Tag Archives: angel

Somebody Looking Out for Us

Noah and Sam at their Aunt's house for their 9th Birthday

This wasn’t an easy weekend.  Not by a long shot.  We had the twins’ birthday, which isn’t a particularly easy event to begin with.  I knew they wanted a big party or something to do with all their friends.  They only asked once or twice for it, but they didn’t keep asking.  I mean, I realize that the majority of it is the anticipation of getting presents and the cake and the ice-cream.  Hell, the fact that I limit the sugar and preservative intake that the boys get is reason enough to believe that they actually eagerly anticipate the cake and ice-cream for sure.  But they had gotten used to their lives before they lost their Mom.  I know that last year’s birthday was an anomaly.  They were just so happy that they got a birthday at all, along with the fact that they’d gotten it with both sets of grandparents and their sisters I think they were surprised we even pulled it off.  It wasn’t even 3 weeks after they’d lost their Mom.

This year was better, sure.  It wasn’t facing the spectre of their Mom’s loss like last year.  But remove the veil of grief that shrouded everything in those first few months and the expectation still stands, much like it was before.  Their Mom always wanted to ensure that they had an amazing birthday and holiday.  Often it came at the expense of many other things, including some overdue bills, but that never stopped their Mom from telling them that they’d have the party, renting out the laser tag place or miniature golf, and being the hero of their birthday.  We overdid it on presents.  We bought a pre-made bakery cake.

This year I could see the effect that our lives has had on those boys this week.  The boys both wanted bigger presents but neither of them asked for them.  Not a one.  In fact, both asked simply for new books they can read – ones that would interest them – and some small Lego sets that would build a car and spaceship, pieces that only cost a few dollars each.  That’s all they asked for.  It was fortunate as we only had a little to our name this week.  It’s been particularly heavy  on our finances so far.  I am due a tax refund and I was waiting for that check, one the IRS website had said was coming in the next 72 hours.  Unfortunately, they changed their minds and decided that it would be ten days after the boys’ birthday that it arrived.

My sister-in-law in her kindness held the party at her house.  I did make their cake, decorated with some letters and stars and made from scratch.  It wasn’t that I minded, I liked it quite a bit.  Baking has never been difficult or arduous for me.  I don’t mind it, it’s just finding the time that’s the biggest problem.  That and the money.  I managed to get a handful of new books, including one Muppet book Noah’d been dying for and a 39 Clues book that Sam had been begging for.  I also managed a great book by Neil Gaiman for Sam and one called “Al Capone Cleans my Shirts” for Noah.  Andrea’s family acted as it was no problem at all that they took on the party but I do know better.  I’m sure they were happy to do it, but I’m also sure that it was a bit of a burden, one that I feel awful I was unable to carry and not smart enough to fix our finances so I had saved enough to get it going.  Awful enough that I gave them cards promising a bigger present – something they’d wanted but wouldn’t ask for – when the refund check came in the mail.  They said they weren’t expecting it, but they were thrilled.

But like their Mother, I did what she would have done.  I spent what I had on their birthday, figuring we’d sort the rest out as necessary.  I filled up the car best I could.  I bought a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk.  I had meats and meals planned for the week.  I had the staples.  I take the train into work and have a monthly pass.  I bought the four books, the legos, and made the cake.  I figured if things got any tighter I had a guitar we could sell to make ends meet.  In fact, I’d planned it all along.  The boys had some gift cards and cash from their birthdays.  I had no desire and too much pride to ask them for any of that.  I figured I need only get to Friday, payday, before things would get better.  I needed only a few things to get through the next days.  My biggest worry was gas for Abbi and myself and getting through the rest of the week for other unexpected expenses.  I figured I’d get a few hundred at best for the guitar by Monday or Tuesday and all would go well by that point.

