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Simple Things

Family Photo

Simple Things by Tedeschi Trucks, from the LP Revelator

There’s a song by Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks that hit home to me this week.
Simple Things is off their album called Revelator.  (If you haven’t heard it, is worth a listen it’s pretty damn amazing)

But I bring this up because as I try to write each night I try to find inspiration in the things around me.  This is a chronicle of what our lives have been since March 26th of 2011.  I couldn’t bring myself to write anything then until October with the specter of Andrea’s birthday hanging in the balance.  Now, nearly a year after my first post, (tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of this blog) I find myself with the opposite problem.

The song echoes what I’ve been thinking in the last few weeks:

When you look into the mirror
Are you proud of what you see?
Do you take it all for granted
Do you have all that you need?

The refrain goes to the fact “I’ve been taking more than I’ve been giving.”

That’s been true.  I wrote here every night but weekend nights and felt very alone.  Part of that loneliness was grief, sure.  Much of it was . . . protection.  There’s a tendency after a loss to try and prevent yourself from getting hurt again.  I don’t say this just from personal experience, it’s been true of others I’ve known.  I took a very sure approach with the kids.  If they’re sad or hurt, they need only come to me.  The times I haven’t paid attention to see they’re feeling bad without telling me are the times things have gone haywire and I’ve paid a price for it.

I realized that I spoke with friends and dominated conversation.  I isolated myself and then felt alone.  Then when speaking with friends, I talked only about where we stood.  Life, for so many, goes along and they have issues and accidents and trends and problems that are just as important to them.  I may not have everything I want . . .but need?  We’re doing really well.  I try now to tell people that we’re doing okay.  It’s not a lie.  I’m not trying to convince myself.  I realized I had far more interest in how others were doing and should just . . . listen.

For so long I wanted to act the damaged, hurt, lonely guy that is so put upon.  I know it.  I am embarrassed of it and even ashamed a bit.  Part of me put on that act because I was guilty.

Guilty of the fact that I’d managed to get out from under the grief.
Guilty of the fact that we’re doing better than when Andrea was here. (in many ways)
Guilty of the fact that I was enjoying a lot of things we’d never have done if Andrea was here.
Guilty that I’d made new friends, done new things.
Guilty . . . that I was moving forward.
Guilty for letting the world know she left us and that I was a little angry about it.

You have to understand, she stopped.  Her face, her body, her spirit, they’re all eternal now.  I don’t mean that in a Catholic or religious way, I mean the only way she lives now is in our hearts and minds.  She’s eternally that curly-haired blonde that resides in my memories.  For Abbi she’s the woman in the glasses that took her to the pumpkin patch and did her hair in pig tails and bought cute overalls.  For Hannah she’s the woman who she sidled next to on the couch and watched Barney and sang off key.  For the boys…she’s the woman who loved them and I think left too early.

So I’m guilty of moving forward, and knowing that the only way to do that is leaving her there, looking beautiful and not seeing the flaws.  Not seeing the arguments.

It’s the only way we could do this.  People are often asking us, Hannah in particular, how we do it.  It wasn’t a secret.  We loved Andrea, and we love Andrea, but we can’t treat her like some malicious spirit hovering over our lives like a cloud.  Abbi is going to college next fall.  Hannah’s moving to high school.  I can’t keep people at arm’s length because I was married and lost my wife.  I can’t hide behind guilt.

We did what the song says.
Looking for life without sorrow
Love without pain.

She’s never gone, Andrea.  In the beginning that was the problem.  Now it’s part of what brought us here.  I look forward to the next steps.  It’s been almost a year and our story has changed.  A lot.

But like when I started this, it’s all different.  Abbi leaves next year and it will be different again.  Maybe they’re just chapters.

They’re the simple things that make it all worth living.  I had to remind myself to be open to those things and the people I see around me.  It may be that I’ve changed.

Or maybe, like a year ago, Our Story Begins . . . again.

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Until You Remember . . .

