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I don’t just miss . . . you . . .

A wedding photo - one of our happiest days

Maybe I’m Amazed (Live at Glasgow, 1979) one of Andrea’s favorite songs, and very appropriate

I know I have told a lot of stories about how much I miss my wife and what she was like, and sure I do, I miss her more than anything, but there’s more than just the physical presence.  I miss having her here for a myriad of other reasons.

It’s not a purely physical or sexual thing.  If it was simply that I’d make a trip to Vegas and visit one of the many ranches and submit to the hormones raging around in my bloodstream.  But it’s not sex and it’s not just having that person lying next to me in the bed.  It’s going to sound strange to a lot of people, I suppose, but I felt her with me, all the time.  She was a part of me, a joint portion of my existence and one of the things that kept me going every day.

It’s not just that I loved her or that I was attracted to her.  Those are very important things, of course, but it takes more than that to be married.  You can love someone and not like them very much.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true.  There were times I didn’t like her very much.  There were arguments that were so horrible and we both said such amazingly nasty things that I wasn’t sure how we’d get through them.

One of the worst involved my birthday.  Even now my brother jokes that I handled it poorly, I was angry and stubborn and read more into the day than I should have and I said, as he’s fond of reminding me “it was my f#$%ing birthday!”  I’d approached the day, hinted I wanted to go out, felt like I was always trying so hard and failing to get Andrea’s birthday right but never really getting the celebration she demanded.  Friends from work surprised me with wanting to go out, got a sitter for the kids, planned everything out because they thought it was a big day to celebrate.  But Andrea then felt left out and very angry that we were out and about with people.  She was seething, told me I should just leave, got very snippy with me, then made the comment that I should stay with them.  I still remember her making the claim “I’ll leave the house, pack up, and you can stay.  I’ll lose weight, I’ll start doing my makeup again and I’ll find somebody else, it won’t be hard!”  She left, mad at me and I didn’t follow, continuing to drink and look at my friends and brother like I’d been horribly wronged, even uttering that ugly phrase I wrote up there earlier.

It’s the only argument, the only angry utterance I remember verbatim.  There are a couple reasons why, first, I realized I’d gone too far.  I really was being selfish and we’d just had Hannah and just had to make to adjustment to being parents a second time.  She was, we determined later, also quite depressed.  That night a friend told me I needed to make a decision.  I was married, I obviously loved her, and the statement that she’d find someone else really hurt.  Not just that she’d leave, but that she’d make the effort and wouldn’t make the effort for me anymore.

“You need to either decide this is it, or you fight, Dave.  You stay, you fight, and you make this work.  The ball’s in your court.  But whatever happens from this moment on, Dave, is on you.  It’s your decision now.”

Then the phone rang.  Andrea was still angry, but asked if I was coming home.  I did, and there she was, in the house, waiting for me.  She’d curled her hair.  She’d put on her makeup, just like she’d done when we were dating, and was waiting in the living room for me with a flower and wearing a beautiful, burgundy neglige.
“This is why I wanted you to come home.  This is why I was so angry,” she said sheepishly.  “I just wanted to have the night . . . with you.  That’s all.”

I have never felt so small, nor have I ever told my brother, my friends, none of them what happened after that argument.  I still laugh at the line “it’s my f&*$ing birthday,” because let’s face it, it’s funny, but it is funny for other reasons to me.  We definitely had other arguments.  We had other rough times, some rougher than this, but I never forgot that advice.  I fought.  I made it work.  And you know what I got?  I got someone I didn’t just love.  I liked being with her.  When things went right, she’s the first person I called.  When something funny happened I made a mental note to tell her as soon as I got home.  She wasn’t my wife, she was my companion, my best friend, my buddy.  I could joke with her, I could tickle her to get a rise out of her, and I could be geeky, goofy and silly and she’d play right along.