The boys begged me to take them to Target, where they had gift cards and the expectation that they’d be able to buy the Legos and other things they wanted.  Before we went I told the boys to get the mail from yesterday, which we’d forgotten.  I hadn’t thought too much about what we needed to do the rest of the day, just always weighed down by the finances.  Rarely did I go to bed and not talk to my wife, which may sound strange, but the reality is that she and I talked all the time.  To not have that conversation after a certain point in the evening just, even today, feels . . . wrong.  Empty.  It’s not that I just want company, it’s that I don’t have her company.

When the mail came into the house, spilling out of Sam’s hands as he brought it in, there was the typical junk mail, a couple cards for the boys’ birthdays, and a letter I didn’t quite understand.  It was a legal envelope, saying there was a settlement inside, but I was fairly certain it had to be one of those massive number of junk mail pieces, lots of junk, one of dozens I get every week.  But opening the envelope, inside was a check, a class action settlement.  No, it’s no massive change in financial status, but it’s enough money – just enough – to get us through the week.  I don’t always believe in all those stories people tell of loved ones watching.  I have relatives of Andrea’s, her friends, hell even random acquaintances that she didn’t particularly like telling me that they’ve seen her spirit or she came to them in a dream or that in a moment of need she brought help or hope.  I have been a year in and I have to say, it’s not something I’d experienced.  In fact, the reality that others either believed it to be so or the mere fact that she’d helped others when we’ve struggled to get by without her actually weighed on me, even angered me.

But this . . . this was just a fix that I was never expecting.  I honestly Never would have believed that this could have been coming.  I get it, this is a possibly random set of circumstances.  A lawsuit in the works for years, probably.  The settlement really amounting to chump change to most people and that’s about it.  Others got this on the same day, I’m sure, and it’s no big deal to them.  A happy chance.  But for us, this was cause to celebrate.  I bought groceries.  I filled up the car.  I felt like someone was looking out for us.

I worry about making the claim my wife, Andrea, is responsible.  The settlement is partly from her decisions and life as well, so she is in reality.  But do I sit here and believe she’s dropped everything and saved us from the edge?  I’m not sure.  It’s the kind of thing she was good at, helping find a miracle at the last minute.  But this . . . I would love to hope she had a hand in on it.  I can breathe again, just for the few days.  I can pay to live the rest of the week, until I get paid, social security checks come, the tax refund, all of it.  I can get caught up.

But she’s not here.  Not every day, maybe not at all.  I don’t know.  I still talk to her, sure, but I’m never certain there’s a receiver of that conversation.  Most nights I feel like the words strike the air and blow away.  I think they very well may.

One thing, though, that I know for sure.  We are looking out for each other.  Two years ago my sons would have asked for the world on a platter forged from pure silver.  Today, they wouldn’t even ask for what they truly wanted.  They wanted only to open something.  The fact I promised them that big present isn’t what made them smile and go to be with a delightful exhaustion.  It’s that they had a good birthday and I was there, along with their sisters.  In the end, be it divine intervention or pure, unadulterated dumb luck, we still managed to get by.

We’re looking out for each other.  We’re far better together than we ever are apart.

Fly On My Sweet Angel

Exactly one year ago, I lost the love of my life, my very best friend, my wife, Andrea Andrews Manoucheri.  We lost so very much that, by all accounts, this could have been the year everything fell apart. Instead, it became the year our story began.  We have not lost the feeling of loss, the hurt of missing her so very much.  What we did learn, though, was that we are far better together than we ever are apart.

The kids and I did this video, with the pictures and words made by our own hands. It’s purposely low-tech.  It’s meant to show you how we scratched our way up day by day on our own.  We could have done a bigger, fancier, more produced version, but that’s just not us.

The one thing that’s not low tech is the song. When I started dating Andrea, she playfully said to me, “Write me a song!” When I looked at her flabbergasted, she simply said, “You’re a musician, they write songs for their girlfriends all the time. Don’t I rate a song?!” She was kidding, being silly and pushing my buttons with a mischievous grin. Two days later I played the song for her. While my brother and I recorded it for a previous incarnation of our band and it got minimal airplay years ago in the Midwest, I never felt like I’d gotten the song right, not really. So when I started this project, as hard as it was to do, I wanted to get it right.  She deserved so much better. I changed the lyrics to match where we are today.