The acceptance letter, though I'm not sure how we ended up with it.
Until You Remember from Revelator by the Tedeschi Trucks Band

I used to be a man in control.  It was my job, my life, my memories . . . and most of all, my emotions.  I mean, I had my hard times.  Marriage isn’t always easy, I knew that.  Nothing as amazing and worthwhile as Andrea, my late wife, was easy.  My marriage was amazing, fun, playful, stressful, difficult, all of it.  When I would see photos, the pictures of our honeymoon, dating, marriage, all of it were memories that we would occasionally talk about and go through and at the time we’d be really happy.  It made me miss the amazing, great times, and I’d reminisce with her.

But now that control is something I seem to have a harder time holding onto.  Today was a strange day for that reason.  My sons woke up being more than a little obstreperous.  One would poke at the other and then at their sisters.  On top of that I had to clean up the house, something that seems to get to me over and over again.  The week seems to build up the mess, stress, and downright temper and just build up until Saturday and Sunday and start all over again.  Today was the peak of it all, I had to clean up the house room by room.  My middle daughter continues to fight doing her chores and screaming and hollering at me about the fact that I hadn’t let her go to this Friday’s concert.

Part of the needs of the day included eliminating a bunch of paperwork from years past.  I’d been more than a bit upset, and this was no small amount of anger.  My back hurt, my legs were sore, I was sweating something fierce, and I was wanting nothing more than to tear the kids a new one every time they started at each other – none of them realizing that I had to do my weekend work and their chores as well.  Before I started looking through the papers I had already started yelling at the kids.  Hannah was asking me constantly to go outside or make S’mores or start a fire in our fire pit.  I wasn’t very happy about the fact that they wanted nothing better than to go out or do more things on the weekend with me and I’ve got to vacuum, wash clothes, do the dishes Hannah didn’t, all of it.

I ended up having to tell her and her 3 siblings that we’d get to do so many more things on the weekends if they would all do their assigned chores.  As it is is now, I do what I can until near falling down from exhaustion during the week and then we get to the weekend and I’m having to catch up to zero, not get ahead of the things that should have been fixed before the week was over.  I even told the kids that: we’d do far more things every weekend if I wasn’t just running around doing their chores and my own at the same time.

Then in the middle of all of it, I started shredding all the old tax returns that were more than ten years old in some instances.  In the middle of it was a file I hadn’t realized we had.  In it was a ton of stuff from Andrea’s high school and college years.  A picture of her getting her diploma from high school.  In the middle of all of it was a letter of acceptance from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.  It’s just a silly letter, I know it.  But I find this piece of paper in the middle of talking with my daughter about where she’s going to college and where she wants to live, what she wants to do with her life, all of it.  I look at the letter and realize that she was a heartbeat away from going to UCLA for her freshman year – or worse, just before our dating to American University on the East Coast.  This stupid letter, something I nearly shredded with all the student loan paperwork and everything, etc.  This letter was the major stroke in her life that brought her to me.  I know that’s a lot of emotion and memory to place on a sheet of paper, but it’s not really something I can help.

I’ve describe the memories to other people as a wave – a washing over of just a confusing conglomeration of emotions that hits me and I feel and do things I never thought I’d feel.  I smile while feeling the roughest of emotions that burn in the pit of my chest.  I hurt and love her at the same time.  It’s not the best of things to have when you’re already burning with anger and frustration over my kids.  The result is my being depressed and angry at the same time.  My kids ask if I’m going to build a fire and make treats – something I didn’t ever say I would do – and I start to go off on them, maybe more than they even deserve.  It’s not nice, it’s definitely not pleasant, and I wish I could say it’s the first time I’ve done it but I’d be wrong.

That damn piece of paper – I know it was the piece of paper that completely changed all our lives.  But what if it hadn’t happened?  What if we’d not met would she still be here?  The world would still be bright.  The beautiful, fun woman would still be out there somewhere, maybe, and I could have sought her out and found her, maybe all over again, maybe for the first time.  I know I can’t change that and it could easily have been exactly the same.  This could have been a fixed point in time, something unable to change, a thing that’s destined to happen, that cannot be forced to change.  So many things are good as a result of it: I have the kids, the biggest thing; I have a great job that I would never have had if I hadn’t gotten the confidence to do this from her.

