Tag Archives: fall

Friends, Romans, Housemates…

“Friend” is an interesting word.  I think it’s thrown around an awful lot in our society, far more than it should be.

My wife had a ton of  friends, or at least she called them that.  I cannot say for certain that all of them were really “friends” in the truest, Manoucheri definition of the word, though.  I loved my wife beyond all belief, in spite of the arguments, frustration, illnesses, depression and other things.  Those were the hard parts, the things about marriage that you endure to get the smiles, caresses, the soft touch of the back of her hand on my cheek, those kinds of things.  Nothing comes without some sort of price.  It’s not a bad thing.  I don’t say that as if life is a series of payments and rewards.  In fact, you are maddened by these things and then grow to love that you love the madness as much as they do.

But Andrea had a tendency to call people friends who ended up leaving her and our lives a little too easily.  I could give you the dictionary’s definition, that ” person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard” line.  But my wife’s definition of friendship and mine were never quite the same.  She had friends and then she had friends.  For me, I tended to be much more like my father, maybe that’s good and maybe that’s bad.  My Dad has a circle of friends that is very, very small.  His best friend in the whole world passed away not long after Andrea did.  In fact, he was living in the house with me when the man passed and that was hard for me to come to terms with.

I have a small circle of people that I can honestly call friends.  They cross the sexual divide.  They tend to be people who are loyal, caring, and whose judgement and inspiration I ask for and weigh heavily.  Some know how much they mean to me, others may not realize that I hold them in such high regard.  I say this not to make people read and wonder if they’re in the category.  I know there are people who are friendly and pleasant and whose judgement I listen to.  But when things are awful, when the world collapses around you, there are only a few people whose friendship you trust enough to let go of those last emotional strings and let yourself fall into their help.  Some of them I’ve known for years.  Some may be people I’ve just met.  Or maybe it’s someone I’ve yet to meet.  Regardless, I am friendly with a lot of people.  I’m friends with a few.

If you’re wondering why I bring this up it’s because I can finally think about these things with some clarity.  Some of those very people called me and were broken up as I was when they heard what had happened.  I looked to them for strength beyond what my parents could give.

When Andrea first got sick and ended up in the hospital, her best friend called me.  This was, quite literally, her best friend.  I know this because they would go for weeks or months without talking and when they finally connected would have no issues with the length of time or the distance.  They would talk for hours.  When Andrea was in depression and saddened about how she looked or felt and didn’t want this friend to see her she showed up on a plane anyway, calling me and working out the details with me because . . . she’s my friend too.

When I started dating Andrea, her best friend in the whole world was a woman I’d gone to school with.  My wife ended up roommates with her and we had no idea until we met there was even that connection.  It’s a tribute to my wife that she could learn everything this person knew about me and still marry me.

But the most important thing here is that when Andrea ended up in the hospital she called and said she’d booked a flight and would be at our house to help with the kids before the weekend.  Neither of us knew at the time Andrea wasn’t going to make it.  She stayed through the funeral and then left.  In the throngs of losing my best friend I never stopped to think about how she was someone else’s best friend, too.  Only a year later did I realize that she’d lost something strong, too.  In only now think about how calling or asking for time might just remind her of what was missing in her life as well.

In the depths of despair you have tunnel vision.  I saw the world from my point of view.  I realized it’s the best of friends that realize that and don’t treat you badly for it.  They lose, too, and wait for you to bring the world back into focus before crossing through the maelstrom themselves.  I hadn’t stopped to think what losses others felt.  I hadn’t realized a simple call from me or the kids could be icy reminders of loss for others.

Two amazing friends from Dallas constantly helped me with dealing with the emotions and then the realities of raising my kids alone – one in particular helping me with the issues of getting a girl ready for the prom.  Then my brother helped me by giving me musical distraction and conversation.

A family we know here helped me navigate the valleys in my life and helped me manage the finances of everyone’s help and then went so far as to pick up my kids when I was stuck at work.  There was no hesitation, just action.   That is what you do for friends . . . real friends.

