It wasn’t really a good day the way it started out. Noah has had some sort of allergic reaction for the last couple days. Nothing that made his face swell up or anything, but a horrible, red rash that made his cheeks look like WC Fields. My day started with consoling him that he’d be okay and took him to school.
But that led to a day of the car being nearly empty, missing my first train out to work and getting a ticket on said train because I actually had forgotten my pass on the endtable by my bed. I managed to get a bunch of work done and turn the day around only to have to head home early because the rash had come back with a vengeance. It’s almost like hives . . . almost like he’d eaten something that caused him to react.
So I got home, put some more prescription cream on his little arms and cheeks and gave him a Benadryl. It should have been the end of the day.
But . . . it wasn’t. This was also my kids’ Christmas play night.
Of course it was.
You’d think that would stress me out. In the last few years the Christmas play had been a source of constant consternation for our household. Andrea had gotten to the point her knees hurt so bad that she couldn’t walk very well. If we didn’t get to the play at least 40 minutes early there were no seats. If you had known my wife at all you would realize that there was no feasible way that we’d get anywhere early . . . we were lucky if we were only a few minutes late. So standing at the back of a church to watch the play wasn’t something that she would have been able to do. I was in a catch-22. I’d save a seat if I got there first – which happened a lot – we might get a seat.
Tonight, though, the boys were dressed. Hannah stayed at the Extended Day Program and was already at the church in her costume. I got there a half-hour early and even then had to stand at the back of the church and watch the play. I didn’t mind, not really. The kids came out, and like every year the littlest ones were adorable. Kindergartners and first graders singing with their tiny voices.
In the last few months I’ve been good. I’ve had good times, I’ve laughed, and I’ve even enjoyed the moments that I have together with my kids. I’ve talked with friends, renewed friendships and even gotten close to people. None of it hurt, in fact it’s been good.
But tonight . . . tonight I heard her voice for the first time in over a year.
When our sons were singing, and our daughter stood there in a townspeople costume, I heard her voice. When the little kindergartners – even though we know none of them – started singing off-key I felt her hand squeeze mine and her voice swoop up to falsetto as she said “oooohhhh! They’re so cute!”
It should have hurt. It should have made me tear up . . . and it did a little . . . but I smiled in spite of myself. I missed her, but it didn’t hurt me like it used to. I remembered how much she loved me and in particular our children and as the program ended I smiled.
I found out it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
I got an email yesterday from someone who made me think a little bit about how much we miss Andrea. The question was whether I knew what I had until it was gone. I, being the middle-of-the-road-neutral journalist basically waffled and said what really is the truth: yes and no.
I think if you read the entries up to this point, I make very clear that I wouldn’t be where I am without Andrea. I know, without question, that I was so very fortunate to have had this amazing, wonderful woman in my life. When I met her she was this brilliant, blazing woman who was so attractive and so amazing and she ended up with me. Without a doubt in my mind, I got the better end of that deal. In a sea of men who were more attractive, more confident, stronger and nicer she still waded through them all and picked me. She plucked me out of my own mediocrity and helped me to see that there was so much more out there and I could be part of it.
But the little things . . . the pieces of her that permeate the cells of our daily lives . . . those are the things I miss. Did I realize at the time that her choices of decorations and design of our home and the clothes that she helped me pick out were things that made my life better? Absolutely. Did I thank her for them? Probably not near enough, but there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t let her know that I was a better man for having met her. I may regret a lot of things, but I know that I wasn’t going to let her think I wasn’t grateful for where I am now.
But I also know there are things that she just took care of. There are things that are simply beyond the comprehension of a guy to know.
Last night was the kids’ Christmas play. On a good day I’m behind the 8-ball, during Christmas it’s like I have scratched on every shot. I don’t have all the presents wrapped. I don’t have the house cleaned up. The laundry is piling up. The boys and Hannah went through huge growth spurts and their clothes simply don’t fit. I had to run to Target and buy clothes for all of them. For the boys that’s not a problem. A white dress shirt, pair of pants, maybe some socks and shoes, but I’ve never been good with the girls. Not really.
