Tag Archives: 365 dad

Get Graduating Already

I only vaguely remember my high school graduation.  Not that it wasn’t eventful or fun or filled with family.  It was all those things.  But it was now so long ago that I barely remember much about it.  Sure, I know who the valedictorian and salutatorian for our class were.  Couldn’t really tell you what either of them said for speeches – not that their speeches weren’t memorable, I’m sure they were.  I just know that since it’s been twenty-five years now the data banks in my head have purged that information long ago in the hopes of making room for more personal information.

The Graduate
The Graduate

The one thing I hadn’t remembered, either, was how much has to be done in order to get to graduation.  I thank the heavens above that my graduation was on a Sunday – usually Mother’s Day.  Family can attend that way.  The day is centered around it, sure, and my Mom didn’t get a Mother’s Day, but still…it was a weekend.  My two daughters, on the other hand, graduate on a Friday.  This Friday.  Add to that the fact that Hannah’s middle school graduation is at three in the afternoon and I am burning vacation days I need for summer and for taking my high-school graduate, Abbi to college in August.

But the necessities: there’s a cake.  There’s food for the guests.  There’s fire wood for the outside fire pit in case a lot of people show up or just want to go outside.  There’s pop…there’s beer and wine…there’s food.  Fruit plates and sandwich trays . . . all of that have to be completed.

That’s just for the day of.

Then there’s the whole cleaning the house thing.  That would be a much easier accomplishment if the four people in said house actually helped to clean up the house.  Instead what I found when I got home was a pile of clothes on my bed – the same bed I’m trying to strip and clean so my parents can sleep there.  I still cannot get into Hannah’s (my 13-year-old) room due to the crap she’s scattered everywhere.  That I need to do tomorrow so I can put the bunk bed back on the top of her bed set so Abbi has a place to sleep.

Then there’s the cleaning.

My threat to Hannah, my middle, has been that if she couldn’t clean up her bathroom and I mean really clean it, I’m cutting off her hair.  Instead, I spent more than a half hour just cleaning the toilet.  That’s right.  The toilet.

Now, I get the fact that her two brothers share the bathroom with her.  I also get that little boys aren’t always the best at aiming for the bowl when they should.

But the boys don’t have certain other bodily fluids that seem to coat the underside of the toilet lid, either.  (That’s right, I went there.  I could have been far more graphic, so deal with it!)  I also found her hair . . . tons and tons of it . . . on the floor, pasted to the toilet, in the tub, clogging the drain, and just everywhere.  She cleaned off her hair brush and threw the hairball on the floor next to the tub.  (Why she would do that instead of near the mirror in the other room is beyond me.)  I found panty liner wrappers on the floor . . . 6 inches away from the waste basket.

2013-05-19 12.19.44So I cleaned, for an hour, the bathroom there because it was late and I needed it clean for my parents coming in.  I came downstairs and there are pans from dinner . . . everywhere.  Never mind that the dishwasher was already dirty.  Abbi used a cooler for some pot luck in her school and left it . . . open and drying . . . on the kitchen table.

So yeah . . . I’m burned out, exhausted, living on caffeine, and just plain aggravated at the four knuckleheads that live in my home.

Then I look at the next few months: bed sheets, towels, mirror, books, computer, clothes, laundry basket, dorm costs, food costs . . . and the overwhelming sensation takes over again.

So I look to my two and say “get graduating already,” and realize that the work’s far from over even after that.

Then I go back upstairs and get out the vacuum, because I’m not even at Friday yet . . . and I still can’t get the sheets off my bed.

“Wouldn’t It Be Great?!”

One of our changes...different vacations
One of our changes…different vacations

The question comes up every once in awhile, not as often as it used to, but it does come up.  Usually with people who knew us as a family, two parents, four kids, the typical family.  They see us going along, happy, even though Andrea, my wife, passed away two years ago, and they pose an interrogative that they think is heartfelt.

