Tag Archives: anniversary

What Should Have Been

I wrote this over the weekend.  Added to it last night (my anniversary).  Not often I write to my late wife but it seemed like I needed to say it:

This was the weekend . . . the vacation that shouldn’t have been.

 

At Disney waiting for lunch
At Disney waiting for lunch

Three years ago, I never thought this was possible, I wouldn’t even have contemplated going here with the kids.  The last time we did was – I have to be honest – less than thrilling.

Abbi (our oldest) noticed it first.  The walking . . . moving all through the park at Disneyland and probably walking 5-6 miles in the day, we all realized something: you wouldn’t have done this.  Waiting in line, standing for 45 minutes at a time, taking roller coasters for God’s sake!  None of that was your idea of a vacation.  Oh, sure, when we only had Abbi and Hannah, we came to Disneyland with them . . . and the girls both remembered that over the weekend.  They didn’t remember it fondly, like you would have.    They remembered your complaints about how hot you were; how tired you were; how much you argued with your folks; how you didn’t want to wait for the fireworks.

They reminded me again when we went to the beach.  Abbi wasn’t certain she’d enjoy the beach at all.  But at the end of the day we’d been there for hours.  I stood knee-deep in the ocean next to her and she stood there, looking at the waves until she caught me looking at her . . . then she grinned from ear-to-ear like when she was a little girl again.

Beach 1Noah and Sam loved the day like it was the first time they’d seen the water or the sand.

We all said it again . . . it was a day you would never have spent hours and hours at the beach with no purpose or thought.  Just the idea of running around.  I let the kids dictate the day and it made me insanely happy to see them so joyous.  That’s the word, too, joyous.

We spent so much time that, although I was keenly aware of our anniversary – mine and the kids’ now – approaching…the kids almost didn’t realize what day it was.  They had so much fun that was enjoyment and reckless abandon that they didn’t have time to be sad or melancholy.  They just had pure enjoyment.

That was my intention, too.

I love the kids more than anything.  It’s been hard to realize that we are having tons of fun and enjoying ourselves and then realizing that our fun is completely opposite to the lives we led even three years ago.

It’s not that we never had fun with you, quite the opposite.  But we realized after everything was finished that we’d chosen to do things that you would not have chosen to do.  This was the vacation that we never would have taken three years ago.  We’ve crossed that divide, the kids and I, where enjoyment without you is possible without thinking there was some seismic shift in the world.

Disney 1I’m sorry that we don’t have you here.  But I am also willing to say that we enjoyed ourselves in spite of that, and it didn’t cross any of our minds that we were doing this without you.  This was our first family vacation – the new family, the family without a Mom and wife . . . and we didn’t even realize it until the end.  Sure, I took the kids hoping to avoid the sadness of the day, that was the idea.

This was the vacation that wasn’t supposed to be.  What should have been was celebrating a normal anniversary.  Instead, it was a bigger day.

But I am thrilled to know that the kids and I can have enjoyment.  We love each other and had very fond memories of you and our last trip.  But we also realized that we are moving forward.  We knew it was coming . . . it just came with more of a whimper than a bang.

I love you and miss you, my sweet angel.  And we’re all okay.  Never thought I’d be happy with okay…but we’ve achieved being a normal family, even if it’s a bit broken.

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2 Years. . . Motherless Children

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I write this in the middle of the evening just a couple hours before the 2nd anniversary of my wife’s passing.  It would also be my 20th wedding anniversary.

It’s an odd thing to have an annual event of this personal magnitude.  I often face one of two descriptions: “widower” and “motherless children,” for my kids.  Those are both apt and appropriate descriptions.  They’re just . . . not the full description.

I am a widower, true.  My children have no mother, also true.  These are part of what we are.  But it is not who we are.  We are so much more, and though we have a harder time and have to face larger burdens because of loss, grief, hardship and pain, we are still our core personalities.  I’m still a musician.  Abbi is an actress.  Hannah plays guitar and is a brilliant artist.  Noah is a storyteller.  Sam is a singer and a flirt.  None of those have changed.  But we have, and we’ve done so many things in two years.  We’ve lost, but we’ve gained so much in experience and adventure.  We don’t know the daily love from that amazing woman, Andrea, my wife, but we learned to give and embrace love when we saw it.