Now, that argument weighs on me.  I think about the things she re-lives wherever she is.  I think about the things I didn’t want her to know about myself that she already knew and sees through now.  I worry I don’t feel her presence around me because she wonders where I was when she left, why I wasn’t there earlier.  I worry she sees me as the man I was before she met me, not the man I have become.  I miss her nervous, giggly laugh, I miss her smile, yes, but I don’t miss her, the physical.  I miss my companion.  I got an email from Rene Syler she wanted me to write for her site and I instinctively reached for the phone, only to remind myself she’s not there to tell.  When I am so frustrated with the kids I want to tear my hair out I can’t look at her and ask her to wallow in misery with me.

I miss that person to bounce ideas off, to love, to play, to be with.  I don’t miss her I miss all of her.

I felt like we were joined the day we married, but we were fused after that fight.  We passed the 7-year-itch and survived and she was a stronger part of me, weaved into my soul.  When she died, I felt that piece of me tear, rip and pull away.  I really did.  My entire being hurt because I didn’t just miss having that person next to me, there really was a hole in me, a tear in my body that won’t heal.  It’s never going to heal, that’s what people don’t get, it doesn’t heal.  You learn to live with it.

But I won’t learn to live without her.  I have to do it.  I don’t just miss . . . her.  I miss her because I miss the person I was when she was with me.

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It’s a New Year . . . or Is It?

It’s a New Year, at least that’s what the calendar says.  The Mayan armageddon, the rapture on December 21st.  But they’re wrong, the year hasn’t started for us yet.

The change to 2012 has been a strange one for me and my kids.  It’s not because the day was particularly difficult.  Sure, we felt the sort of twinge of emptiness, seeing that there was that one boisterous personality missing from the room, but it’s not like there was much we could do about that.  I didn’t want to be out, partying, reminded of the fact that I didn’t have my love standing next to me when the clock struck midnight.

The kids and I stayed home, starting a fire, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores, waiting until 8:45 to go into the house and watch Kathy Griffin strip and Anderson Cooper look uncomfortable as the clock started to count down.  After it dropped, my oldest, Abbi, and I had small glasses of champagne and quickly turned on the Wii system and played Pictionary with the little ones.  By 10:30 they were in bed and Abbi and I spent the night watching Blazing Saddles instead of watching Jenny McCarthy make out with whatever random guy she met in Times Square this year.

And it was nice.  I mean, sure, it’s not dropping balloons from the ceiling or fireworks outside, but it was calm, it was fun, and the kids didn’t get upset or sad.  They laughed.  They chased each other in the back yard; they got messy with melted marshmallow; they fell and got muddy chasing a soccer ball in the dark.  They did everything but wallow, which I was hoping would happen for the night.

But bear in mind that even though we’ve made it through the opening day of 2012 it doesn’t mean we’re all set and the year begins for us.  Where you probably sat and thought about the 364 more to come we have to count down the days until March 26th.  We’ve made it through most the major holidays and family moments.  Just a couple weeks after Andrea’s funeral I had to plan a birthday party for the boys.  This wouldn’t be a big deal for most people, I’m sure, but Andrea always knew what to buy for presents.  She had amazing plans for parties.  Everything was perfect in her world.  Now, not only had they lost their Mom, but they had only me to figure out what to do, how to put it together, how to celebrate, what presents, all of it.  It was a testament to the boys that they had a good time even without their Mom there.

Hannah and I share a birthday.  When she turned 12, I had to miss it because I’d started a new job and she was in Nebraska with my parents.  Without that summer “camp” in the Midwest, I’d never be able to survive the summers.  We Skype‘d on her birthday, showing her the present I’d made (piecing together the best parts to make one solid, Claptonesque “Blacky” guitar) and saying Happy Birthday.  I made a pilgrimage to Los Angeles by driving the Pacific Coast Highway alone and taking 10 hours – double the normal time – just to see the ocean and try to get some calm.

One of the sites of my LA Pilgrimage

Andrea’s birthday became a family holiday.  I never got it right so I got each child a little present and made a fancy cake and we celebrated the day together.  It was sad and uncomfortable, but we made it through.

Abbi’s birthday was small.  She didn’t want anything big and we gave her a bunch of stuff and had a fancy cake and she seemed happy and sad at the same time.