I realized this weekend, too, that I have to just buck up and do all this.  It’s not raising the kids that’s stressful or bothersome to me.  For me, raising the kids is the easy part.  No, the behavior problems aren’t easy or fun.  The fights are frustrating.  The laziness kills me.  But at the end of the day, my Mom cleaned up and pushed us harder and harder to clean up and do our chores.  I can’t just let it happen.  I have to do it and make them do it with me.  I have to offer up consequences and follow through on them.

I see the paper and I think if she remembered it in her time.  I wonder if she thought that a simple letter from an admissions department set up the rest of her life – a life that was far too short.

I wonder if she remembered what brought us to here.  I was sad about where things were . . . until things like that letter come up . . . until I remember that she was mine.  It’s not something I can change, and I’m not sure if I could if I wanted to.

Down in the Flood

Down In the Flood by Derek Trucks from the LP “Already Free”

Our home after the move - start of the first waves . . .

I never used to be one that bought into constant analogies and metaphors for daily life.  I just went on with my daily activities, stressed out much of the time, and not really understanding what I was going through.

But now, the idea of being caught in a flood really catches my eye and is without question one of the most apt descriptions of how I think we’re going right now.  In the beginning, you see, we were just starting, the water trickling in, the dampness sort of permeating small, unrealized areas of our lives and we thought it was OK.  We could easily mop it up or bail it out later.  We had bigger things to contend with.  The dam had to be built or repaired in other places.

I’m not just giving you metaphors here.  I have examples.  Where daily things like laundry, dinner, picking up the kids, how to deal with school, all those things were decent sized problems, particularly for someone who wasn’t used to doing them every day, there’s the fact that I had to move our entire house just a couple months after losing Andrea.  I had to get a different job because my boss didn’t want me working with them any more.  I had to seem like I was a really strong and capable Dad able to take care of my children and seem like where they were a wreck I was OK, strong and able to handle things so they could feel safe.

But I had to give up a home that would work because I was losing more than 1/3 of my salary.  My children were a mess because, under the deal we’d made, we had to be out of our home in a very finite amount of time.  With no home to move into, my father offered to let us live with them, in Nebraska, as long as we needed.  We could pay for food with Social Security and unemployment.  I could write.  I could get us through the 2 remaining years of high school for my oldest, Abbi, and then decide what to do.  It was so tempting, to the point I was nearly resigned to do it.

You have to understand, in those first weeks, the point where my writing was stiff, stilted and jerky on the page, I was lost.  I was down in the flood, missing my best friend.  The person who helped me make decisions was gone.  I was alone, fumbling around waist-deep in the water not knowing what I was feeling.  Ultimately, I decided that, under all the changes we’d had to face, including moving my daughter out of her school and going to the public school, the last horrible thing that would break my kids would be moving them from the home they know right now.  Living in Nebraska, in the calm, safe, security of a home that was mine, that was my life alone, was tempting and would have been wonderful for me.  But it really wasn’t about me.  Not any more.  It was about those four kids and moving four kids from California to the Midwest, putting them in a school where their class might be 30-40 kids at most, was setting them up for ridicule and scrutiny they really didn’t need.

So I was resigned to stay.  I got so lucky, I was offered a job that paid me better, was friendly toward my family where the previous one wasn’t, and let me be a journalist, not a virtual traffic cop placing and rearranging other people’s stories to fit someone’s schizophrenic idea of a story calendar.  My father, still living with us, said “it’s about time.  You’ve been so due for even the tiniest break I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t want to ask what else could happen!”

Once we started trying to find a house the market was insane.  One house I went to said he would open the house for fifteen minutes and I could fill out an application.  Little did I realize it wasn’t just my 15 minutes, but me and 20-30 other couples, all of whom started negotiating higher rent with the owner because they were desperate, just like me, to get into a home.  I was lucky that a property manager who I had been dealing with prior to getting pushed out of my job remembered me and had set up with the owner that we could move in, if we wanted the house, with no advertisement on the home.  If we wanted it, the owner was fine with us already.  The water pouring over the dike was so heavy by that point I was literally feeling like I was drowning.

Once we moved there was stuff everywhere.  We had to move from a place we called home, with tons of stuff, a lot of it Andrea’s, and go through the materials before we were even ready.  Again, the major wash of water overshadowing the routine.

The major change now, though, is that I’ve hit a wall.  Where 8-9 months ago the water was washing, like a tsunami dragging us out to sea, now it’s been a sneaky, rising flood that has come up from underneath us.