I got the wrong sized pants for Hannah. I bought two shirts because I wasn’t sure which would look good on her. The boys I had shower, got them dressed, did their hair, they looked great.
But I have no idea how I would have managed last night without my oldest daughter. My wife always had the kids looking brilliant. Hannah would have looked like a doll out of a Christmas pageant. She would have had a beautiful dress that matched the colors the play needed and she would have had curly, amazing hair and accomplished it even while the girl screamed that she didn’t want to look so girly.
Last night I was totally at a loss. I had the boys to get ready and only Hannah’s shirt worked. Abbi drove her to Target, got pants and had her try them on, got home, helped her get dressed (and wear the clothes right as in girls’ waists are much higher than a boy’s so stop low-riding your pants!) and then braided her hair and flat ironed it so that she looked beautiful. Much like her mother, we had less than 30 minutes to get to the program so she wore what she had in her room and headed out the door. She even managed to convince Hannah to wear a little mascara so her eyelashes would stand out.
These are the things – the everyday little things that I have no idea how to do and likely never will – that I never thought about and probably never would have. She found the right clothes. She found the right presents. She just helped make sure we succeeded. Last night, but for the effort of the whole group, we would have failed, miserably. As I’ve been fond of saying before: we’re stronger together than we ever were apart. I look at Abbi doing her sister’s hair, the smile on both their faces, talking about how Mom used to pull the tangles out of their hair, or how last year she helped do this thing or that thing and I was both proud and sad.
The program was a Christmas program. It was short, the Nativity story acted out by junior-high kids who were alternately thrilled and mortified to be up there, and sung by every grade from Kindergarten up.
It was brilliant.
You’d think seeing my kids singing on the altar of the church would have been what made me emotional, thinking about how there’s one large piece of the puzzle missing. But it was actually the kindergartners and the 1st graders that did it. Understand, when we moved here, Abbi was little and Hannah was in kindergarten. In that very church, in those very pews, we watched those kids every year, hearing those same Christmas carols. When the little ones would come out Andrea would get all a-flutter and slap my leg, screaming “they’re so damn cute!” and squeeze my hand. Every year. Without fail I would roll my eyes but secretly love it. This year they came out and it wasn’t there. The crowd went “ahhhh”, and Abbi said how cute they were. A mom next to me held her husband’s hand, and I knew that these kids were here being positively brilliant and I didn’t have her here to share it with.
That’s what I miss. It’s not that “I want someone to share it with,” it’s that I want HER to share it. It was a little thing, but it’s gone. I got through Hannah, then Noah & Sam’s classes, and was melancholy. But the little ones came out, their tiny voices filling the air, and I remembered all those amazing nights, when my kids were those little voices and it made me truly happy to be a Dad. Truly happy to be married. Tonight, I only get one of those things.
So all I asked was for her to give a little bit. She gave far more. She gave me big, amazing things, life, confidence, spirit and a voice.
So back to the question. Did I realize what she gave to me, or is it “you don’t miss the water until the well runs dry”? It’s both. I was so aware, particularly in the beginning, that Andrea was brilliant and that she made everything amazing. But I miss the little things I just never gave a thought to as well – the hair, the clothes, the decorations. We did all of these things together. Did I thank her for all those tiny little things? No, not nearly enough. But we were a team. A brilliant team. She came up with ideas and I helped to implement them. We talked about everything. When she bought those clothes she told me about them. When Abbi wanted a dress for homecoming and Andrea wouldn’t budge because it was too expensive . . . I caved in and bought it anyway. We had give and take. We worked off each others’ strengths.
Better still, she gave me love. She gave me so many little things that I miss more and more every day. I didn’t want much, I just wanted a little bit. And she gave me so much more.