Christmas was empty without her, but we made it different enough that we didn’t really hate the day, we enjoyed ourselves.

But New Year’s isn’t the signal to the end of the worst year ever.  It’s just another signpost.  We still have to face the next event.  For the kids it’s just a terrible day.  For me, it’s double depressing.  The day Andrea died, the 26th of March, is also the day I married her.  It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that a day you celebrated, the day you should have amazing, loving and soft memories is forever colored grey by the terrible events that swirled around the end of her life.  Over 20 years I knew Andrea, more than half my life, and was married 18 of those.  Now I’m left to watch the world move around me and wonder what I’m supposed to do from here.

The most obvious is to be their Dad.  I know that.  I don’t know how we’re going to handle March – the month, the week, the day of her death.  I know I’m going to ask for time off, to ask that I not be here when we reach the day.  One of my best friends had lost her sister years ago.  When the day would arrive she didn’t really want to share what made the day so hard, she just wasn’t at work.  She wasn’t around.  I didn’t pry, I knew that when she wanted to let me or others know what she was going through she would, and eventually we became close enough that she knew she could lean on me if she started to stumble.  When Andrea died, she was one of the earliest calls I made.  In fact, I thought of her, of how she dealt with the horrible emotions such a strange anniversary brings.

I don’t know what the day will bring.  All I can say is that until we make it through March 26th, 2012 doesn’t start for us.  Not really.  It’s the worst chapter of our story so far, I know it already.  We just haven’t written how it’s going to go yet.  I ache for the day to pass yet worry that we’re getting farther and farther from her as we get past these points in our lives.

It’s a New Year, it’s 2012.  The naysayers say that it’s the end of the world but they were wrong.  For us, it already ended.  We already started picking up the pieces and rebuilding.

You Said How the Coffee Tasted So Fine…

2-14 The Coffee Song“The Cofee Song” by the power trio “Cream”.

There is a song that was originally supposed to go on the LP “Fresh Cream” by . . . well . . . Cream, that always gave me a melancholy but hopeful sort of feeling. The song, simply “The Coffee Song” is a tale – an actual story – about a message in the corner booth at some unknown cafe at a railroad station. The sort-of hook says:

We sat here together just to pass time. You said how the coffee tasted so fine.

So, I didn’t have the horrible pangs of regret that the song portrays. I have to say, it’s one of the few moments during that portion of my life where I didn’t screw things up so badly. I honestly, up until that point, would have been the guy who had that conversation, sat all night in the corner booth and maybe even have been personable and enjoyable. What I would have done then, though, is analyzed the situation to death and actually messed it all up.

What I don’t think people realize is that Andrea and I didn’t start out in the whole “love at first sight” kind of relationship. We actually weren’t that friendly at all. I can say, without embarrassment and with complete confidence that from my perspective I figured she was the typical California girl. She was blonde, extremely attractive, wanted to be an anchor, wanted attention and I acted like there’s no way either of us could possibly like each other. But given what you now know about me – how I was a geeky, shy, quiet to the point of unlikable guy – I really was infatuated with her and knew full well that she wouldn’t give me a second glance, and it ticked me off. A lot.

I remember the day that changed, though. We were covering some community meeting together. She was reporting, I was her photographer for the story. We were stuck in a community room in Council Bluffs, Iowa, waiting for the rest of the people to come into the room. The meeting, as was inevitable in Iowa politics, was late even getting started. We were all hungry and the only food was a small vending machine in the hallway. They wanted, at the time, fifty cents for a Hershey bar. I made some grumpy (me? grumpy?) comment about how expensive it was and to my astonishment she agreed!

“You know, I remember when these were a dime,” I said quietly to myself.

“What?!”

“Hershey bars. They used to be a dime. I was really little, probably 7 or 8, and my Mom used to give me a buck or two to go to Shellhammer’s grocery down the street from our house. I’d get the loaves of bread she wanted with it and there was always ten cents left from the bread and I’d buy a Hershey bar with it. I’d get about halfway home with the box of bread, sit on the curb, open the candy bar, and eat it before heading the rest of the way home.”