So this year, like last, we created a video.  But where last year’s video was a celebration of her life, this year’s is a celebration of our lives!  So today, March 26th, on the anniversary of Andrea’s death and the anniversary of the creation and ending of my marriage, I present you with our second video: Our Story Begins: Motherless Children.

What’s in a Number?

My anniversary is coming up.

My wedding day
My wedding day

Well . . . technically, it’s not my anniversary any more.  I should feel that way about it, but there’s still a part of me that doesn’t.  It should be a day rich with memories, the occasional jab about missing the date by my wife.  There should be the mandatory extolling of marriage’s virtue and the required teenaged rolling-of-the-eyes when the “beautiful story of our love” comes up on more than one occasion.

Unfortunately, none of that will happen in my household.

I have to come to terms, in my own head, with the fact that I now share this anniversary with my four children.  It’s a weird dichotomy, too, to have this anniversary have so many mixed messages.

You see . . . on March 26th . . . this coming Tuesday . . . I would have been married twenty years.  Would-have-been is the key phrase.  The possibly poetic, but most definitely bitterly ironic thing is that on the morning of my eighteenth wedding anniversary, March 26th, 2011, my wife, Andrea, passed away.  A resistant strain of pneumonia had gone septic and in just a few days she went from the woman I knew to being . . . well, the woman I knew.

It’s a hard thing to have to share this day with everyone.  I won’t pretend.  I do it, maybe a bit begrudgingly, but I do.  This is supposed to be a day I celebrate . . . the day I married a woman who grabbed my heart while it was still beating and entwined her own with it.  Now, though, I have to share the loss and grief of the day with the celebration we held some twenty years prior.  It’s a hard polarity to deal with.  Some points in the day last year reminded me of the sunny day we got married . . . a day we thought wouldn’t come due to the winter storm that blew through just a couple days before.  Then a computer beep or the smell of peroxide or alcohol will throw me eighteen years forward into a hospital room.

My family, today, taken by Amy Renz's Hunny Bee Photography
My family, today, taken by Amy Renz’s Hunny Bee Photography

Don’t get the impression I’m complaining, my kids, even I need the solace of being together to weather the storm of this day.  It’s coming, we know it, and we plan to do something fun each year to more or less celebrate, not denigrate the day.

It’s a funny sort of maelstrom this day has always bred.  My wife, Andrea, could never remember the date of our anniversary.  It was the end of March, she knew it, but it never really sparked her as a great day, I don’t think.  She wanted to celebrate but then the day would come and she didn’t want to leave the kids behind or do anything together.  I always pulled out the stops, took her to dinner or cooked something brilliant (or hoped to) and reminded her of the day.  She didn’t dislike the day nor did she not like being married, quite the opposite, but the anniversary didn’t mean that awful much to her, I guess.  To her, she was happy to be married each day, I suppose, except when we argued.  Even then, the vow had us working on what was wrong, not looking for an escape.

So the day comes with renewed meaning, I suppose.  I remember what I had and the eighteen years I enjoyed/loved/hated/stressed-out-about/extol/celebrated and renew my vow to keep us all writing this new story.  Last year I made a video, remembering her and looking at what we’d done.  This year another video is coming…first on Good Enough Mother and then linked here.

But at the end of the day 26 is a number.  It’s a day.  It was a day I celebrated.  Now it’s a day I both celebrate and remember.  It’s filled with joy and melancholy, which part of me thinks is a shame.  I loved our anniversary, even if my wife didn’t always remember it.  I wouldn’t have gone crazy with a 2-decade anniversary party, but I would have done something romantic.  Instead, I’m doing something joyous and taking my kids on the road.

Anniversaries, after all, are meant to be shared.