You have to understand, I’m not really stressed out, not like I was.  I don’t hate my job, in fact I love it, quite a bit.  So the daily dread of getting in the car and driving to work wasn’t there.  A year ago I was racked with worry.  Financially we were unstable.  Andrea’s knees were shot and the bones were literally grinding against each other when she walked.  I was so hurt watching her struggle to even walk from the car into Target for the day.  Liver problems and medical issues had caused her to gain a bunch of weight that made it hard for her to sleep in our bed.  The light of her smile had dimmed.  The depression she was feeling had taken, literally, the color from all the sound and vision of her world, it was all muted tones of grey.  She told me as much.  But where you might think, “he’s happy she’s not suffering any more” you’re wrong.  You see, she’d turned the corner.  In the last few months, nearly a year, she’d gotten so happy.  She was smiling more, dancing again, singing off-key and giggling like the Andrea of old.  Just when we were poised to get her better it all went away.

So the stresses are gone.  Sure, I should be happy, but I’m not.  You never realize how much water has overtaken you until you look and see that your body is wet.  Now, I am seeing the daily laundry overtaking me.  I can’t fold it all, can’t iron my shirts, fold towels, even get it all in the washing machine.  The boys have ripped holes in nearly every single pair of pants.  Hannah has gone to excessive eating again, to the point I have to force her to get outside and walk around with me so we both get a decent amount of exercise.  My poor Abbi is in a school she didn’t want and we both know she has to attend, but she doesn’t know how to let go of her past.  Noah doesn’t want to do things separately so he knows what is going on every day.  Sam, he just doesn’t want me out of his sight.

And I work as hard as I can to stay together.  I work until my body tells me it’s had enough and needs to stop and then I sit up in my bed and watch TV until I can’t sit any more.  Like yesterday, we’re walking just off-kilter, seeing the world from the periphery.  I’m treading water.  The massive panic went away and I realized it masked the rising flood waters below us.

That, and I miss my best friend now.  It’s been a long road these months to come to the realization that I had to take the mantle of authority.  Now, I realize nearly too late that I make the decisions.  Right, wrong, good, bad, I make them.  We’re down in the flood and it’s my own fault, but the solutions are there.  I’ve got the kids doing more.  I task out what’s most important and let the leaks lie while I fix the cracks.  I’m slowly getting my head above water.

But it still doesn’t fix the one big thing yet, that I’m missing my best friend now.

Don’t Let Me Slide

20111117-101118.jpg
Hannah, my middle daughter with her twin bros.

It takes a lot for me to really lose it. I realize reading my entries here may not actually back me up on this, but the reality is I write here because I don’t really talk about those things, the emotions, the heartbreak, the pain.

The anger.

I tend to let things hit me, the darts puncturing me with each pass, taking the little pricks on my skin as they hit. It really does take a lot to get me particularly angry. So it really surprised me when I lost it tonight in just a few seconds.

Technically, I guess, it was longer than that. This has been building since before Andrea passed away. My middle daughter, Hannah, has more than just a focus problem. At the end of the last school year, right before Andrea died and in the month or two after she had neglected her school work. I’m the first to admit, I screwed up on this. I have four kids. Watching the kids, cooking, doing the wash, cleaning the house, working, all that puts me at Midnight each night before I can actually begin to get past the minutia of the day. Sometimes even later than that. So I missed the reports and the indications that she’d just skipped a load of homework. She didn’t get problems wrong, she just didn’t turn it in. There were even points when she did the work and never handed it to the teacher. She passed, but barely.

The school year started off promising. Then I got a note from her math teacher stating that she had 6 missing assignments. The problem is, at this age and grade level they don’t give you all the assignments. There’s no syllabus, no daily list of homework, nothing like that. I was at Hannah’s mercy, so when I asked if the work was done, if she’d turned it in or even did the work, the girl looked me square in the eye and said “yes”.

I think I should take a moment here to let you know a couple things. First, I am not obsessed with the kids’ grades. If they get an A I am thrilled! But if they get a C while trying their best my biggest concern is that they understand the material and know what they did wrong. If they get that then I’m perfectly happy that they have learned something. That is the main purpose of their education. So simply skipping the work and avoiding it in the hopes I won’t find out is the silliest, most inane thing considering that I get the progress reports and an email from the teachers!