Andrea had an annoyed look on her face. (I remember this. You can look at the screen incredulously all you want, but friends will tell you I have an amazing brain for the most ridiculous of miscellany.) She shook her head, and just said:

“You’re nuts!”

“What?”

“You’re crazy. A Hershey bar was never ten cents. As long as I can remember, NO candy bar was ever ten cents.”

“It was in O’Neill, Nebraska.”

That was the key, believe it or not. My hometown.

“You’re from O’Neill?”

I honestly had no idea why being from O’Neill could ever have connected with this girl. She was from California. She was a blonde, liberal, hard partying, well endowed, beautiful girl. There’s no way she could know about O’Neill.

Here’s where you need to know something. At it’s peak, or the peak of my life there, O’Neill’s largest population was probably 3,700 people at most. It existed and was well traveled because US Highways 281 and 20 met in the town. It was a crossroads for campers, travelers and shipping for the Northern part of the state. But if you’re from California and don’t have relatives in O’Neill, your only indication that O’Neill was even there was if something tragic happened or a tornado touched down.

“My best friend is from O’Neill.” I continued to look at her. I knew a lot of people, but for someone like her I doubted I’d have moved in the same circles. But she mentioned who it was and I was stammering.

“Yeah. I know her. I went to High School with her, as a matter of fact.”

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this. It was a particular moment, a fixed point in time that you can actually feel the changes as they happen. The room got immediately smaller. We were talking about our mutual friend/acquaintance. I saw this woman in a new light. My whole attitude was shifted. In fact, I forgot all my preconceived notions about who she was. The thought that she’d look at me with disdain or even a tinge of disgust just disappeared. She was looking at ME differently, too. I could tell.

“I have to know more about her (Andrea’s best friend) from when she was a kid. Are you working late? I am going out with a bunch of friends tonight . . . ” . . . which was the line I’d been waiting for. Start to ask if I want to hang out then find a reason to drop me . . . “. . . but can we have coffee after work? You can meet all of us!”

I wasn’t doing anything. Well, wait, that’s not true. I DO remember that I was supposed to rehearse with the cover band I’d joined. Let’s face it, though. I could hang out with a bunch of stoned-out, too-loud, ’80’s-obsessed musicians who walked around in the hazy fog smelling of ditch weed or I could hang out with a beautiful, blonde, funny girl.

Ummm . . . yeah. I’m a musician, but I have my priorities.

20111107-155445.jpg
The promo photo for my first band

 

We met at a place called “M’s Pub” in Omaha’s “Old Market” area. (It’s still there, by the way. If you’re in the mood, get their linguine with pesto and grilled chicken.) We were only supposed to have coffee. I couldn’t resist, I ordered a piece of flourless chocolate torte that had a vanilla sauce of some sort. It was amazing, went with the coffee and it was rich beyond my wildest imagination.

“I can’t eat this all, you want a bite?”

She apparently couldn’t resist, either, because she had a bite . . . or 3. We drank our coffee and talked about her best friend. I went to school with her, got closer to her through Andrea as well, and had an amazingly wonderful, friendly evening. Her mother had lived in O’Neill during WWII as her father fought in the war…just down the street from my Grandma. She wasn’t cold or off-putting, she was talking to me like she’d known me for a long time. She told me she had relatives in Norfolk, a town on the way to O’Neill, even asked if I could drive her there over the holidays. She hated driving alone. I’m not an idiot, of course I agreed, but that’s another story, and I thought she’d forget.

We didn’t have a date. There were other people there. We had coffee. We talked. We laughed. It was the first time I’d been anywhere with people and a beautiful girl singled ME out. She looked at me and we acted like we were the only people in the room. Her friends were leaving, pulling at her, telling her she had to go. She was halfway out the door as I stood up to pay the check. It had been an amazing, fun night, but I figured this was how it would end, with me alone again.

Then I turned around and she was running up to me.

“Thanks for the coffee. This was fun! You should come out with us again!”

She gave me a big hug.