It usually starts with “you guys are doing so well,” or “it must be so hard,” or “I can’t handle my kids with my wife/husband, I can only imagine!”  While I appreciate the sympathy or pity or whatever they intend with that statement, there usually is a small part of me that wants with all my might to ask “what the hell was I supposed to do, shut down and let the kids fend for themselves?”

But the question that once in awhile involves asking what I’d do if I had Andrea back.  Often it’s more a statement than a question, like “you’d give it all up to have Andrea come back, wouldn’t you?!”  Sometimes it’s the “she’s waiting for you,” others it’s “do you ever think about what would happen if she came back?”

I used to think this was a phenomenon left just to the widowed.  I guess I was wrong when I had a discussion with my daughter the other night and she’s had the same thing come to pass.

The funniest thing is usually the reaction when we both give the answer: “no.”

No, I wouldn’t want her to come back.  No, I wouldn’t welcome her with open arms.  No, I wouldn’t be ecstatic and jumping up and down amazed.

That’s not an angry statement, by the way.  I’m not drowning in the tears of my own despair.  I have let go the anger and the guilt and the resentment.  This isn’t because she left and I feel bad that I survived nor is it a feeling of rage over taking care of the kids myself.  I knew I had to do that.  I knew this wouldn’t be easy, too, but there are a few things that need to come out, I guess.

Here’s the thing: if she came back tomorrow, acting like nothing happened, ghost, zombie, whatever, we’d look at her and ask “where the hell have you been?!”

2013-03-25 17.34.36The other, biggest thing, is that we all – all five of us in this house – have changed.  We changed a lot.  Pieces of my life that were missing, the abilities I needed to bolster my wife used to fill.  After she left, almost immediately, I had to fill those myself.  I did it, and my life had been better.  She gave me those tools, I know it.  She gave me confidence and I still have it.

The corollary to the “wouldn’t it be great” question is usually “you’ll probably look for somebody just like her when you’re ready!”

The answer shouldn’t surprise you.

No…I won’t.  It’s funny, but even though people talk about how hard it is to change, I’ve done it.  Sure, by necessity, but I did it.  My life is different, my personality too, to a degree, while keeping the best parts of myself in there.  Sure, I still watch bad Sci-Fi with the kids.  I’m still a musician even though I could probably never hit the road and tour now.

But Andrea was a dominating personality.  Not that I’d lean toward someone who is a pushover, never would do that.  But Andrea was an almost domineering, strong personality even if she was wrong.  When we met, I needed that.  Today…today I took on some of those dominant characteristics in order to show the kids I can do this.  It isn’t an act, it’s change.  I took the best parts that the dual roles of a marriage required and did what I could to use them myself.  It’s not easy.  Many times they still wish they just had Mom here to work with them on any particular thing.

But we always get through.  We’ve become a cohesive, strong family.  It was hard for my daughter and I to come to terms with the fact that we are in a better place and it happened, in part, because she’s not here.  That’s not to say we would have wished this, not at all.

But now that we have come through so much together . . . now, it wouldn’t be great.

Because we’re finding greatness as it is.

A Chorus of Feelings

Most days in my household are a juggle as it is.

Today was like juggling and eating the apples you’re juggling and painting a mural on the wall at the same time.

It’s ratings in TV Land, which means work is usually a juggle of things.  I’m not swamped, I have to admit, like I was years ago and managing an entire unit.  Unfortunately for my bosses that falls on their shoulders now and I’m happy to say I’m glad to let them handle it.

But my juggle involved the morning routine, getting everything ready and reminding my oldest that Sam, my youngest, needed to be at St. Francis High School by 5:30pm for a choir festival his choir was singing at.  That, in turn, required her to juggle her schedule, as she’d forgotten his festival.  That also required Hannah, my middle, to watch Sam’s twin brother, Noah, at home since he’s not in the choir and the festival was sold out except for two seats.

