Tag Archives: concerts

Sticking to Your Guns

Comfortably Numb (Live) by Pink Floyd, live at Knebworth, 1990

I’m nearing the beginning of one of the craziest weekends I think I’ve had since our story began.  Not only is my daughter’s Prom this weekend, but tomorrow, in an agreement with my daughters months ago, we’re driving into Oakland to see The Black Keys play.  This comes, of course, after we initially planned on seeing the band here in Sacramento on Saturday.  It was all set, the tickets bought, the show ready, all of it.  Then my oldest daughter, Abbi, gets word that the prom is on the same night as the concert.  She was beside herself.

So being the problem-solving father I claimed to be, I found pre-sale tickets for the show the night before the prom in Oakland.  It was supposed to be the three of us – me and my daughters, on the road immediately after my work.  Instead, though, it’s just me and my oldest.  My middle, Hannah, was supposed to be coming with us but she had one deal – the one thing she had to do in order to retain her ticket to the show: she had to finish and turn in all her homework.  Now, sure, it sounds like a pretty low threshold to meet.  I mean, after all, it’s the work that is due every day and should be no big deal, right?

Wrong.

We were doing well, though.  Things getting turned in, the homework done, all of it.  Even her grades had improved, to the point it looked like she would be an average student, which compared to the beginning of the year, was an amazing grade.  But we went to Nebraska to see my family in March and the homework she had gotten changed while we were gone.  The teacher gave her the assignment change the moment she got back, but one month later, in the middle of it all, I see a report saying she had 3 missing assignments.  She used the homework change excuse, and I gave her a reprieve for a few days.  All she had to do was find out what happened and fix it.  Instead, she got embarrassed, didn’t ask the teacher, and the homework got worse and worse.  Then, when I told her it was this or nothing, she flaked.   Said she had to learn her lines for the school musical.

So I sit here tonight, just about 24 hours from sitting at the end of that show, and I’m having to stick to my guns.  In the midst of all of this Hannah gives me the sad puppy-dog eyes and asking “can you guys call me and tell me how the show was?”  I had felt bad until I found out that she could have avoided all this.  That and the constant drilling into her eardrums to get her to do her one basic chore: the dishes.

I guess it was providence, then, that I could relate to her and let her know that life just isn’t fair.  Throughout the day my younger brother innocently texted me photos: he and my older brother wandering Austin having fun.  At dinner.  Having margaritas.  Then came the text saying “heading to the arena for the show now” and I was a bit confuzzled, as my daughter puts it.
“What show are you seeing?” I asked.
The response was a shot of the stage with a bunch of blocks on either side.  Roger Waters’ the Wall – Live.  It hit me like a punch in the gut.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: he’s jealous.  He sees his two brothers having fun, on a weekday, off and going to a show and he isn’t.  It’s not fair, he’s home caring for the kids.  He can’t leave because it’s his job that deals with ratings periods and he’s in the middle of a major one.  Dave chose this job, chose to have kids, chose all of it, so he can be unhappy and jealous all he wants but he just needs to buck up and deal with it.

But you’d be wrong.

This is almost an annual thing for my brothers.  Sure, I was part of it at one time, but I was the first one to get married.  I had love, marriage, a home with an amazingly beautiful wife and kids before they did.  At that time they were single and alone and I had it.  Now I’m widowed and they’re happily married.  But this still isn’t the issue.  My brother wasn’t being mean sending the texts, he honestly thought I’d seen this show once before, more than a year ago.

And he was almost right.  I should have.

You see, seeing the Wall at San Jose’s HP Pavillion would have been one of the last “dates” I had with my wife.  In fact, I had purchased the tickets to the show and had them in-hand.  The punch in the gut today was the fact that I never saw that show.  In the middle of the weeks prior to that show we reached a bit of a financial meltdown.  Andrea’s liver had several ducts plugged and she had to have surgery to remove the blockages.  She’d gained a substantial amount of weight as a result of whatever caused it all. Her circulation went bad.  The knees that had troubled her were now completely shot.  She’d been home on disability but the disability benefits ended.  She was out.  Home without work and no paycheck.  It didn’t take long before things got really rough.

