Today my wife, Andrea, would have been 45 years old. For me and my kids it also marks 4 1/2 years, 5 birthdays since she passed. I wouldn’t say every year has gotten easier, that doesn’t feel quite right. Perhaps it just means . . . each has been different.
October 30th is always a bittersweet day, particularly for me. For most people this is the day before Halloween, nothing more. Unfortunately, for me, it has a couple more realities.
October 30th reminds me of my late wife, who you see up there. She passed away in 2011, on March 26th. But now it’s a day I celebrate with those closest to me, immediate family, so to speak. They could be related by blood or they could be family because we love them.
The day also reminds me, annually, that I screwed up, a lot, on more birthdays for my wife than I succeeded. There were some, like the weekend overnight in a B&B in Napa. There was the earlier part of our relationship and marriage where you are so happy you give them a card and it’s amazing. However, I didn’t make the time I should have. That hurts.
But we don’t dwell on the bad. We dwell on the good. We call it, as I posted last year, Celebration Day, which is, of course, a Led Zeppelin reference. (Ever the musician) But we have tons of reasons, most are amazing, some are shallow, all are wonderful. They are the reasons we celebrate.
- My wife was a force of nature. My brother used to have a reference “a bottle of fire.” That was Andrea, a woman who grabbed you by the hand and barreled off the cliffs of insanity, damn the consequences, enjoy the ride! For the most part, I really did enjoy the ride.
- That Smile – Some people smile and they have great teeth or great personality. My wife smiled and her whole face smiled with her. It lit up a room and my heart. Friends tell me I’m a sucker to this day for a great smile – a whole of your heart smile – and they’re right.
- We didn’t celebrate enough before – this is one of those selfish ones. I didn’t celebrate enough when she was around. I want her family and friends to know how amazing we still think she was.
- We aren’t sad – This is hard for some people to grasp. OF COURSE we miss Andrea. She was a wife and mom and friend and amazing. But we can remember her, honor her, love her, and still find life, happiness, adventure . . . and even love again. We still love her. Yet she is the one who is gone, she had it easier in some ways. She doesn’t have to miss us.
- We Miss Her – Again, selfish, but of course we miss her!
- The kids should find this a happy day – How do you hit this day without the kids feeling like it’s yet another reminder she’s gone? You embrace the day. Talk about her. Love her, embrace the goofy things she did and talk about what made her wonderful.
- It’s a fun day – You carve pumpkins, have cake and ice cream, and laugh. What’s wrong with that?
- It’s a reminder – Not just a reminder of who she was but who we should be. We should make time, and though I am often late from work, even if I’m late on this day we will celebrate.
- The Goofiness – While the kids remember parents as parents, they get to hear the silly things. They hear about dancing around in the living room and singing off-key and Halloween nights drinking beer and driving around in a golf cart with Andrea’s uncle.
- Warmth – We grieve at different times already. We grieve when the day she died comes, which is so hard for me because it’s also the day I married her. We smell something or see something or hear a song and we get emotional thinking why is this happening now? Rather than do that why not embrace this as a day to be happy?
- We celebrate that we had her – We could be sad she’s gone, but how amazing is it that we had her at all? Most people don’t lose a parent or a spouse like this, I get that. But how often do you celebrate without the stress? How often do you look at your wife’s birthday as a celebration you get to have her? Instead you’re probably stressing about getting everything right. Which one sounds better to you?
- Why Not? I mean . . . I won’t be able to do those birthdays over and I don’t ever think of it that way. Still . . . why not do it to show your kids what’s supposed to happen? Why not make it an enjoyable day?
- Memories – We all have different memories of people and events. This way I get to hear different perspectives from my kids of what their memories are of their mother. Same with family and friends.
- Cake and Ice Cream. I mean . . . who doesn’t want a night that ends in cake and ice cream?
- It makes you feel good – let’s be honest . . . the cliche’s and tropes are right. It’s so much fun to give to someone and have them have fond memories of Andrea and of the day because you gave them something? That’s pretty damn amazing.
- You connect with family and friends – I love my kids to the ends of the earth. Yet this day I get to FaceTime my daughter in college and the kids stay home and we do things. That’s important. My family, Andrea’s family…we all have this day to remember her by.
- You Confuse People – This sounds weird, I know, but it’s fantastic to confuse the hell out of people who think you’ll hit this day and just . . . fall apart. I don’t. Okay, maybe a little sometimes. Mostly, I hit this day and smile because I know we’re doing it right. I remember her. It confounds people that you aren’t in a puddle in the corner. I mean, in the beginning you laughed to keep from crying. Now you cry because you’re laughing about some ridiculous story. It’s pretty great.