 

Some housecleaning . . .I won’t be posting much over the next days leading up to the 26th, as I prep and finish the anniversary video.

Blogiversary

Yeah, yeah, I know.  That’s not a word.  Sue me.  Neither was “internet” thirty years ago so there you have it.

One year ago, on the day (Friday) you’re likely reading this (I’m writing it very late Thursday night) I began to sit down and write about what’s happening in my life and in the lives of my kids.  This came seven months after losing my wife, Andrea.  We’d been married 18 years – she died on our anniversary – and just a few weeks before her birthday.

When I started writing two themes started to emerge from the computer:

First:
The struggles we had in our daily lives.  I didn’t have to learn to cook, my Mom and Dad both were really good at making sure I did that.  I didn’t have to learn to clean, we were inherently scruffy anyway.  I already did the bills – poorly – and do to this day.  The only thing I didn’t do was laundry and I’ve gotten better and the stuff is clean so no complaints, folks. The struggles, though, were with coping.  My kids grew closer…to me and to each other.  “We are stronger together than when we’re apart” is the new credo of my household.  It’s never been truer.  But we struggled, I’ll not lie.  Noah had major issues trying to control his temper.  Hannah nearly failed 7th grade.  Abbi had to change schools and start out as the “new kid” in a gigantic high school.  Sam . . . he had to come back out from behind the four walls he’d built around himself and be the fun, energetic kid he was before losing his Mom.

Second:
The love story.  A year ago I was still feeling the heartbreak.  There’s something about that loss, that pain and suffering, that sparks long forgotten synapses.  The electrical impulses fire to regions of your memory that you’d long thought were gone and you get a rush of events and things that transpired twenty years ago.  I don’t  think, necessarily, that it’s just people whose girlfriend or spouses die.  I truly think that any loss, even a horrible breakup, can spark this.  But in those instances you know why you broke up.  In the other you wonder why it had to happen.  I regained memories from the most amazing early days of our relationship.  I saw arguments that I’m embarrassed ever happened.  I felt the horrible pangs all over again of struggling with a woman who’d been date raped in college and didn’t know how to contend with her own sexuality for years after.
I looked over at the other side of the bed and felt the emptiness every night.

There have been so many posts I don’t honestly remember what I’d written in all of them.  I went through dealing with my own demons and disappointing my own set of close friends and family.  I struggled with the fact that I am no longer married.

Are the struggles over?  Not by a major stretch, no.

Is this blog the same?

No.

Not by any stretch, either.

I’ve noticed a few things since then.  I write for other people now, too, so that tendency starts to filter over to this blog.  I cook and make recipes and I share them.  The kids are growing more adjusted and growing more each day.  The struggles are changing to routines . . . just a little.  Day . . . by . . . day.  (Stop singing Godspell.  I know you’re doing it.  Stop.  Just stop!)

So is the love story over?  Well . . . the story’s over.  The love hasn’t died, it’s still there, but there are no additions to the story.  While one year ago I saw vivid memories, each single day tore another away, like the waves from the tide pulling clumps of a sandcastle off the beach and melting them into the sea.  That’s partly why I wrote them down, so everyone – including my kids – would see why I fell in love.  But I came to terms in all this time with the fact that the love can remain with the story ending.  We didn’t have a fairytale, I don’t suppose, but we did love each other very much.

That, my friends, brings me part and parcel to the blogiversary.  The name, derived from a saying on the wall, looked like one that would have an expiration date.  It doesn’t.  What started as a detail of the struggles of our new life and the influence the past had on that change has become something else again.  Now we look at where we’re going and what it will take to get there.  I see college for my little girl; high school for my middle; middle school for the twins.  All of it changing in just a short time.

And me?

That remains to be seen at this point.  I can say for sure that I’m stronger than I was when I started this a year ago.  I can look at a beautiful woman on the street or tell my daughter that I think Olivia Wilde is hot without feeling guilty about thinking that any more.

