Tag Archives: changes

Everybody Ought to Make a Change

There’s always been a debate, particularly between the sexes, I suppose, about whether or not people change.  Are you, men, women, children, basically the people you are for life?

I think there’s a basic personality that everyone has.  That’s a truism, I noticed it with my twin boys.  Noah, the persnickety one with the constant drive and wonder about how everything works.  Sam, the flirt, the wrestler build and laid back kid.  Noah gets mad at the drop of a hat.  Sam is a slow burn and then explodes.  Neither of them changed those particular things about their personalities since the day they started looking me in the eye.

But people change.  I have no doubts whatsoever.

Noah
Noah

Noah, for example.  He was a selfish kid, there’s just no two ways about it.  Don’t get me wrong, when you’re 3, 4, 8 even you don’t really have yourself to blame.  He wanted his way and he would scream, holler, throw violent tantrums even.  Why?  Because he knew full well that his mother and grandmother just couldn’t handle them.  Not for more than a few minutes.  Now me . . . I’d put him in a time out in his bedroom or the laundry room and ignore it, eventually he’d stop.  But if either his Mom or Grandma were around . . . God help the world.  He knew one of them would cave in.

But almost the day after his mother passed that changed.  Completely.  Is he still selfish?  Does he still want to be the center of attention?  Well…yes, of course.  He’s a kid, after all.  But he’s not the same kid.  We haven’t had a violent or noisy tantrum since March 26th, 2011.  Not one.  Not a single…solitary…tantrum.  He asks for things, sure, and he’ll keep asking.  He’s a kid, I’d be disappointed if he didn’t try to ask for things.  But he’s never gotten to that point again.

Abbi
Abbi

Abbi, my oldest, she’s changed.  She had her life planned out . . . according the plan her mother had pushed, prodded and told her was the sensible way to go.  Never mind that Abbi always was a dramatic kid – in the best way – and loved to act and be on a stage.  She loves to sing, loves to play characters, always loved to put on a show.  She wanted to write screenplays and act on a stage and she was putting that away because the sensible side of her said she should be in some medical profession to make money.  She’d inherited that part of her Mom’s personality.  After that day in March, though, she started to see my logic: success isn’t measured in dollars and cents.  If it was, I’d certainly have moved professions years ago.  Abbi is now focused on her life in the dramatic arts.  She’s going to college for it.  She’s expanding her world.  She’s an amazing kid and while the change is more toward her basic personality, she still has changed.  She’s learned to balance the drive and the creativity.  She’s a different kid . . . I’d argue even better than she was, just like Noah.

Sam
Sam

Sam . . . he’s more loving toward me.  He’s not clingy, but he opens up more and talks more.  He’s more cautious than he was, which is good at times, and that’s a change.  He was wild, carefree, and dangerous sometimes, like his Mom.  He’s still a flirt, kind of like she was, but he’s more careful.  That’s good.

Hannah
Hannah

Hannah is closer to me than ever.  She embraced music, which she loves.  Those are major shifts.  The obsessive worries are waning, that’s a major change.  She used to eat, uncontrollably, in a subconscious fear of nearly every scary thing.  Now she’s embracing being a girl and standing up for herself more.  I’m very proud of her.

Me
Me

I’ve changed, too.  I’m nothing like the man that met Andrea twenty odd years ago.  That may seem a criticism, but it’s really not.  I changed then . . . embracing who I was and realizing there was reason to be confident in myself.  Now, I’m a lot different.  I shoulder much more responsibility.  I take care of myself and the kids more.  I take care of the house better than I ever did.  I do laundry, all of that.  I already did most the cooking, cleaning, lunches, baking . . . those chores were mine.  Andrea wasn’t able to do much toward the end and I was already doing it.  Then I was tired and worried.  Now I’m tired, but happy.

Am I different enough from the man who was married?  Yes.  I think so.  I write . . .daily.  I’m in a different job.  I do things entirely differently than when I was married.  Much of that is from necessity, but much of that is also what I know.  Marriage is about compromise and duality.  You are two people who live as one and I do miss that . . . a lot.  But there were things that I now know would frustrate the hell out of me if I went back.  I love having music on all the time – Andrea didn’t like it.  My guitars and amps are out. part of the house . . . and it drove her nuts.  She wanted to decorate her way and her way only, and I didn’t really mind much . . . then.  Now, I’d be loathe to take them down.  It’s an eclectic mix, our home.  Abbi loves her drama.  Noah loves his trains and video games.  Sam loves books and 39 Clues.  Hannah . . . loves to read and write.

We all love music.

Music while we work, clean, eat dinner.  I have LP’s still . . . not because I’m hipster cool, but because I just like them.  Always have, and love the sound of a needle on vinyl.  I still have an ipod, I have CD’s . . . but when I’m home, I like the vinyl.  Andrea didn’t.