She’d really been sort of aggravated and annoyed that we were working together and dealing with me, but part of that, I know now, was that I hadn’t made myself anywhere near pleasant to her, either.

It’s not in my lexicon of first dates because . . . well that was months, maybe even a year before we actually went out.

But then the Cream song came on my Spotify account and it threw that memory back into my memory synapses. For us, the lyric was really true.

We sat here together just to pass time.

I marvel at how this almost became the melancholy story, the crazy “what if” moment for both of us.

But never before had the coffee tasted so fine.

 

Cars, Cakes, Crash and Burn.

Even during the best years, ones when Andrea was here, this week was insanely hard.  It’s one of the most insane set of family events almost a prelude to the holidays.

It starts, obviously, with Andrea’s birthday.  I won’t re-live the misery that I’ve inflicted on that day, it’s been pretty well covered, I think.  I know this year went better than most, not because she is gone, but because it was a Sunday and we decided to celebrate the day anyway.

The next day is always Halloween.  Again, work is a vital part of our equation, so here I was working until at least 5:45pm, there was just too much work to be done.  I couldn’t really push it off, some of it was for that day.  We had one daughter going to a friend’s house, the boys dying to go trick-or-treating, and a 16-year-old who bemoaned the fact that nobody wanted to ask her to a party or go out for the evening.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was secretly happy she was there.  It made things feel almost normal, or the new normal we seem to be experiencing.

Then comes Abbi’s birthday.  That’s just 3 short days after.  This year was insane.  I’d been smart enough to get her presents early.  She wanted a particular jacket, thinking there’s no way I’d get it right and dropping not-at-all subtle hints about it, asking if I’d seen it, sending me pictures of it, everything.  Little did she know I’d had the jacket locked in my trunk for a week already.  (By birthday I’d had it for 3 weeks)  I had other presents, pre-ordered the new Black Keys CD/LP/mp3 and T-shirt combo.  Ordered a gift card.  There was little wanting in terms of presents.  Then I went the lazy route and ordered two cakes from the Freeport Bakery here in Sacramento.  I honestly believe that no matter how good your intentions, somehow the laziness always ends up making you pay in the long run.  I’d ordered the cakes, a little, “Itty Bittty Birthday Cake” for her, and a sour cream chocolate cake for the rest of us.  Problem was, I had to attend a hearing in the federal courthouse at 2pm.  I sat through it, listening to the defense counsel throw out argument after argument for nearly two hours for a simple Temporary Restraining Order hearing.  When it finally ended, I had to get sound with the players, etc.  All the things a regular reporter does.  But I still had to get to the bakery and pick up the cakes before they closed!

So I got the video, separated from the photog, raced to the bakery, picked up the cakes, left them in the car and raced back to the station.  I wrote up the story for the 5pm and still had 2 other scripts to write!  It was already 5pm.  You have no idea how much you miss your spouse . . . not emotionally, but in this case, simply practically, when you can’t get out of the building from work until well after 6pm and your commute is 37 miles each way.  Abbi wanted Stir Fry for dinner, cake, presents, all of it.

The other hiccup is that Abbi was getting her hair done as part of her birthday.  When I was in the fed she kept asking me to transfer money to her account so that she could pay for it.  But I wasn’t in any position to transfer money.  The baliffs are worse than the flight attendants on airlines: use a phone, turn on a computer, the judge owns it.  It’s that simple.  My small plan of getting home to make dinner and get the routine on track was already running off the rails.  Now I had to stop off at the salon and pay for the haircut on my way home, too.

By the time I’d left it was already after 6pm.  I called Abbi to tell her I was on the way home, I had the cakes, all of it, and I heard it: she was crying.  She didn’t want to say what was wrong, I pushed her to tell me, I mean, I’m her Dad.  She had a day from hell.  First, her hair, according to her, is waaay too short.  She had it darkened, closer to her hair color, a little highlights (I’m talking like I know what all this means, don’t worry, I am just regurgitating facts) but wanted it trimmed.  This was after she’d been chastised for something she didn’t do by one teacher; harassed by the two knucklehead boys who sit behind her in History (even though one even said “dude, be nice, it’s Abbi’s birthday, to which the other said “f**k Abbi’s birthday!” in a hung over stupor); and then the balloons her Aunt sent to the school didn’t arrive in time, so when she was sent to pick them up the administrative folks treated her like she’d lost her mind.

