Tag Archives: daughter

Sharing a Day

I’ve written every year about a birthday trip, something I do to not be in the house and to more or less force myself to see things that I normally would have ignored.  Put bluntly, it’s a way to stop myself from lazing around the house all day.

So today I did some random things that were very non-birthday like.

I had to go get gasoline for the lawn mower and then mowed the lawn and edged it and hoped to get finished before the 105 degree heat wave hit.  (Farenheit.  Though Celsius might make it look less painful)  My oldest daughter came home and informed me I “need to calm down.  It’s your birthday!”  This came, of course, after the lawn and doing a couple loads of laundry.

But, as I told her, it doesn’t wash itself.  She then informed me she’d bought me doughnuts instead of a cake . . . and that I needed to eat them, diet or no diet.

But as much as I did a few little things for myself, like finding a used copy of What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits and downloading a new song from a new artist I’d never heard of, randomly, that fit my musical tastes (which, yes, I know, are all over the spectrum) I called my middle daughter, Hannah.

Hannah, you see, was one of my greatest birthday presents.  She was born on my birthday, July 1st.

Hannah's Birthday
Hannah’s Birthday

Hannah Andrews Manoucheri was born on July 1st, 1999.  A year before the calendar marked a century’s changing.  (Yeah, I know, the strict fact-checkers will say the millenium ended when we hit 2001.  Sue me, it’s symbolism)  Hannah was supposed to be born the day prior.  In fact, we’d even gone to the hospital, Andrea, my now late-wife, had gone to the hospital to be induced.  Unfortunately, what they considered a “great new drug for labor induction” caused Andrea to hyper-contract and she ended up in horrible pain for roughly 14 hours and then had to be rushed into an operating room.  The surgeon thought the epidural was strong enough, but Andrea began to feel the cut of the scalpel.  They increased it . . . and she still felt it.  Eventually they put her under with Nitrous and she was asleep.

The birth was like and episode of M*A*S*H.  Andrea’s organs were arranged on her belly somehow.  After they got Hannah out they took the baby away, but I couldn’t leave.  Andrea’s hand was clamped to mine…tight, and I watched my baby daughter hauled away to the incubator.  It was then I heard the doctor curse and saw blood . . . everywhere.  Andrea began to hemorrhage on the table and bleed out.  She nearly didn’t make it.

Hannah was the baby I spent the most intimate time with after birth . . . and the baby who spent most of that time trying to squirm away from me to get to her mother.  Hannah was released from the hospital before Andrea who, because of her organs being exposed to every and anything, ended up with a horrific post-operative infection.  She was in the hospital for a couple weeks.  Then she came home unable to bend, use her stomach muscles, none of it.  In those first few weeks, my wife was on Intravenous Antibiotics while Hannah contracted RSV.  The virus was so hard on an infant’s respiratory system that I had to give her albuterol treatments every 3 hours.  Her breathing would get better, she’d eat, I’d change her, and then do it all over again.

Through the years, Hannah and I shared a birthday.  It was her present to me, as well, as I didn’t really care about getting older.  Still, she had the childlike enthusiasm for the day that was

Hannah, as a little one
Hannah, as a little one

infectious . . . and I celebrate the day more for her than for myself most the time.

The last 3 birthdays Hannah has spent in Nebraska with my folks.  That’s out of necessity, mainly so I can work every day, but I’ve always managed to get her a present and have it sent there.  This year, every phone call, every day, had her ask “hey, Daddy Bear . . . guess what’s in 10, 8, 5, 3, 2 days?”  I love how much she loves waiting for it.

Hannah at Christmas
Hannah at Christmas

The days when we gave Hannah ten million things and had money that we could but shouldn’t have thrown away are gone.  The gifts are smaller, sure, but they mean a lot more.  Hannah got a gift that’s part fun but mostly necessity . . . but loves it nonetheless.

While I spent my birthday weekend with my oldest daughter, walking through San Francisco, we called the other three kids anyway, looking out across the Bay at Alcatraz, and loved hearing of their rural adventures.

I had Hannah open her gift while on the phone . . . then Abbi and I had dinner and went to a movie.  But Hannah . . . she’s got so many more birthdays, so much special time ahead of her.

At the end of the day, every year, she’s my favorite birthday present.

A Momentary Lapse of Reason

Cover of the CD containing that original song.

One Slip by Pink Floyd from the LP “Momentary Lapse of Reason”

I seem to be batting a thousand tonight.  Where normally it would be the night where I pushed to finish everything for the morning, getting ready for the morning’s events, pushing to get the kids to school, all of that, I find myself in a bit of a whirlwind of offspring emotion.