The last year saw me coming to terms, finally, with the fact that “our” story had ended.  My story, on the other hand, now has a new beginning-I just haven’t finished writing it yet.

Our Story Begins.  Happy blogiversary, everyone!

The Weight of a Ring . . .

A version of the ring Hershal is making me

Closer to the Heart by Rush from “Rush: Gold”

I have gotten my share of looks in the last year or so that I know people have tried to subtly throw in the hopes I won’t see them.  I see them, and I just don’t see fit to make an issue of it.  It’s not a selfish or lustful look, it’s actually thrown just down to my left hand.

A little over two years ago I started to gain weight.  Not a small amount of weight, quite frankly, for me a staggering amount.  Sure, there were a couple reasons I could throw at you: I injured my back, putting me bedridden; My wife didn’t move around much like she used to because her knees had gone out, she’d gotten problems with her liver and other organs that caused her to gain a substantial amount of weight; the pain medications I was on for my back were inherently slowing my metabolism causing me to burn fewer calories per day.  I could use every single one of those excuses, but the reality is I just should have known better.  I went from a 34 waist to a 38 in my blue jeans.  Higher in khakis.  Suits I’d worn for years no longer fit . . . when my grandfather passed away I had to scrounge up the money to buy a suit for the funeral.

Speaking of my Grandpa, I gained weight much like he did: in my belly.  I get it, I know, it’s the absolute worst kind of fat; it leads to major heart diseases; I can have bigger problems beyond just being heavy.  No preaching to the choir, please, I know it all already.  I’ve actually gone down one full pant size and lost a great deal of the weight.  Not as much as I need to but still going in the right direction.

But this is about the glances to my left hand.  That day I made the realization I can’t button my pants any more or wear the shirts with the tails tucked in, I realized something far worse: I couldn’t fit my wedding ring on anymore.  This damn ring had been a bone of contention since before I got married.  My then-fiance Andrea was big into the whole traditional wedding.  She had to have all the bridesmaids she did – to the point they ran out of the color of fabric for their dresses and her maid of honor wore an ivory colored dress.  She had to have the diamond engagement ring, but the one she wanted, with at least so many carats, etc…  She had to have the flowers, cake, all of it.  We got into so many arguments planning the wedding that I was certain that marriage would have to be a cake walk if we could survive the damn planning stages.

I was angry, for quite awhile, that I had saved, scrimped, and even cheated a little to get her the ring she’d looked at.  I couldn’t afford the diamond she wanted, so we had a replacement with the promise I’d get her that carat size when we could afford it.  (I wasn’t able to until about a year before she died)   So when it came time for my ring, she never bought it.  I wanted, in this wedding full of tradition, for her to pick out and find a ring she thought would fit me.  She never did.  It came down to the end and I was buying my own ring and I was so upset.  I bought a gold, cheap band because it was all I could get last-minute and I had some resentment that she thought so much of all this planning and putting together of materials and demanded a certain ring . . . but wouldn’t take the time for mine.

The planning and resentment came to a head with the floral arrangements.  The flower she’d indiscriminately chosen for my lapel I hated.
“It’s the most sought after, it’s really expensive,” she kept telling me.
“I don’t care, it’s ugly and I don’t want it!” was my loud response.
“For God’s sake why?!” was her response.
“Because I want a rose.  It’s the first flower I gave you and it’s what I want to wear.”
It was at that point – that exact moment during the planning – that she started to come off the whirlwind tear she was on planning everything with her Mother only and not me.   It was then I realized that she was being pushed and forced into so many things by her family and was being told she didn’t have to consult me on anything.  This one thing, the push to change to a flower that “didn’t match” because it meant something, wasn’t part of a pattern, finally got through to her.

I wore that first ring ever day, until the rigors of journalism took their toll.  The gold bent to an oval shape and  cut into my skin because I carried so much gear around with me every day.  It got scratched, lost a small diamond, all of it.  Eventually, I told her I wanted a strong, solid, silver band: something that would withstand the job or I’d have to quit wearing it.  I had someone at my Dallas job ask me why I didn’t wear a ring before then and it was simply to avoid damaging it.  I wanted something I could still wear and withstand the bumps and bruises.  I got that ring.