When it came to a head, her grades slipping to the point where she is failing math, her teacher set up a conference. I met at 7 in the morning, dragging her brothers with us to pay for even more EDP charges, and sat while the math teacher, who I now admire greatly, tried to get to the bottom of why this isn’t getting done. We never did, but managed to at least put a plan in place that gives me her homework assignments every day and requires Hannah to get the teachers’ signatures each day before she can leave school.

Then the last week hit. I have done a lot of stuff at work, not staying insanely late, but doing enough that I get home really tired each night. Dinner still had to get made, and I’d gotten behind, missing the planned menu and slipping on the routine. As a result, I was so focused on getting everyone fed and caught up on the house work that had gotten so out of control I missed looking at her planner for two days. The worst two days I could have missed looking at her planner. So tonight, when I asked what her homework was, the response was “I just had to study for tests”.

“Where’s your planner? I need to see it.”

“Oh . . . ” and that’s where I knew something was wrong. I looked and noticed a chapter check had been due. When I asked where it was, I got:

“Oh, yeah . . . ” and she handed me a bright pink slip with a note from her math teacher. She’s failing the class. She’s not bringing her planner to get it signed. She’s avoiding it all.

I lost it.

I don’t mean I lost my temper, I mean I was fuming, foaming at the mouth, screaming at the top of my lungs lost it. Call it the pressure of the week, call it the horrible embarrassment, call it complete and utter frustration, but I lost it. When she started to cry I told her to knock it off, she’d already been given that chance. I didn’t yell at her, I screamed at her. When I asked why she wasn’t doing her school work all she said was “I don’t know”.

Even in that state I told her it was unacceptable.

WHY?!”

“On the days I was sick I got so behind I just didn’t know how to catch up and . . . ”

I interrupted her. “When I got home, what were you doing?!”

“Watching TV.”

“And did you do the spelling check that’s here in your planner?!”

“Oh.”

“Did you do ANY of the work that’s due this week?!”

“No.”

I’m not proud of what happened next. In fact, I’m just horrified by it. I started to lose my voice I was screaming so loud.

“You’re lazy, Hannah! You won’t do your homework, I can’t even get you to do 1 load of dishes each night! You sit on your ass on the couch, watch TV, even if it’s a freaking infomercial, and ignore me when I ask you to do things. You sit, you eat, and you do NOTHING!”

I also told her, since she’s failing more than one class that if they hold her back she’s leaving the Catholic school. I’m not paying for that if she’s wasting the education she’s supposed to be getting.

I must have been more than a little scary because the other 3 kids, including my 17-year-old disappeared.

I grounded her. No TV, no computer, no iPod, no Wii, no games, nothing. She cannot go out to the playground during EDP. She is to do her homework and – even if the teachers won’t give her points for it – turn in the back work that she’s missing. When she’s done with that she can go to her room and read. (My thinking in my rage that maybe she’d be so annoyed by how filthy her room is she’d clean it, since she’ll have to spend so much time in there.) It’s a month, or until she gets passing grades. I doubt that will overtake the month.

I’m horrified by how I acted, but as a parent I can’t tell her that. She’s got to face her punishments. But when I finished with her, handing her a pencil, paper and her school books at the kitchen table, dinner cooking in the oven, I stomped upstairs, slammed the door and sat on the foot of my bed with my face in my hands. It is the first point since the days after Andrea passed away that I am scared I can’t do this. Andrea could handle Hannah, she could always relate and find a way to get through to her. Nothing I do works. She loves me, and I love her more than anything in the world, but I’m failing her somehow and I don’t know how else to do it.

When Hannah was very little, around 5 years old, she came down with obsessive fears. Andrea’s big concern was her grades – at Kindergarten, mind you – were slipping. I wasn’t worried about that. I was worried that this tiny little girl, a petite little thing, had started growing these inordinate fears. She couldn’t voice them all and the way she responded was to eat – constantly. I started punishing her, taking the snacks away, stopping Andrea from buying treats at the store. Hannah started getting snacks at the neighbors, hiding in the pantry, literally eating out of boxes of Cheez-It’s while we weren’t looking. When we took her for a checkup her cholesterol was higher than mine – and mine is BAD! I wasn’t worried about focus problems, I was worried that this little girl who clashed with me, fought with me, then gave me hugs and always had a smile on her face was going to break. Then, we put her on medication. After Andrea passed away, she grew out of it. Even while taking the medication she stopped doing homework. Even when her Mom was here.