The last ditch effort for us came when they changed the day of the show by 1 day.  The ticket contract said that if anything changed you could get a full refund.  The fact was, it went from Sunday to Monday, which would have been bad anyway.  Worse, we needed the money.  We couldn’t eat that week.  So I asked for the refund.

Not long after, pictures started popping up of the show.  Then came word that a few weeks after the HP show David Gilmour played with Waters at the O2 Arena in London.  Every new picture or clip was a reminder of how I’d messed up and how bad things had gotten for us.  Not a day went by that I didn’t want to have gone to that show.

So I reminded my daughter tonight that her missing the show was a price she had to pay.  I paid a big one missing The Wall.  I had sworn long ago that if the Wall ever toured again I’d see it, but now I just can’t make it happen.  The last tour everything fell apart.  This one: I’m already going to a show with my daughter tomorrow.  The Wall in San Francisco is next week.  Not something I can do 2 weeks in a row.  I have nobody to go with and I don’t know that I’d want to go.  I so wanted to share another concert, a night like our first date, with Andrea.

But I’m going tomorrow with my oldest daughter.  It’s killing me that my middle daughter can’t come with us, but I have to stick to my guns.  Worse, she tells me how she understands and that it’s hard but she knows it’s her own fault.  That plays on my heart strings a lot.  So I’m going to see a band I like, but not one I swore on a stack of biblical LP’s I’d attend.

So I’m making it a nice night.  We’re staying the night overlooking Fisherman’s Wharf and the ocean at an old renovated hotel.  We’ll eat breakfast on the beach.  And we’ll tell Hannah what she missed, just so she gets the lesson, and hopefully turns in all her homework from now on.

It’s hard to stick to my guns on this one.  I missed what would have been one of the last, amazing, dates of my marriage.  But I cared and loved her and the kids enough to sacrifice that date in order to fix the mistakes that could have really hurt us.

It won’t sit well with her, but at least I have something to look forward to.  I have a date with my daughter, and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to do that.  So I take the victories I can.

Of Lemon Bars and Lunches

One of our weekend experiments - now that we have a clean house!

I had an epiphany the other day – one I’ve spoken of before, but more definite than ever this time.  Our home has been a mess, and I do mean a gigantic, garbage-strewn, dirty clothes, clean-clothes-mountain mess the likes of which I haven’t seen in my time as a parent.  I realize that there are certain things that I will have to adjust to doing before we hit our stride, but it’s frustrating that a year into our new story that things can’t seem to stay on track.  My middle daughter, after trying on her new shirt asks if she can take off the tags.  When I say “yes” she pulls it off and literally drops it on the floor, in the middle of the living room, with no thought whatsoever as to how completely ridiculous it is that she’d use the floor as a garbage can.  That was Saturday.

Sunday, as the weekend’s events weighed on me, my back hurting (still really bad, as a matter of fact) I realized that the only way to avoid the massive weekend from hell every single weekend was to ensure that the work gets done every day.  If Hannah doesn’t do the dishes I verbally assault her until she does.  If the laundry isn’t put away I lambast my sons until they do it.  If the food isn’t warmed up for dinner I criticize my daughter for texting with friends in her bedroom and not watching her siblings.  More importantly, though, I came to the conclusion that no matter how tired, beat down, or mentally fried I am, I need to do these things anyway to ensure that we have time over the weekends to do more than clean and catch up on what we didn’t do during the week.

That doesn’t mean my kids get out of their chores.  What it does mean is that if they don’t do them the punishments come when I do them in the evening.  TV, computer, video games, all of them disappear.  I allow reading, that’s it.

The attempt is to try and gain some semblance of what I had growing up.  I know that it’s not ever going to be the same.  I’m not an at-home Dad, though I wish I was.  I don’t have a lot of time when I get home before the kids have to get the bedtime routine going, but at least it’s that: a routine.  Dinner at the table, an hour or more together, showers, midnight snacks, brushing of teeth and then reading a bit before bed.  All of it part of a routine that helps them feel stable and cared for.