I have friends, but it’s the friends that have helped me survive.  They gave of themselves but never thought of it as giving.  They simply considered it part of who they are.  I have since made other friends, whose conversation I can enjoy without pause and without discomfort.  It’s a hard circle to break into, but once you’re there, it’s fairly certain to be permanent.

An empty house

I’ve posted before, but my favorite pic of Andrea when we started dating

I’d be loathe to call it an empty nest because, beyond the fact I really hate the cliche’d term, I also think it’s inaccurate.  My kids, of course, are in Nebraska with my folks.  However, I probably should have thought about the day they left and its proximity to Father’s Day.

For the first time I can remember, I now empathize with my Dad and how he feels when these kinds of holidays come around.  Sure, I had to clean up the house, and those four kids, in an effort to get themselves out the door and pack . . . which I ended up doing for three of the four anyway . . . the house is a complete mess.  This, of course, on top of the fact that we’re quickly approaching the 1-year mark on our lease and the owners want an inspection.  There’s no way they’re coming in this house with it looking the way it does.

So Father’s Day was an extravaganza of cleaning, picking up and exhaustion.  That still didn’t stop it from being quite an empty day.  I got up and called the kids after having enough coffee to wake me up.  God Bless Apple and that Facetime app on the phone.  I got to see the kids in their crazy glory, hear my kids, talk to my Mom and all of that.  They ate breakfast and my son informed me he’d made a card just like his brother . . . but did I find it?  He hid it somewhere in the house.  That would have been a fun excursion if he’d managed to tell me that he’d actually made a card or that he’d hidden it somewhere.  Boys.

It took most my time and energy to clean the living room, kitchen and dining room areas.  That’s most the downstairs.  I cleaned the bathrooms.  I did the rest of the laundry.

But the day just felt . . . empty.  The whole weekend did.  I worked for more than half a day on Saturday and was actually glad of the distraction.  I went to a going away party and while friends from around the country told me I should stay out, have fun, find a cute scantily clad girl and let nature take its course . . . it’s just not what I wanted to do.  I didn’t feel lonely, I felt alone.  There’s a big difference there.  I had a great time out with friends from work and got to do some amazing people watching and talked with a number of people and even flirted with a couple women, but I was never going farther than that, not really.

When I got home there was a show on demand from IGN in England.  It didn’t improve my mood, James Nesbitt played a doctor whose daughter died on an operating table.  The colleagues ask him about his decision to operate on a girl who won’t survive the operation.  He uses the line “this isn’t so they can heal, or that I can.  It never heals.”  It’s the first time I’ve finally heard it put that way, unfortunately nobody’s brave enough in the US to say it.  It’s like we have to have our happy ending.  But the reality is, if you’re not making a romantic comedy or happy-go-lucky movie; if you’re “being real” then be real.  Nothing frustrates me more than the young film director who thinks they’re the next Fellini who decides to write about death having never experienced it – or worse yet, never experienced it from their character’s perspective.

I could write a novel or screenplay about being a Dad who has lost his wife, raising his kids and doesn’t know where to go or what to do next.  I wouldn’t write him as helpless nor would I say he wouldn’t know how to talk to his kids or raise them.  I would say he didn’t think he could do it alone.  I would say he’s tired of platitudes and cliche’s.  I would say he’s been sad, angry, nostalgic and lonely.  Why?  Because at the end of the day, when the kids have gone to bed or they’ve gone to his parents for the summer so he can work and continue to support those same kids . . . he faces the same wound. It’s not a “healing process” that’s just the most ridiculous of terms.  You learn to live with it.  You learn to face the ache.  You learn to remember to breathe in and out without reminding yourself; you learn to slide your feet out of bed knowing the pull from the other side of the bed – the gravity you felt when that other person’s figure lies next to you – is no longer there.  You live, knowing they aren’t any more.  That’s life.  That’s life, because she left and you stayed.  The hardest thing in the world is to live this life, knowing full well you’ve got problems and hardships and sadness.  But you do it because you see that smile on your kids or laugh because your son hid his Father’s Day card without telling you assuming you know it all and will find it.

That’s why.