There were times I would take it off.  At night, so it didn’t cut in or hurt her when we held hands.  When I gigged I took it off.  You will think I’m nuts, but when I wore the ring I got hit on and propositioned constantly.  Me.  The guy who couldn’t find a girl at 2am when the bar was closing at the beginning of his musical career was now getting notes thrown up on the stage in the middle of a set.  Take off the ring, the notes stopped.  I took off the ring, no matter how much it angered and frustrated my wife.  I figured it was better to get the ire at that point than to get it while trying to fend off cute drunken women at the martini bar.

So when I gained all this weight, the battle-scarred silver ring sat there, in my drawer, waiting for me to come to my metabolic senses.

At the funeral, I tried, but couldn’t even get the ring around my knuckle.  I couldn’t wear it to her funeral and it’s bothered me ever since.  It bothers me more now that I see those looks, stolen glances, and stares at my hand and not my eyes.  I get it, there’s confusion.  Am I over her?   Am I callous?  Did I get frustrated or angry?  Why would I stop wearing my ring so quickly after she left?

I didn’t do it on-purpose.  Now, though, it’s such an awkward time I didn’t really know what to do.  I’ve come down a pant size, the ring still doesn’t fit, and I’m just as determined that I want to wear it.  I just can’t.  On top of that, to suddenly appear with the ring on my finger may cause as much or more confusion than before.

But then an email conversation with a man named Hershal solved my problem.  Hershal Wiggins owns a small jewelers named Clearly Jewelry.  He had the answer to my problem: a Roman Numeral ring.  He has a design for a ring, not extremely dissimilar from my wedding band, and he says he’ll put the date – 03/26 . . . III XXVI . . . on the ring.  The day my marriage began and ended.  It’s fitting, and while it may cause some glances, I’ll be able to say this is a fitting tribute.  The ring is a size higher, just so I can wear it, and if I lose the weight I need, I’ll put it on my right hand and still continue to wear it.

I know this puts a lot of value and thought on a simple band of silver, but it’s more than that.  I made a big deal at the age of 23 about something that, really, was no big deal.  I threw a fit, held onto resentment, and carried all that around with me.  The weight of that ring was a burden at times because of the things I’d put onto it.  Now I have a chance to reclaim that, if just a little, and carry the ring with me and lighten that load.  I loved Andrea, like no other, but I want to show that no matter what happens: if I never love again or even if I somehow find myself able to date someone or find another person, I will wear this new ring.  It’s special.  It fits this theory of mine, the old story ending and the new one beginning.

The ring is heavy, but it is permanent.  The band and the date are significant, but the fact that one story ends and another begins on the same date, the latter writing only because of references to the former.  I smile now thinking I might be able to wear it again, hoping somehow it makes up for all the times I didn’t.

I’m often amazed at how she loved me, in spite of all the reasons I gave her not to; the problems I created or resentment I held for too long.  More, I’m amazed at the way I really need her sometimes.  It’s just a ring, but to me, it’s so much more.

It’s Gonna be a Long Long Time

I sit here, now, in the Denver International Airport, a woman lying on the floor to one side with painted toes and her best Jackie “O” sunglasses on hoping that I notice her trying not to be noticed while we survived the drunken sot who thought the best way to survive getting on an airplane was to drink himself to oblivion rather than a Xanax or a Benadryl, which would have been cheaper and let him stay on the airplane, and I realized things are hard, maybe harder than ever, but it could be a lot harder.

My whole point of going home to see my folks, brother, and avoid the anniversary of my wife, Andrea’s, passing was to get to a place where we could avoid being around the mass of people who might mean well but would inundate us with thoughts and well-wishes. In reality, though, we got inundated anyway and we looked at all the message because we just couldn’t help ourselves. It’s too easy to wallow in misery and hope that it feels that much better when you stop. The problem is, it doesn’t stop and you don’t feel better.