Sam's Choir
Sam’s Choir

Neither my oldest, Abbi, nor I must have thought much about what going to St. Francis High School would do.  For me, it was about Sam.  Noah tends to dominate the attention a lot of the time and this – singing – was something Sam desperately wanted to do again.  After Andrea, my wife, passed away in 2011, none of the kids wanted to do much of anything and we were so swamped with emotions and trying to get into a routine that it wasn’t really possible anyway.  But this school year he wanted back in the choir, so I let him.

When I got to the school, Sam had already joined the congregation of kids backstage.  Abbi had been waiting awhile, and the show wouldn’t start for an hour and a half.  We decided to go get a cup of coffee while we waited.  Along the way, I got a description of how everyone at the school recognized or did double-takes upon seeing her.  She talked about how sad she was to leave St. Francis and how difficult it was to be back there.

I told her she could go home, but she wanted to see Sam sing.

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t feel awful for putting her through all this.  Understand, though, that after Andrea passed away, our income drained.  Andrea was a pharmacist, made a really good living.  That enabled us to put Abbi in that private school.  We barely got her through the year and it was only through the help of others and some unclaimed scholarship money at St. Francis that we got her tuition paid up to finish her sophomore year.  By junior year it was abundantly clear there was no way to keep her there.  I just couldn’t pull it off.

Abbi wasn’t trying to make me feel bad and I like that she talks with me about it.  Reality is I couldn’t change how things went anyway and she knows that, just has to say it.

But then came Sam’s time.

The kids got up, after the St. Francis orchestra played, and sang a song that nearly brought both Abbi and I to tears.  The kids were rehearsed, well-behaved, and they sang beautifully, on-key, and literally touching.

Just before Phantom
Just before Phantom

The high school also did a medley of Phantom of the Opera songs, which Sam’s choir helped sing on two numbers, and the kids got a standing ovation.  It was at that moment that the past dissolved and both Abbi and I had no bad feelings about what was going on there.  Sam, in his perfect-pitch little voice I heard ringing in the chorus, had pulled us into the present.

It’s amazing what a chorus of kids, touching your soul with music, will do to you.

Sam was smiling, happy, and got a little gift from the school’s Art Director at intermission.  On the way out he chose to go home with Abbi, which I noticed made her smile . . . the little boy more perceptive than either of us, realizing he’d made his sister’s night.

Andrea would have loved it, and part of my sadness was knowing that she’d have grabbed my arm and gushed about how cute the whole thing was.  But I didn’t need it.  I knew it already, and it was amazing.

Amazing, because as much as you worry about dropping something when you juggle…Sure, Sam’s shirt was wrinkled, his shoes scuffed and his hair a bit messy, but nobody noticed that.  He was a voice in a chorus.  We juggled, and sometimes . . . .sometimes you pull it off, and the results are amazing.

Yelling, Shouting, Frustrating!

I hate yelling at my middle daughter.  I absolutely loathe it, as a matter of fact.

The other day I talked about how she was starting to show massive signs of her mother coming through her personality – and not in the best way.  Last night clinched it.



Andrea, you have to understand (if you’ve never read my blog), passed away two years ago, on our eighteenth wedding anniversary.  She went in on a Tuesday with a cough and passed away in the hospital on Saturday.  My daughter, Hannah, was joined to Andrea at the hip, and they were inseparable.  For that reason, I worried about my relationship with my middle daughter after Andrea died.

But back to the similarities:  Andrea, when we were first married and first had children in particular, had a habit of picking the absolute perfect moments (for her) of hitting every horrible emotional button of mine.  She would start an argument (or I would, it takes two, I know!) and get my slow build going.  Then she’d needle the little things that bothered me.  None of them had anything to do with the argument at hand, they’d just come out anyway.  Then she’d tell me to lower my voice, the kids might hear, and when the little ones would round the corner throw an emotional grenade at me so I would just blow.  Right when the kids were there.

She always apologized, but for years I looked like the angry guy who yelled and hollered and she was calm and cold.