Worse yet, Hannah was worried that when she got older, had kids, that she was going to die. That at some point her Mom and Dad were going to pass away. That something horrible was going to happen. She couldn’t sleep at night. When her uncle would visit and sleep in the room where she was, she would get up all night long and ask him if he was OK or ask to turn the light on. She wasn’t just having nightmares, she was terrified.

Then tonight I scare her even worse. It’s important you know I didn’t touch her, not even a little. I would never do that in anger, but angry I was. I didn’t know what else to do. Andrea could talk with Hannah. Andrea KNEW how to deal with her. They were two peas in a pod. I tried being calm, kindly, sweet, acting as close to her Mom as I could, but the girl lies to my face and doesn’t do the work! I could only keep the cap on the bottle so long. Like her mother, she knows just what buttons to push that trigger my anger’s detonation – this time to the point I was like a hydrogen bomb on the Bikini Atolls.

So I sat on the edge of that bed, digging my fingernails into my scalp. Shouting for Andrea to help me, knowing full well she wasn’t there. The tears were welling up in my eyes, both in anger and in fear and sadness. I wrote notes to her EDP teacher and math teacher explaining what we’re doing. I am looking through everything. I will add another hour or two to my evening’s routine. It’s not that I am upset I have to do it, it’s that I’m scared I can’t do it.

I sat there not sure what to do. I wiped my eyes and heard the bedroom door creak open.

“Dad, are you OK?” It was Sam, one of the twins.

“What do you need Sam?”

“Nothing. Love you.”

It was like he opened the steam valve a little and I started to calm.

“I love you too, Samwise.”

But like his mother, it’s never that easy. They can’t let me slide.

“Um. The oven’s beeping. Is dinner ready yet?”

All I could do was chuckle, get up and tell him I’d be down in a second. I had to laugh. If I didn’t , all I’d do is sit in the room and cry, and there’s just too much to do. If I let that slide, we all slide off the cliffs of insanity.

 

You Don’t Miss Your Water ‘Till Your Well Run Dry . . .

There’s an undercurrent to everything I write here.  Whether you’ve caught it or not, I’m not sure, but it’s certainly there.  Sure, this blog is a legacy to Andrea and the kids of what an amazing woman their Mom was.  I sat, days and days on end, looking out at nothing from the couch in a home we were about to lose and somehow the memories of those early, brilliant, halcyon days with her started flooding through my exhausted, bleary mind.

But it confounds me how those memories are so vivid and the number of memories beyond the first years aren’t as great.  I understand that whole reality of marriage.  I know everyone’s analysis that love goes from infatuation to lust to intensity to familiarity and if you’re lucky it stops at that and doesn’t move to indifference.  I’m not saying we’d moved into that territory.  Life with Andrea was never boring.  It was intense, crazy, even ridiculous at times, but never boring.

I am not at all above admitting the obvious here, though.  I feel horribly guilty for the fact that I took that amazing woman for granted.  I knew all about her background, loved her madly, but took her for granted.  In days gone by I’d say my work got in the way, we had 4 kids, all of it.  But they aren’t good enough excuses.  I should have told her that I DID still get butterflies in my stomach as I got closer to home each night.  I shouldn’t have waited until she got upset or cried about her liver problems causing weight gain to tell her how beautiful she was, regardless.  I should have told her anyway.  I shouldn’t have hovered with my hand over the phone when she called wondering if it was a happy or angry call but answered anyway, telling her how much I loved her.

The old saying goes “You don’t miss your water ’till the well runs dry.”  I certainly fit that.  I loved her, but did I love her enough by that point?  Did I tell her how my world stopped turning, the pieces sitting on the crust of the earth floating out of control due to the lack of her centrifugal force keeping us all in line.  I know now that I loved her that much, but did she know?