Then came the haircut.  While I realize that for girls in particular (yell at me all you want, female friends, it’s true) a terrible salon experience can truly make you feel like you’ve lost all control of your fate, I don’t honestly believe that the haircut was the major issue.  The stylist is a friend of our family.  When Abbi went in, the natural thing was to talk about the common person, the common event, the one thing that binds the two of you.  In this case, it was Andrea.  This, unfortunately, is where I don’t think most people really understand what we’re going through – one of the reasons I write this blog.

As people we have this natural tendency to be nostalgic, to talk about the past, to commiserate.  We tell people how sorry we are about events from the past, how happy we are to see each other, reminisce about good times . . .

. . . and tell people how much we miss their Mom.

Thing is, it’s not the casual acquaintance for us as it is for most other people.  This woman was like the center of our world, the eye in the middle of that hurricane.  No matter what happened, she – Andrea – Mom – was there.  Now she’s not.  Events are hard for us, because the world centers around family.  We celebrate together, it’s how we’re wired, it’s the natural order of things.  So when one person is gone, the events don’t work like they did.  They just don’t seem natural right now.

The best of intentions lead to the worst of pains.  When you get your hair done and the entire time you hear about your Mom, the woman who – and there’s no question here – made your birthday the most amazing day ever, every year, without fail, it may make YOU feel better, but for Abbi, the day went from miserably problematic to nuclear winter.

Next, one of her best friends did something truly amazing and wonderful, getting a card and having every person Abbi knew at her old school to sign a big poster board and put funny, loving, 17-year-old notes on it with drawings and signatures.  It flattered, encouraged and made Abbi insanely proud and happy to have such wonderful friends.  It also reminded her that she doesn’t see those friends every day.  She then got a crazy text from her ex-boyfriend.  That would have been just a flesh wound any other day.  Today, it was like a .44 Magnum shot her with hollow points.

This girl is a beautiful, funny, smart and amazing kid.  But that’s just it – she may be 17 today, but she’s 17, she’s a kid.  She’s strong, but she isn’t Teflon.  These kinds of things stick.  I’ve had a hard time this week, I can only imagine what she’s going through without her Mom.  The oldest child, the girly-girl, without the one person in the house who can relate to THAT side of things in your life isn’t here when you need her most.  I don’t care who else calls, shows up or tries to talk to you and can relate as a Dad, Mom, woman, whatever, it’s not . . . Mom.

So I did my best to console her.  I didn’t know what the haircut was, didn’t know what she was going through, but I did the only thing I could.  I listened.  I told her we had cake, dinner, presents, all of it, and she wouldn’t have to worry about the early part of the day any more.  I was getting home late, like 7pm but we’d do it all anyway, damn the bedtime, damn the showers.  It made her chuckle a little.  We had cake, she opened her presents – and got the jacket, the one thing she’d been insane and acted like her mother about.  The present she hinted, talked, took pictures and all but searched the house for (just like her mom) was there.  We laughed, listened to music, and ate too much cake and stayed up late.

I can’t replace Andrea.  Can’t even try.  I have to at least do my best to understand what she’s going through, listen to the problems, and can’t be the insane, over-protective, wait at the door with an unfinished guitar neck for the date kind of Dad any more.

For most people, this isn’t something they experience this early in life, the loss of a friend.  We’ll see two people divorce, meet someone who lost their father or mother, all that is something you might be able to relate.  So we do what we think is normal, we talk about it – we talk about them.  It doesn’t sink in that bringing up Abbi’s Mom, when she’s already so near the breaking point she misses her so much, that talking over and over again about your Mom on the day that she’s supposed to be here to make your life great isn’t making it better, it’s making it worse.  You feel better, but we have to live through every moment, every painful, searing, awful point of learning about how she’s gone all over again.

