direct quotation, by the way) When they tell him he’ll date again he says “yeah, it’ll be simple, I’ll just grow another heart.” No offense, everyone, but I’m still at that point. Love again? Move on? Please. The funny thing is, even after all that, even after all the arguing and fighting, Tom Hanks meets someone else and falls in love. That easily. What you never hear about is how “Annie” reacted to having to help parent a kid that she didn’t start raising. Happily ever after? Perhaps, but we will never know. What, did she move in with him? Did she drop her best friend Rosie O’Donnell? What about work? Magic didn’t get Annie a job at the Seattle Post Intelligencer instead of the New York Times, I don’t believe! Yeah, it’s THAT easy.
Then there’s the reality of our own, singular, now set in our ways single-parent personalities. I got lucky, folks. Let’s talk for a minute about how I met Andrea. We worked together. I was this lanky (Yeah, I’m a fat-ass now, get over it) geeky kid with a bad pre-Bieber haircut and zero self-confidence. She was drop-dead gorgeous. She’d just gotten back from visiting family in Arizona, tanned, sun-bleached blonde hair, with a white blouse, blue jeans with holes in the knees that revealed just a little of the tanned skin beneath. She wore her sunglasses on the top of her head, and being from the West Coast, the staff jokingly called her “Hollywood” when she wore them up there, forgetting Northern and Southern CA are as different as France and England.
But she found me. Not the lanky kid who thought he was the next Stevie Ray Vaughan. She found ME. Do you know why I’m where I am today? Because of her. I didn’t have the confidence to handle things the way they are. Sure, we fought, we butted heads, she was frustrated that I loved being a musician so much and I was frustrated that she was so worried about our financial status all the time. But I loved her. From the moment we started talking to each other. So after 18 years married and 20 together, how do you shove that aside and make room for someone else? Plus, to be practical, talk about logistics. I have 4 kids. 4. How do you broach that subject with someone? “Hi, you’re cute, want to meet my four kids?”
No, not now. Maybe not ever. I can’t say. Love is schizophrenic, my friends. It’s powerful and it’s dangerous. It can create monuments and it can tear apart societies. It can force a man to write an entire album about his best friend’s wife! It hurts so much to know she’s gone, and I want to keep the pain right now. Every synapse that heals feels like it’s taking a small bit of her memory away from me. I want to feel better but I want to revel in it. How do you meet someone or move on when you enjoy the depression and pain? I’m not an LSD tablet in my Bryllcream away from being Syd Barrett, but there are days that the look in my eyes is like two black holes in the sky, and sadly I like it that way.
So when people tell me I’m doing awesome and that Andrea would be proud, I still can’t bring myself to believe it, even if it might be true. I can see how this really was a partnership and the hole ripped open when she took a piece of me with her is still pretty raw. Andrea might have found a way around the running and frolfing, but I never got a chance to ask her about these things while she was here. Now, she’s gone.
Every day I get an email, a tweet, a text, something from a friend or relative that says Andrea’s helping them. She’s everywhere. Everywhere but with the people who need her the most. I’m glad she’s so tirelessly helping everyone else with their problems, but I’d love to, just once, get a clear indication of what the hell I’m supposed to do from her divine intervention.
Where everyone sees signs of Andrea helping them I see laundry and desserts needing to be made…and Mr. T playing frolf with Shaggy, Scooby and Scrappy.