I miss her more than you can possibly imagine. It’s literally like a piece of myself, the part of my soul intertwined with hers, was ripped away. leaving a wound never heals. She wasn’t just my wife.  She was my love, my life, and my best friend.

It’s like she came here long enough to give me what I needed then left, abruptly. But I hear my kids laugh together and the timbre of their giggles is her laugh. The smiles they have radiate their Mom.

I had it good and perfect for a while. It’s a hard life to come back down with the rest of the mortals. Particularly when she helped me learn to fly up with the angels.


We miss you, my love.

Fly on, my sweet angel.

…Second Guessing Me, Every Minute.

“Life Without You” by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble

It is late, insanely late, on Thanksgiving night. I had vowed that I wouldn’t, couldn’t, post tonight, there wasn’t a reason, I’d get through the day, it would be fine, everything OK. But I just hit my same routine. I sit here in my bedroom, a “Friends” marathon seemingly on multiple channels. (Who knew that show was on long enough to have a marathon of just Thanksgiving episodes, by the way?)

My theory had been that if I held Thanksgiving at my house, cooking it, putting everything together, doing the work myself, I wouldn’t have time to think about another holiday coming and going. I wouldn’t have to face yet another signpost flying by me knowing that Andrea has left the path and headed somewhere else.

Wednesday night I headed to Target to pick up some last-minute stuff for our dinner. I had not realized that – even though I’d posted one of those past, amazing Thanksgiving memories on this blog already – the day was already weighing heavily on me. The thing is, and I know I sound like some sort of strange, mutated version of the Cake Boss meeting Martha Stuart, Andrea did the holiday right, and I mean right. Things were decorated, the table set perfectly, the china, the silver, the wine and water goblets, everything in its place and set up just so. I did the cooking, nearly every year, but she was the brain behind it all, even determining the side dishes or the desserts at times – much to my consternation when it was a chocolate-crusted bourbon pecan pie with homemade vanilla whipped cream. Yeah, she had ideas, just ideas well beyond our station. Remember this, because it’s not just important, it’s a part of our everyday lives, something that led to a lot of problems for us as well.

I saw just how little I had to make it the Thanksgiving that Andrea would have done. The table would be decorated, the house feeling like Fall even if we were in the warmest of climates. I wanted nothing more than to channel my wife, the beauty and color, the vision of the world she saw. I found a good tablecloth, the other stuff and as I cooked, up until about 1am Thursday morning, I put the table together, nervous and annoying my oldest daughter because I thought I’d done a piss-poor job of putting the table together.

The decorations and table settings for our Thanksgiving

I wanted to create a Thanksgiving that was ours, something that the kids could think wasn’t any different than years past. I also thought that if I made dinner myself, at home, I’d have so much on my plate – pun intended – I’d have no time to think about the fact that I’m doing this all by myself. That Andrea’s not here, so there’s no way the evening can be perfect. I had her parents, which is never comfortable for me, my sister-in-law (who is amazing) and her husband, three kids and all coming over. We had a 21 pound turkey, homemade bread dressing, homemade rolls, mashed potatoes and my sister-in-law brought over green beans and sweet potatoes. By 1am, I was completely exhausted and had made 3 pies and the dressing with the fixings for the turkey made.

The dinner worked well, my food palatable, the company was good and the kids on their best behavior.

But no matter how well I did things, it wasn’t beautiful. It was nice, it was decorated, but it wasn’t perfect. That’s what my wife brought to the table: perfection.

But don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t always happy with that perfection. Let’s call it what it was, too – an obsession. Andrea had to have straight A’s or she wasn’t happy when she went to Pharmacy school. She had to be able to get the outfits or table linens she wanted or she’d find a way to get them.