When the hospital said visiting hours are over I should have told them to screw themselves and slept in the chair next to her bed.

Before the mass of comments and email, I understand that guilt and regret are all part of those steps of grieving.  This isn’t a step, it’s been sitting here growing since she went into the hospital.  It started as panic.  When she was sick, that was one thing, you get that crazy guilt, the hope that it’s OK.  She wasn’t feeling well, I looked at her and asked her if she wanted me to spend the night down on the couch with her.  She did, so I did.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the spot I was in, maybe you have.  When Andrea first went in, they took her from the emergency room up to the ICU, but they never told me where she was.  I sat in the waiting room, watching some awful movie on my phone, and after nearly two hours I didn’t know what they’d done with her.  When I asked, nobody knew.  I started to worry . . . no, I started to panic.  When they finally told me she was in the ICU, I looked for her all over, finally getting to the doors and they wouldn’t let me in.  First they didn’t know where she was then they kept me away from her.

When I got to her she was sleeping.  She slept a lot.

It wasn’t two days and she couldn’t talk, a tube in her throat, the machines helping her to breathe because the infections had filled her lungs with so much fluid she couldn’t do it.

Maybe you’ve been in this kind of awful situation, but I can describe it.  When she first went on the respirator I could literally feel my world starting to swirl. I didn’t have any peripheral vision.  Everything started to go through a white haze.  I got light-headed, feeling things swirl out of control.  That night…the entire next day…I wouldn’t shut up.  I was so freaked out, so panicked and lost that I couldn’t put my thoughts together.  My phone kept ringing, the texts kept coming, and my work kept calling about stupid shit that had no importance at all in the schema of the world we’d entered.

I was at the point of pleading to her.  I talked normally, held it together, but in my mind, and the morning she died, I was shouting at her.  “Don’t leave me. You have to stay.  I can’t do this alone.”  Worse, I just wanted ten more seconds.  Ten little moments to just say I really do love you.  I didn’t tell you enough, you tell me you don’t deserve it, but I truly love you.  I sat there, the blood rushing to my head, the whole world turning white, the vision tunneling, and I just kept thinking I needed to tell her how much I owed her.  I didn’t want the last thing she heard to be some nurse talking to her, right before she went into arrest.  I wanted her to have her last few moments be with me, the memories of my voice, the press of my lips, the touch of my fingers on her hair.

But she didn’t hear it.  Not in any way that I can be sure she knew.  She moved, and the doctors said she knew I was there, but they don’t know.  There were just as many reflexive movements in her day as there were ones when she looked on us.

They’d been working on her for more than half an hour by the time I finally got in to see her.  Half an hour.  Do you have any idea how awful it is to know that she may have gone . . . left me for good and wondered why I wasn’t there?  Her biggest fear – being left alone – and I wasn’t there when she needed me the most.  I didn’t get to tell her how much I loved her.

I knew right then and there that I should have told her more.  All the horrible things, the bad moments, the arguments, they all flooded back in.  I wanted so desperately for her to come back to me so I could just tell her that I still loved her like that beautiful, amazing girl I’d met twenty-odd years ago.  When I say I broke down, it’s not just pure grief or pain.  It’s because I just freaked out from the fact I just couldn’t hold her hand and have that last conversation with her.

She was important in so many ways to me.  She reached into my heart and pulled me – the real person, the Dave that was there when I was 5-6 years old and singing along with LP’s in my parents’ house – out into the daylight again.  I don’t know what hid me in that dark, lonely place, but she didn’t care.  She didn’t see the goofy, angry, lonely kid.  She saw me.  She kissed me and hugged me and lifted me out of the shadows.  What did I give her?  Love?  Companionship?  Really, what is that compared to getting your life back.

Yes, guilt is there.  It has been for a long time.  Time is really the key.

I thought I had the time.  I really did.  Like I said before, ten more waking seconds, that’s all I’d need.  It’s not what she deserves, but it’s enough to at least say what I wanted.

She wasn’t just the love of my life, she knew me, what I was and what I could become.  She was always there, the rock solid foundation of all our lives.

Now I can see just how thirsty I really am.  The well’s run dry.

(For those of you who think I own nothing recorded after 1985, this is a Derek Trucks song with the oh so appropriate adage in the lyrics.)