One thing that did cross my mind, though, as we walked down the security passageway at Eppley Airfield, was that it was harder to go back to California than it was to come to Nebraska and face the anniversary of what we lost. The day came and went, the kids surviving OK – partly because of the exercise of our video – and we weren’t better or worse. We were the same. The reality that hit me is how much I miss my family and the peace of mind of just being near home.

I don’t dislike California, let’s get that straight. My father has a soaring loathing of the state and all it stands for. He visits and stays there because of us and that’s all there is. At his age, hating to fly, driving to see us may not be an easy prospect for much longer. The kids go out every summer and spend a couple months with them. It’s not that I miss the break or want my parents to wait on me. They don’t, nor would I let them – and God help me if I thought to tell my Mom that I wanted her to. You’d find pieces of me floating in the Elkhorn River a few years from now. But I was able to endure and stand up, just like they helped me one year ago when I needed it.

I should never have made any decisions in the hours, days and weeks following Andrea’s death. So many of them had to be made, though, and as hard as it was for my Dad to be there and endure the grief and sadness that hung over our lives like a fog he knew it was easier to help me than to make me decide on my own.

This last week was no exception. I could have stayed home, taken the days off, sat there and wallowed, but I knew that’s exactly what I would do if I stayed. Leaving the checkpoint to the gate was harder than the week itself because I felt the distance weighing on me. My kids see where we are as home. That’s what matters and is most important. If the didn’t, I’d have probably moved home in a heartbeat. The offer was even on the table. My Dad didn’t see too many options before I got my new job. . .neither did I.

So as I left, knowing I had to, I realized it’s going to be a long time before I move on. Before we move on. I cannot tell you the things that trigger my sadness. The clock chiming 9pm in O’Neill reminded me of leaving my wedding reception on that day. Watching a documentary on the band “The Swell Season” makes me tear up and get goosebumps because it touches me in the same spaces that are still bleeding from losing that piece of myself when Andrea left. But a simple day, the turning from 11:59pm to Midnight did not, and I was up until then. Yet that night, remembering my wedding night, the lack of humor I had that night, being angry at her being hungover and then too tipsy on the limo ride to the hotel . . . those things weigh on my mind.

As I said, it will be a long time before I can exorcise the demons from my marriage, the pieces I wish I could forget but seem seared into my grey matter like a cattle brand.

So I sit in the airport seats, looking at my children moving on through the day, and I realize I don’t have it so bad. I could be one of the people I see walking around, tattoos in places that peek through like they’re trying to hide, but really hoping to get attention. The single people who look woefully depressed to be alone at the airport and realizing I had it good for awhile. The woman next to me, lying on the floor, trying so hard to act like she’s inconspicuously aloof but peeking through her sunglasses hoping others will notice her.

Me, I want to get through the day, knowing full well that for now – maybe I never will – I cannot see a moment tick by without thinking about her in sadness. I look forward to the day that I can be reminded of our wedding day and not see it as the day our marriage started and ended together.

But it’s going to be a long, long, time.

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Happy New Year . . . Sort of. . .

My family, taken by Amy Renz's Hunny Bee Photography

My Sweet Angel, by Manoucheri: Andrea’s Song, rewritten

I have to admit it, there has been an overwhelming amount of support and an outpouring of thoughts for me and my four children after we approached and now passed the anniversary day. I give it only that title because, quite frankly, it’s the day I both gained and lost my wife. Not sure how often that happens, but I am fairly certain the odds are pretty astronomical. If I had bought a lottery ticket that day I might have had better odds.

Yesterday was as I’d assumed it would be: lots of anticipation and worry for a day that came and went. There were obvious signs that it was weighing on us. Hannah slapped her brother in the arm hard enough to make a mark and only said “I don’t know why” when I burst into the room in a fit of parental rage. She lost her game boy and sat in her Grandma’s office for awhile until she could stop it. This coming after she’d spent the entire day at the county museum helping one of the women there she’d befriended and become pen pals with.