So after this last weekend, when I had to have lost 5 or 10 pounds just in pure sweat, we got a good portion of the house picked up and cleaned.  I got the kitchen cleaned.  I made sure that everything was picked up.  I have a weekend of craziness, with Abbi’s prom and the concert both girls were supposed to attend now an Abbi/Daddy night.  As much as I’m sure she is loving that we get to do this together, I know that she also was disappointed that her sister isn’t going along with us.

I know this sounds like I’m being self-effacing and complaining but I’m not.  I came to the realization that life has to be put first, everything else second.  I don’t necessarily like that, but when I get home and the hallway from the garage and the main room are clean I don’t stress out first thing in the door.  I also needed to come to terms with the fact that my selfish nature couldn’t take over when I need to just do the family duties.

Tonight was no exception.  I made the lunches, while my son asked me why I took the time to make them all if it was so much work?  But like my mother, I know I can control the nutrition and the items in the lunch boxes.  I made homemade lemon bars for the first time, realizing there’s a reason they say “DO NOT OVERCOOK” in the recipe but hoping they taste OK anyway.  Why?  Because I realize that my kids are better off with the desserts and items I cook myself, not the sugar and preservative-filled pre-made desserts in the stores.  I bought a new Sunbeam stand mixer so that I can make things quicker and easier.  My sons, if they eat the ready-made foods go nuts – bouncing off the walls, spiderman, arachnid, peel them off the ceiling crazy.

I spent so much time just trudging through life that I wasn’t taking care of life.  Now I realize that it’s the most important thing.  The more I take care of the better off we’ll be.  We can drive to Big Tree Park.  We can take a few days off and head to San Diego or the Grand Canyon.  It seems like such a simple, easy thing, but it’s harder than you think.  When I have to take care of everything we forgot over the week on the weekend, you can’t really do more than cook and clean.

Now, though I wish all the kids were coming along, I’m going to Oakland for a concert with my daughter and spending the night overlooking Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.  We’ll eat breakfast on the beach.  It could have been me and my girls, but I had to stand by my punishment and not let her come along.  It’s like the overcooked lemon bar or the homemade lunch.  It may be a high price, but paying it will have far bigger benefits later on.

Not My Cross to Bear . . .

My girls the way I still see them - tiny with their Mom

It’s Not My Cross to Bear by the Allman Brothers Band

As much as I put into writing and kept discussing and chanting the mantra I still stressed and worried about my oldest daughter and her trials and tribulations.  It’s not that one event – in this case the prom – was so worrisome that I had to lose sleep and worry about her.  It’s the prom.  Nobody enjoys it, not really, except maybe the jocks who find a girl that will sleep with them on prom night.  Quite frankly, I’m thrilled that my daughter is old enough and clever enough to know what’s right and wrong.  It’s both sad and scary that I so wanted her to get a date to the prom but worse yet secretly hoped she wouldn’t because of all the pressure that guys bring to the fore in formal events.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t one who pressured anyone.  Partially it was because I’m not that kind of person but mostly it’s because I just wasn’t as confident or mature to even think about it.  Had I obtained that confidence or shown it I might very well have had a much better date – as would my prom date.  But that’s the rub, isn’t it, that I had a date.  My daughter, in her emotional distress and confusion, was convinced that there was no way in hell she would go to the prom since she didn’t have a date and that she’d much prefer to go to see “The Black Keys” rather than the prom.

Then there’s her sister, Hannah, who had a mandate that she have no missed assignments or zeros on her report or she doesn’t get to go to the same said concert.  On top of that, if she fails, all three of them have to move to the public school, going down the street where their sister Abbi goes.  When I saw blank spots on her math chapter check I asked and got a panicked tirade about how things changed and she didn’t know it when we were in Nebraska for the anniversary of my wife’s passing.  She said the teacher changed the assignments and didn’t tell her and that it was all a mistake.  A mistake that’s now more than a month past.
“Why haven’t you asked her about them like I said?”
“Because she scares me!”
“No she doesn’t.”
“Yes she does,” says Hannah, but her eyes betray her.  She’s not scared at all.  She knows she should have taken care of this but didn’t.  I made the deal and I told her I’m sticking by it.
“Today was the day you were supposed to fix this.  You didn’t and by all rights you should stay home and miss the concert.  You get tomorrow.  That’s it.  You’re not scared of your teacher, you’re embarrassed to talk with her.  That’s different, but if you let that embarrassment overtake you you’re not going to get anywhere and all your siblings suffer.  She wants to help you and you disappointed her if you don’t fix it.  That’s why you haven’t talked with her.”