So yes . . . everybody ought to make a change.  We did.  All of us.  Sure, it was out of necessity, but here’s the thing: if Andrea came back tomorrow, I don’t know that it would be easy.  It would be very, very, hard.  We’ve started to live with living without her.  To have her march in, try to dominate all those things we’ve done – by necessity – would really hurt.  It would be awkward and hard.  We’d do it, but I’m not sure how good it would turn out.

It’s a hard lesson to see that you’ve changed without that person, your wife, the woman you loved.  It’s harder even to see you changed . . .and much of it is for the better.

Dickens had a quote: “I’ve been bent and broken – I hope – into a better shape.”  That is us…we’re not level with the ground, but we were tore down.

But we’re in a better shape.

Root Yourself to the Ground

Andrea right after Abbi was born

Changes by YES from the LP 90125

I spent the weekend trying really hard to finish up the song I’m recording for the anniversary project.  It’s not like it was easy, I needed to re-do a bunch of audio tracks, a bunch of little things that needed tweaking and then I had to broach the uneasy subject of asking my daughter – who cried when she heard the rough demo of the piece – if she would record a background vocal for the piece.  She did it like a trooper, on-key, beautiful, and now when I hear it I get goosebumps listening to her voice coming out of the background.  I know it’s my own piece and you probably will hear it as a simple song, nothing too amazing, but for me it was a really difficult thing to get through.  I just kept pushing it in order to make sure I finished in time to get the video cut.

But I have been thinking a lot, which I know is dangerous, mainly because it’s hard not to think about what’s happened in the last year.  Our whole lives changed almost a year ago and it could easily have meant we crashed and fell to the ground struggling through our days and nights.  I cannot state with enough conviction how much we relied on the kindness and generosity of others in order to survive.  In those weeks right after Andrea passed away I nearly didn’t make it, I really didn’t think I could go on.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t really eat.  I just sat there in shock for days.

The kids were the first thing that kept my feet on the ground, not sinking into it.  They were able to trudge forward, breaking down occasionally, small things getting to them more than the big things.  Then there was everyone else.  My parents lived with us.  I mean completely, utterly, in the house, coooking (when we ran out of lasagnas) cleaning and taking care of the kids and me.  My Dad helped me to make the right decisions when I didn’t even know what to do.  One of my best friends – better even now than when Andrea was alive – had come initially to help with the kids while Andrea was in the hospital.  She ended up staying and helping us get her settled for eternity.  To give you perspective, (I never put names in this blog unless they’ve given permission and I don’t like getting their privacy broken, so I won’t give it in this case, either) I went to high school with this woman.  When I started dating Andrea, she knew every perspective and detail about my life before we even dated for very long.  She married me anyway, which either says she liked what she was told or she wasn’t too bright, and I know she was really smart.

This woman was one of Andrea’s best friends.  When I couldn’t wrap my head around clothing Andrea for the casket she took Abbi, my oldest daughter, and the two of them took the horribly difficult task in stride and – though slgihtly teary-eyed – bought amazing things for Andrea to wear.  She stayed with us through the funeral and, even though I know it must have been one of the hardest and most difficult things she’s faced (though not the hardest, I’m sure) she stayed as long as she could handle it and then left.  I’ve ended up far closer and more thankful to her than ever and now hold her close to my heart and will forever.

Now we have a house that is really nice that we’re leasing.  I have a job that is treating me really well.  The kids are in school and seem to be adjusting.  A year ago I couldn’t see us getting by or making it.  Even my mother, whose faith is very strong, said “I know you have a plan up there, but my goodness I really hope you get to it soon, I don’t know how much more he can take.”  But now I see those days, those horribly, insane, awful days and nights and realize that I lost my best friend – and nothing dulls that loss, the missing love, the missing presence, none of it – but I did gain something that help me and the kids to cope: amazing friends that I look more as family now.  My parents, our friends who help me with the kids when I’m in a bind, my sister-in-law, who treats me like her own brother, and Andrea’s college friend, now very dear to my heart.  These were all people that I loved before, but I treasure them now.

I’m changed.  I know that, but there’s nothing wrong with being rooted to the ground now.  I love these people, more than they’ll ever probably know.  I owe them for helping me to stand on my own two feet.  As I get closer and closer to the day she died, I know I can make it because these people are around me, even from long distances, and holding me up.

Every Picture Tells a Story . . .

One of the few smiling images of mine

I’ve seen a number of descriptions of my writings here but none touches me as much as the thought from a number of people that his is as much a love story as it is a story of grief, loss or flat out manic depressive family panic.

I truly hope people see that is the fact, I did love Andrea, more than anyone. But I do have to admit something, whether it’s right or not; whether you believe it or not.

I got far more out of this relationship than Andrea did.