- You Prioritize – Even today I have a colleague who yells at me if I’m late getting out the door for a kid’s event or a holiday or anything. But this day, even if I have to work late, reinforces that I’ve put the kids and family and close friends as a priority. That’s just a good message to send.
- You enjoy the day, not the stuff – In the beginning I made cake from scratch and got fancy and . . . it stressed the hell out of me. Then I realized that if I have time, it’s fun to make the cake. If I don’t, a decent cake is good, too. The kids started to ask for things like it’s Christmas…which I quickly put a stop to. It’s not about that, it’s about all of us together. So cake from Freeport Bakery . . . that’s just fine with everyone. It’s fine with me, too.
- You make the day about us, not just her – It’s important to remember this . . . it’s certainly about her. It’s not about presents or cake or treats or any of that, though. When the kids start saying “I want (insert toy here) for Celebration Day” you remind them it’s a day about us, not about presents. Then it’s amazing. My son asked if we could call his sister in college and was happy that this year it’s Friday, and he thinks she’ll be around.
- You Put Aside the Guilt – Yeah, my guilt for sure. But the kids have it, too. My son, who worried his temper tantrums wore his mother down. How he thought it was his fault she was gone. How my daughter fought her tooth and nail on everything. None of that matters. This isn’t a day to dwell on what went wrong. It’s a day to remember what was right.
- It’s not about living in the past – We live different lives now. Far different than the lives we were looking to live a few years back. A daughter who isn’t in a medical field. A son who loves movies. A musician daughter. None of those were expected in the scheme of things from a few years back. Yet we will celebrate those, too. This is as much our day now as hers. That’s a good thing.
- It IS about the future – We’ll talk about what’s next. It’s certainly where we’re going now. I have learned through the last few years to be very, very supportive. I am trying my hardest to do that and this helps me more and more to do so.
- It IS about those close people – We use the connections we made this day to stay close to those around us. I have a friend who is my friend now . . . who years before would have been “Andrea’s friend.” That is pretty amazing and in a tangiential way Andrea’s the one who made it happen. I am better for it. Others who I might have talked with occasionally I talk with all the time. That’s important.
- That smile – Yeah, I know, on here twice. I’m not simply a person about looks or image, but . . . for good or ill, when she flashed that I was hopeless. You have to admit, it’s pretty spectacular.
- It’s not loss, it’s leaving them behind – We continue to age. My sons are literally feet taller than when they lost their mom. My daughters, too. My oldest is in college, about to be 21. She will remain that pretty, smart, silly, intelligent woman at the age of 40. She will never get older. It’s like we continued on another path and she’s behind us somewhere. Never meeting up again. That’s hard, for sure. Then again, we remember where we came from and that makes us happy.
- Remember it’s about the journey – Part of leaving the path we were on with Andrea is remembering that it’s not about the path or where we are going. At the end of the day, we need to enjoy how we got there. Sure, we got lost in the woods here and there but how amazing was the view when you had to climb a tree to find the path? How close did we get trying to find our way? That is what it’s about.
- It’s not about what she’d want . . . it’s building off what she started – No, we aren’t doing what we thought we would five years ago. That’s not a problem, not for us. Yet we know the great things she gave us before now. My girls know they can do anything and don’t get discouraged by others because of her. My sons know that their mother loved them and wanted them to be happy. No matter what the plans were . . . they’re far more now.
- It’s okay to be sad – Sure, the kids and I will have moments where we’re sad. How could we not be, it’s her birthday, we loved her, love her still, and we do wish she was here to celebrate. But we don’t live in the sadness. We live and that is part of the sadness. It’s hard to know we’re going to keep experiencing these amazing things – a movie studio tour; homecoming; prom; 21st birthdays; all of the things life brings and know that she’s not experiencing them with us. But this day lets us realize we know what she’d be thinking and doing and loving us all.
- Love. In the end it’s love. That’s cheesy, sad, Lennon-esque for sure . . . but it’s about love. I . . . loved . . . her. I still love her, it’s not that I ever will stop. Think about the first man or woman you loved and then it ended. Did you stop loving them, even if you had a terrible, horrible break up? No. You didn’t, stop kidding yourself. But life is about continuing the journey. You keep moving because the world carries you along on it’s crust, spinning around the sun and taking you with it. When they are gone you can try and stop with them . . . which will do more damage to you . . . or you can live. We can honor her and love her . . . but we all change in life. The hard part is that she is now unchanging, where she was in 2011 forever. We are not and we have to move forward. That’s what’s difficult. So we honor Andrea on the 30th to remember what we were and remind us that we can continue to keep living.
This is our day now. It’s also hers. Happy birthday, Andrea. Happy Celebration Day to my kids and my close circle of family/friends. Don’t be sad.