Abbi, my oldest, spent the day in bursts of isolation, in her room, playing a drawing game and words with friends on her phone. Ever connected through this interweb to the people more than a thousand miles away.

Which brings me to another point. I can only imagine how hard this might have been at home. Surrounded by Andrea’s family, friends, acquaintances, all of them her friends and life. We’ve made a life in California that is ours, sure, but the move to California, to be close to family, job, all of that was so that we could make life easier for all of us to get established and make our lives together. We did that, but my anticipation, which may have been worse than reality, told me we’d get inundated with phone calls, visits, all of it yesterday. Beside that, the people who helped us get through all of our trials and tribulations were my folks, who live several states away. As it is, the day came and went, the kids seemingly OK with it all. They did not dwell on things, they had helped make the video, and in a way I think that was cathartic enough for them.

For me, I had several days with my folks and younger brother. His trio came out and I sat in, making it a quartet, and we played into the late night banging out “Dear Mister Fantasy”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, even obscure jams like “Do What You Like” as well as nearly 3/4 of our first album, “The Blind Leading the Blind”, which they play as a trio. You may work out, go for a run, beat on a punching bag, what have you. Nothing is better for me than this. I played Adam’s guitars, breaking a string on his black Clapton Strat; punching the air with the speaker cabinet ringing out his Les Paul Special; and ended the night with his ’73 Stratocaster. I was sore, my fingers hurt and I was dripping in sweat, and it was the best thing in the world.

.

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Social media helped to spread the word of our loss and the tribute to our beloved Andrea. Where in years past, though, we might have disappeared, it amazes me the draw that those applications, web pages and social interactions draw us. Abbi was connected and pummeled with well wishes and emails. We both looked at Facebook and Twitter and saw the thoughts and wishes of everyone. Unlike being at home, though, we could bask in the glow of the lives Andrea had touched and not wallow in the misery of losing her.

Like being at home, though, once the house went quiet, I was left to my own devices. Each tick of the clock moved to another moment 19 years ago. The morning, where the temperature was much like yesterday, unlikely warmth, and the snow melting. The morning with my wife and her bridesmaids, still in our apartment when they should be at the church, hung over from whatever debauchery they’d managed the night before. The early afternoon, with my brother, best man, leaning over right before Andrea entered the row of pews and whispering “it’s not too late if you want to make a break for it” and grinning behind his mustache. My father, as Andrea got halfway down the aisle, making me smile so much my cheeks hurt leaning in and saying “son, as of this point, you will have no opinion” and giggling.

As the house was empty and everyone in bed, I sat looking at the clock and realizing we’d have been leaving the reception and heading up to the Red Lion hotel and our room, which cost literally the last pennies I had. I sat and realized I was more like the year ago than 19. One year ago, at that very moment, I sat on the couch, alone, unable to sleep, staring at the wall and unable to fathom what comes next. I was awake for 72 straight hours. I couldn’t sleep. I watched every single episode of HBO’s “The Wire”.

I stayed up until this morning, around 2:30am, but that’s all I did. Unlike 365 days before, I knew what was coming. That’s the advantage, I suppose, of marking this day. The fact that it isn’t just a hard day to mark, the day we lost the bright star of our home. It’s also the mark of success for us, if you can believe that. We made it one year. Second by second, minute by minute, then day by day, we got here. We’re still looking at things each day as it comes, but it starts over. We made it through the boys’ birthdays first. My and Hannah’s birthday; The fourth of July, our favorite holiday; Andrea’s birthday, Halloween, Abbi’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas . . . all of it on our own, my decisions guiding us.

We made it . . . sort of. Sure, we had help, but that’s the new part of our lives. We made it because of that help – something I’d have been loathe to ask for a year ago. Now, I know what it is to do this. It won’t make this day any easier when we reach it 364 from now, it still marks the best and worst day of my life. But now I know I’ve gotten through it, I can do it again.