Where this was problematic for me was my own fault, my own problem. I couldn’t tell Andrea “no”. My kids can tell you I have no problem saying that to them. I can tell my work if I can’t do something or “no”, I am not able to stay late, what have you. But there was something about Andrea, a thought, a feeling, whatever spell she had over me, I did whatever she wanted or found a way to make it happen if I couldn’t. She was just so amazing to me I couldn’t refuse her. When she wanted to go back to school, regardless of the massive school loans or lack of her income, I delivered newspapers at 2am, worked my day job and gigged to make ends meet, and not very well. With a new baby, a house, all of it, we needed the money but didn’t have it.

On one particular week, I had to work my day job, gigged at a local bar, unloaded my gear, then headed home, showered, went to the warehouse, loaded the car up and delivered newspapers. I got home later that morning, around 6, showered again, ate a bagel or something, drank a ton of coffee, went to my day job, worked until 6pm, got home grabbed my gear, headed to the bar, gigged, finished up and was readying to go to the papers again. My brother was worried and wanted to ride along so I wouldn’t fall asleep in the car – by this point it was hour 32 I was up – and fell asleep in the car as I delivered papers, finishing with more than 20 undelivered in my car, got home, showered, then had to go back to work again. By the time I’d finished it all up, I’d been up nearly 48 straight hours. I started to see people in driveways that weren’t really there.

Was it painfully hard? Difficult to do to the point of burning out my memory synapses and causing me to walk around in a state of near constant exhaustion? Of course. Would I do it again if Andrea was there, wanting to better herself, show she’s not stupid and become a Doctor of Pharmacy again? Yes.

My biggest fault, the one I hated the most was the fact that, even if it was for her or my own good, I couldn’t tell her “no”. The look of disappointment, the drop in her voice, the anger or sadness that might accompany it was so hard for me I had no self control when it came to her. If she wanted to get something, I tried to find a way to get it. If she wanted to go out, no matter how tired I was, I went. If I was exhausted, after delivering papers all night and gigging through to the weekend and she wanted to grab my hand and keep me up so she could lay her head on my shoulder, I’d do it. I never wanted to see her disappointed, but it was the worst thing I could have ever done.

It’s not co-dependence. I didn’t have time apart from Andrea and obsess about what she was doing and wonder when I’d see her again. I missed her, of course, a lot. I didn’t have heart palpitations worrying about when I would finally be in her company again. The reality is I loved her. It’s really that simple.

The song I add to the beginning here is particularly heartfelt. I found myself able to listen to it, though it makes my eyes well up when I hear it. The song makes me emotional, but it doesn’t have that connection to Andrea because she was never a big fan of its writer, Stevie Ray Vaughan. She couldn’t listen to that much guitar and so little vocals. She was a jazz fan but not a blues fan. Whenever I had this song on the radio in the car she never knew it was him because it was such a soulful piece. It speaks of the loss of a dear friend, the description of life with them, then life without them.

He says what happened for me:
A long look in the mirror and we come face to face
Wishin’ all the love we took for granted
Love we have today

Life without you….
All the love you passed my way
The angels have waited for so long….
Now they have their way
Take your place….

Here’s the thing, whether you’re religious or not, I called her my little angel. I felt she was like the woman in the BB King song, my sweet little angel . . . I was sure she’d made me a better man and the angels waiting for her was just such an appropriate line. It hurts to think I had an angel on my shoulder that I could touch and feel, but that’s who she was. I wasn’t ready for her to leave. It’s really true how I feel like the love we had we just took for granted. I hear this and look at the table after we’ve eaten, that song playing on the radio while I cooked earlier.

If she’s a gaseous mist, or up in heaven, on another plane, meeting the souls of the greats, I hope after she found the spirits she missed all these years she stumbled upon a tall man with massive fingers, a black hat perched on his head him why he’s there, this man with a feather standing tall from his black Hendrix-like hat. The gentle, beautiful musician who came through so many hardships only to die too young whose personality and music connected with my soul – I dream he somehow knows how much she meant to me as well. I hope he smiles at her with the Strat slung over his shoulder and tells her:

We’ve been waiting for so long . . . come take your place.

Happy Thanksgiving. Fly on, Andrea, my sweet angel. Fly on through the sky.