All this swirling around a singular concert with a band that may or may not be around in their distant future.

I like the band.  They’re good, solid musicians with a penchant for actually playing their own instruments and avoiding auto-tune like the plague.  For those two things alone I respect them.  But my line to my daughter even a month or more ago was the fact that even had a date to the prom.  Times were different, yes.  The location was different, yes.  I was an awful date, yes, all of that.  But I still went.  My line to my daughter was that in 10 or 15 years, when she looks back, will she remember the Black Keys because they were Hendrix or Clapton-like in their staying power, or will she remember that she had a chance to go to her first public school formal event and skipped it?

Now, let’s review what got me here, though.  I have tried over and over again to tell myself that I just have to let my kids solve the major issues on their own.  I can’t get her a prom date, homecoming date, or any date.  Can you imagine what would happen if I tried?!  Good God, it’s hard enough to be  a kid without your parent(s) messing with things.

To be honest, this isn’t really about a dance, anyway.  It’s both of us adjusting to what life is going to be like, and for Abbi it’s nothing but change, month after month and year after year.  I was so inept at the age when Prom was the most important thing in your life.  But had I had that confidence would I really have ended up with Andrea as my wife?  Not that I would have found better, there was no better, but would she have responded.  I found her at the exact moment she needed someone who would treat her the way she deserved to be treated – at least that’s what she said.  She found me at the time I needed to be able to shed the weight of the cross I was bearing and come into my own.  She found out she could have fun with someone who wasn’t just wanting to party all day and enjoyed what she had to say.  We worked together so we knew we could not only stand each other’s company we enjoyed it.  We talked about more than college or drinking or who slept with whom in our circles of friends.

When I met Andrea I still had all that weight I was carrying around.  I’ve posted this before, but she was planning on moving away from Omaha.  She didn’t see anything to keep her there and she wasn’t sure there was a life for her there.  I started dating her at that moment because, let’s face it, the risk was low.  I might get hurt, but the repercussions were minimal since she’d be moving if it didn’t work out.  But the oppressive weight that held me back from everything went away.  I was so worried I’d lose what I had with her if I didn’t take that risk, worry about being embarrassed, that I asked her out – damn the consequences, no reward without risk.

But I shouldered weight my daughter didn’t want or expect me to because her life has had to change and will change so much.  We couldn’t keep her in her private school because I’d lost Andrea and the income she would have brought.  I moved her to a public school after a life filled with private, Catholic education.  She moved into dating and boyfriends with no Mom to hold her and tell her she knows and understands the pressures of being a girl in a world filled with guys with only one thing on their mind.  So when she’s upset she can’t get a date and the guy she hoped would ask, even thought they’re just good friends is with a girl he’s had a crush on, I’m crushed myself, shouldering weight she doesn’t seem too crushed by herself.  I worry about the fact that she has her senior year, will get through it, and then has to decide on college and it all changes, blowing into a whole new world for her all over again.  This girl who had to deal with changing her life, her home, her school and her social circles now has to do it all over again in less than another year.  She’s strong, smart, quirky, and fun and my biggest worry is that she thinks that has to change with the changes in her life.

But then she told me how she’s joining a big group of people and going on her own.  She’ll get to dance with a bunch of guys and she’ll look beautiful in this amazing dress that we’re getting tailored.  Even though I quietly kept my ignorance of the advice to myself, worrying about the fact I couldn’t fix her problems, they got fixed.  She did it on her own, just like my dear friend told me.  I can’t fix it all, and I shouldn’t even if I can.  Sometimes my kids have to fix their own problems. I understand the fear of going to a dance alone, though some of my favorites were when I did.  I danced with people I wouldn’t have been able to with a date.  I faced embarrassment even though my daughter doesn’t want to.  It’s important and she needs to do it or it will overtake her later in life.  But they’re all things they have to face, not me.  I want so much to go in there and just meddle and do it for them.

But I can’t.  They must, and through that, I live on, and I’ll be strong, because It’s just not my cross to bear.