It’s akin to the days after Andrea died.  The phone would ring, people would stop by, and every person wants to know what happened.  It’s normal.  You have to go through it, but it’s just so horrific.  You see, not only do you live through the death of your wife or mom or husband or dad, you have to live through it over and over and over again.  Her Uncle calls and needs to know what happened, so you have to tell them, details coming out again, and you cry, horribly, wishing you could hold it in.  Then you have to explain it to your colleagues at work.  Same thing.  Your best friend calls crying because she can’t believe and is so worried about you, and you . . . live . . . through it . . . again.  By the end of the 2nd day, I was dehydrated, quite literally, because I hadn’t eaten, drank, slept and cried all day with every single person that needed to hear what happened.  It’s the blessing and the curse of being married to someone who touched that many people.

It’s the first speed bump in the road, the first loose page in our story book for Abbi.  For me, it’s enough to question if I’ve started screwing up another woman’s birthdays in my life.  I hope not.  Andrea’s been gone seven months.  But when we go through these kinds of events we go back to those first days all over again.

It’s easy to crash and burn when things happen.  What separates us is whether we lay down and give up, or rise from the ashes.

The cake we got for Abbi!

When You Never Get It Right…

An amazing fall picture of Andrea

Today would be Andrea’s 41st birthday.

That would be difficult enough, like every first holiday without her, but this was the day I’ve been dreading since she passed away.

You have to understand, Andrea’s birthday was the day I never seemed to get right, some of it because my job had me forced to work late almost every birthday, and a lot of it because I just screwed it up.  That’s a hard legacy to live up to.

I have to admit, there were times I don’t think I could ever have gotten it right.  Days that she asked, even begged me to stay home all day.  One year, that was her only wish, wanting me to stay home and be with her . . . even admitting at that point she wanted me to be home to entertain her.  Andrea had a horrific fear of being alone.  I work in television news so November, even today in the daily monitoring world, the most important ratings period, the one that sets the biggest ad rates for the year, is November.  It usually starts on a Thursday, the last week of October and goes until right before or after Thanksgiving.

The way I avoided most of the holiday problems was to work as an investigative reporter.  The payment you have to make for that is the fact that you end up working every book and guaranteeing that every story for the opening of the book gets put together right.

But it’s more than that.  I never got it right.  I’d tell her I’d do my best to be home by 6 or 7 and be late.  I’d try to get her the right present and we’d be out of money or would start looking too late.

In the end, I just never got it right.

The inevitable arguments ensued.  I’d see the disappointment in her eyes, the smile in that photo you see disappearing.  Now, that’s all I see.  I’m sure there are a number of birthdays – in early years – that were just fine.  I managed to get other holidays, even our anniversary right.  I just kept messing it up.

That makes this day so much harder.  We all felt this coming, handling it differently.  Hannah wants to go to the cemetery.  Sam doesn’t.  We all want to celebrate, but what do you do?  It’s hard to celebrate the birth of someone who will never age.  She lives with us, in our hearts, attached to our souls.

The best I can accomplish is to just celebrate it.  We have a cake – a fancy one, I made and decorated for Halloween.

So I’m doing the only thing I can think of.  I’m making Andrea’s birthday our own holiday.

It’s not huge, but I got the kids each a present.  We made a cake.  I’m going to make a nice dinner, something Andrea would love.  It’s not an effort to buy my way out of things, if that’s what you’re thinking, because that would never work.  Especially for MY kids.  Instead, I want to make want to make this day a celebration of their mother.  A day that we take to think about her, do the things she’d love, and just think about what she brought to us.

It’s my only way of trying to make up for what I did wrong for so many years.  This is my only way to make this right.

Today is her birthday, and she’ll never see it.  I loved her so much and only wish I’d done this right all these years before.  I’m making up for it . . . but to the kids and myself since she’ll never know it now.

Happy Birthday, Andrea.  You’ll live on, a little stronger this day, the one you deserved when you were with us.  I got it all wr0ng, but maybe this time I might actually do something right.

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