Bear in mind, there was never anything evil, violent, or worse that came.  Just anger.  Pure, unadulterated anger that she could fuel like Ronsonol on a fire.  When I told a doctor about this after Andrea passed away, that I worried Hannah would only remember those things, the doctor told me it was best she knew that we were communicating.  “You never got violent, nor did Andrea.  You never threatened to leave.  At the end of the night, you were in the same bed together and up the next morning.  She saw you were talking, though loudly, and at least you were communicating.”

Hannah in the middle
Hannah in the middle

Hannah has learned those very buttons to push, though.  In the worst way.

Where I had an equal relationship with my wife, Hannah has the feeling she’s in that position now that she’s tall, hormonal, and graduating middle school.

She isn’t.

Last night the boys came and informed me that payment for their school pictures was due tomorrow.  This, I knew, but I appreciated the reminder.

Then came Hannah, hormonal, angry, and threw out that hers were due today, “Daaaad!”  and proceeded to inform me that her teacher informed everyone of this, that I was late . . . and wouldn’t stop.  Just informing me wasn’t enough, there was an accusation of impropriety.  That’s where I threw her the Dad glare.

“You know, Hannah, it’s nonsense that your pictures are due a day before your brothers’ pictures.”
“So what, Dad?!”
“Okay . . . let me put it to you this way, then.  You want me to remember this and do what you want, when Abbi and I have done the dishes for the last week.  When you did your chores day before yesterday you didn’t finish.  Dishes were everywhere.  I can’t get any more garbage in the garbage can.”
She started to give me more attitude in the least pleasant of voices.
“For the last time, Hannah . . . I have no money.  None.  I get paid tomorrow!  I have a car that has 12 miles left of gas.  12.  That’s it.  I had to plan it out just this much due to your sister’s college deposit, your tuition, all that!”
She moped.
“In addition, HANNAH!  I have THIS much work to do (picture me with my arms wide, like I want a hug) and THIS much time to do it all in! (picture me with my hands next to each other.)  Then, when I have to do YOUR chores on top of cooking meals, making your lunches – which I do every…single…day…and then cook dinner, laundry, vacuum, dust, all of that . . . I have THIS much to do and THIS much time to do it in. Did I mention that I worked 10 hours yesterday and did THIS much work after it too?!”

Hannah’s eyes got glassy, but she was angry.  I saw it in her face.

“So when I miss some little deadline . . . like a freaking packet of pictures that I know damn well they’ll just make me buy the whole packet next week anyway . . . and your brothers’ pictures aren’t due until tomorrow . . . you might want to cut me just a little slack.  You see when I come home I do more work.  You come home, slog into your bedroom, that is so full of crap snakes could be living on the floor you wouldn’t know because of the layers of garbage all over the FLOOR!”

It’s hear the anger left her face.

“So when I missed one little deadline, or wait until the last minute to fill out a field trip form . . . maybe you might consider cutting me just a little freaking slack?!”

Hannah went up to the same said bedroom and shut her door.  Her sister, Abbi, looked at me and though grinning, I could tell she thought I’d gotten a bit too angry.

My girls...Hannah on the left, Abbi on the right
My girls…Hannah on the left, Abbi on the right

“Too much?”
“No . . . I just don’t know how she got it in her head she could act that way.”
“You know that if it had been your grandma none of this would even happen.  She’d have beaten us then made us do it anyway.”
“Oh . . . yeah.  But you’d have deserved it.”

I sighed.  I hate getting angry.  It really, honestly, doesn’t happen often.  In fact, it’s very rare.  But . . . Hannah is learning the wrong things to do: the button pushing and the manipulation to try and get what she thinks is most important at the moment.  School pictures or food?  Those were the choices I gave her.

Still, I felt bad about how angry I got.

I got up from the couch, moved to head up the stairs to have a calm discussion with her.

But then I looked and realized it . . . she’d managed to disappear without doing the dishes yet again.  Some things never change.