This weekend I started the process for creating something to post for the anniversary of my wife, Andrea’s, passing.  I had recorded something – a remake of a piece I’d written for her some twenty odd years ago.  But even I hadn’t realized how knee-deep in the technical process I was.  It so drove me to get it perfect or as good as I can that I hadn’t realized what the piece itself was going to do to everyone else.  You see, they sat there throughout the weekend listening and I sat there with my ProTools system open, the guitar, the Dobro, all of it playing the same piece, over and over and over again.

It’s important to explain the recording process to you at this point.  Being that I was recording alone, using my guitars and vocals, the rhythm line of the song has to be recorded over, and over, and over again depending on how long it takes to either get the track right, or in my case, record the Dobro line, the electric guitar rhythm line and then the guitar solo track.  Mess up the 5 minutes of rhythm and you either have to “punch in” to continue the line, hoping you can’t hear the edit, or you record the five minutes of music again.  After that, you still have to put vocals on there, duplicate that track and add reverb or other effects to your vocals, and keep moving the song forward.

What I had forgotten was how hard this was going to be.  I powered through this.  I pushed to make sure that I got it right, trying harder to focus on the technical, not the emotional.  But I laid down one vocal line . . . just one . . . and I couldn’t go any more.  I had written the song for Andrea and then . . . re-wrote it for me.  I hadn’t thought how hard it would be to actually have to sing the lyrics and it wasn’t a great performance as a result.  I couldn’t sing it more than once.  I lived with the vocals, a little weak, a bit sharp, but there wasn’t much I could do about it.  I was trying really hard to make it perfect.

My momentary lapse of reason was that while I reviewed the piece I asked the kids what they thought.  For the younger three, Hannah, Noah and Sam, there was little to think about.  It was a song, one I’d written, sure, but for them it wasn’t a deep, hard-hitting connection.  Unfortunately, though, I hadn’t thought about what it would do to my oldest.  You see, I had written this song more than twenty years ago, but I recorded it much later.  It even got some minor airplay in the Midwest.  I was never happy with it – the arrangement, the tone, the lyrics, they all seemed to fall short to me.  More importantly, it just didn’t seem the best tribute to the woman I loved and cared so much for.

My attempt to rectify that, to make it more the arrangement I wanted, what she deserved, I just hadn’t thought about the fact that Abbi had heard that song . . . the original piece . . . played.  It was played in the house, in the car, on the CD we’d first recorded.  It was the one song Andrea actually told people I had written.  It was the one thing my being a musician created for her and she liked that.  Hearing the guitars play it over and over again was probably bad enough.  Hearing the revamped lyrics and the possible crack in my voice just hurt her to no end.

It’s rare to me that I see a reaction like that in the music I’ve written – a reaction so personal and deep.  I had actually thought it was too simplistic, too basic.  But seeing my daughter’s reaction she said it was beautiful.  She didn’t want to change it.  But she couldn’t keep listening to it. It was too hard on her.  She broke down in tears and couldn’t stop crying.  That was my first problem.

The second?  I was a victim of the difference in the sexes.  You see, men and women look at problems differently.  It’s even worse if you’re a Dad and not a Mom or a daughter.  Abbi had a problem with her homework.  It’s that she had so much, had done an essay incorrectly, and just was frustrated as hell about all of it.  She came in nearly in tears, stressed out, and just wanting to throw in the towel.

I tried my hardest to do what she really wanted, to listen and that’s all.  I lasted as long as I could, but the more I listened and reassured the more she got upset at how much she was stressed out.

I couldn’t take it any more.  I did what just about every other man in the world does, I tried to help her fix the problem.  You see, that’s a big difference between men and women.  I’m not saying it’s right, I’m not even saying that it’s appropriate, but where my wife would have hugged her and just reassured her, maybe found something comforting to do or say, I finally started giving her things to do to fix the situation.  I told her to start another subject, start at one problem and work to the others.  Get a few hours sleep, then get back up and finish her work.

Guys want to fix what’s wrong.  When Andrea was sad or hurt I wanted to get rid of what was hurting her.  I couldn’t do Abbi’s homework so I tried to help her solve how to get it done.  When she just got more frustrated I got frustrated myself and started to do the worst thing in the world – I told her she’d had all weekend to do this stuff so it’s not like she had anyone else to blame.  I was so good for such a good amount of time but then I ran out of patience.  I became the stereotypical Dad and guy.

So by night’s end, I had her in my arms and reassuring her anyway.  But she also took one piece of advice and got some rest before getting up really early and then moving on to the homework again.

It is the hardest thing I have to contend with, this change in how I approach things.  As long as my lapses are momentary, though, maybe I can at least get my kids to believe I haven’t totally messed things up.