I’ve given glimpses of myself, expressed how awkward I was, how much of a geek I was . . . none of that gives a true picture.

If you’ll forgive the photographic theft, I’ve attached a few pictures above and below. I think you should all see the transition and hopefully you’ll see my point. I wasn’t just skinny, I was gangly. I can use the excuse that I had moderate asthma, took medication that sped up my metabolism to the point that I couldn’t sit still for more than 2 minutes at a time and burned an unhealthy amount of weight, but that isn’t all of it. Not by a long shot. A friend described me recently, and I’m paraphrasing, as very talented but also quiet . . .extremely quiet. I don’t dispute that it’s true, but that statement could also be read as shy.  Paralyzingly shy.

I also was filled with anxiety and fear, brought on by a tremendous lack of self-confidence. If you look at pictures of me, you see me through the years. As a kid, with a Bieber “do” far before Bieber was a twinkle in his father’s eye. Maybe before his father even hit puberty. I had a massive obsession with Eric Clapton and Fender Stratocasters. I own a Dr. Who Neckerchief/Scarf from the Tom Baker era. I was introverted to the point that after the unfathomable reality that I’d actually asked a girl to the Junior prom it didn’t mean that I was an enjoyable date. I shudder to think how awful those early, awkward evenings – evenings I had such romantic and amazing plans for – turned out to really be.  And sure, they were bad memories for me, they must just be unforgivable for some of those unfortunate enough to have gone out with me, let alone just hang out with me.  There are days I cannot believe I actually survived those years with any friends still willing to talk to me.

Before I met Andrea, the only time I was able to actually be myself was on stage, in front of a microphone with a guitar slung over my shoulder. There, I was myself, even freaking out some of the people who knew me before this, showing a side of myself they never knew existed, maybe never got a glimpse of.

A rare likable photo of me . . . at Septemberfest

Yet I’ve heard from friends that never knew me in those years who say they cannot picture that version of me. (No, I won’t go on some “look at me” rant here, I don’t have that kind of ego)  Colleagues who say they can’t even imagine the person I’m describing.

The answer to the dichotomy is pretty simple – it’s the other picture(s) . . . the ones that have the amazing blonde in them.

20111020-114845.jpg
This was at the station where we met. Just a quick flash of me.
A look at the changes...in me, not the beautiful woman on my arm

I know I play up her looks, and sure that’s the first thing is the physical attraction, but she gave me so much more. I wouldn’t say I changed, because I think the fundamental person that I am was always there. But Andrea found that fundamental person. It wasn’t a few weeks and I changed from the kid with the Beatles-haircut-on-sterioids look to the guy standing next to her in Geoffrey Bean shirts and short hair. There was something fundamentally profound for a guy like me to not only go out with Andrea, but to know that when you walked into a room, the room changed. All because of her. If you’re standing with someone amazing, smart and beautiful, it’s funny how your own barriers start to fall down. But it’s more than that. Whenever I’d get quiet, she’d nudge me . . . “you OK? You’re awfully quiet.” If I got down on myself, she’d tell me I was wrong. If I just had a rotten, God-awful day, she’d just smile at me. Any coldness left inside of me just melted away.

Every picture tells a story.

You can see the transition, it isn’t subtle. I went from shy, combative, grumpy, stick in the mud to a little less grumpy, stiff or quiet. I went from being a behind the scenes guy who dabbled in television stories to the guy who produces the whole thing, writing documentaries, travelling to Germany and Afghanistan. If you’d told people who knew me back then, I don’t know that they’d have thought twice about how things went.

But the pictures diminished. Not for me, but for her. She always fought what she called a weight problem. I never looked at it that way. I know that, because of some liver issues and medicines, in the last few years the problem became reality, but it wasn’t something permanent and we were working on fixing it.

The terrible, horrible thing I have to face now is the fact that I have no record of those years. She wouldn’t allow photos or video of her. We went from having a photographic history of our life to rare moments where we captured her without her knowledge and kept the photos to ourselves. Sure, I gave her things, wrote her a song, but what does that compare with what I got . . . she gave me my life back, the person I saw in the mirror but couldn’t bear to let everyone else see. She was brilliant as the sun, smart as a whip, and she gave it to me without reservation.

How do you remember someone you lost?  I see that amazing woman, the outgoing person who wouldn’t let me hide behind the wall any more.  Do the kids see her?  Do they remember that woman?  Will their image change to the ones that are left behind instead of the Mom they knew?

I hope as long as I continue to push the amazing things she did for all of us they’ll remember the person I saw, the one who did far more for me than I can imagine I EVER did for her.  It’s evident, my friends, there’s no disputing it.  Even if you don’t believe that, no matter, the evidence is there. Just look.

Every picture tells a story, don’t it?

Every Picture Tells a Story by Rod Stewart

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