I’d never begin to write a story about how my kids feel.  I can only imagine.  I see my kids and wonder how I’d react if, even now, I lost my Dad?  If I lost my Mom?  I made it through last year because of them.

The friends who are around me – and many of them are completely wonderful – try to empathize and understand.  But the reality is they cannot.  You see, at least some of the time . . . maybe a lot of the time . . . they get to have their lives they way they’ve always been.  Maybe a candle or a song or a moment will pass and they’ll think of Andrea and it will make them sad or wistful or nostalgic or grief-stricken.  For someone who spent every day with her, though, it’s different.  Every second of every day is an adjustment of feeling, emotion, thought, memory and life.  I cannot hear the phone ring at work or hear my son’s been hurt or get a call from the kids’ school without feeling the hole that’s left there.  This isn’t my being mean or nasty to those people . . . it’s reality.  Theirs has not been altered, they get to continue living their lives.  We didn’t get that option.  It’s what affected all of our “anger” portion of the grief.  We have to try to live with this open wound in our lives while she got to skate out of it.  She’s resting now, and while I love her still with every zooming electron swirling in my body, I am simultaneously happy she’s no longer struggling or hurting or worried about her mother’s illness or sad about her parents disappointing her while angry she gets to leave and take the easy way out leaving us to pick up the pieces.

So while some look to me and thing I’m getting a much needed rest, I am not . . . I am restless.  I stay up.  I write music, I clean, and write . . . all things that are all I can do.  The empty house is a reminder that, if I had been able, I would have swept her up and taken her away, anywhere, to see Stonehenge or the Pyramids or the battlefields at Gettysburg or even just to the waterfalls at Yosemite.  It’s not for a sexual encounter or some second honeymoon.  It’s the feeling, the togetherness . . . it’s gently kissing her on the temple – not the forehead or the mouth; it’s standing behind her and folding my arms around her chest; it’s putting my hand on her behind and gently caressing in a loving gesture, not a sexual one; it’s the feeling of her hands on the back of my head or holding my hand; it’s the gravity, the attraction – the way she fit next to me perfectly.

If I had the time and the energy right now I’d get in the car and drive . . . just drive.  Last summer was a blur I can’t remember and it was too close to losing her.  This one, I’m acutely aware of it all and part of me misses the numb, empty feel of the void.

It’s not anger at her leaving or the friends that try to understand.  It’s the long days alone that remind of the opportunities I both lost and squandered.

But maybe tomorrow will be a little better.

Sugary Sweetness is Sour

The three culprits

Standing On Higher Ground by the Alan Parsons Project from the LP: Gaudi

I got home tonight in a fairly decent mood.  I was rushing a bit, picking up a guitar from the shop that had needed some fret work done.  All the years of playing “Dot,” a bright 7-Up green Clapton Stratocaster on stage took a physical toll on its frets and it was having issues.  The music store down the road has a great shop and they did the work and it wasn’t too expensive, so I was happy.

Happy, that is, until I got home.

It started before I even entered the house.  The garage door wasn’t even open all the way and I saw the inside door, leading into the dining room hallway, opening.  Noah’s small frame was peeking between the crack.  He’s begun doing only this because, driving an SUV, you can’t see the little guy once you get a certain distance into the garage.  On more than one occasion I have slammed on the brakes worried I might hit him.  Many times I see this as his happy, contented greeting that his Dad’s finally home.  Not today.

If you have kids, you know what I’m talking about next: There’s a look, a sort of pallor that your kids seem to take on when they are struggling with telling you something.  In this case, it was really just the beginning.

He started with tattling on his brother.  Now, as shy and abashedly quiet as I was as a kid, you’d think this wouldn’t bother me, but my older brother taught me that at a certain point in your life you stop tattling and act with some honor.  I’ve been working with Noah on this for some time; knowing when you should tell – to help or save someone from injury, what have you – and when you should just keep quiet as it’s none of your business.  This time it was one of the latter.
“Sam’s up in his room, he’s in trouble,” was the greeting I got.  I hadn’t even pulled my laptop case out of the car.
“He said a bad word.”

At this point I saw Abbi’s hand reach around the door and slap him in the back of the head.
“I took care of this, Noah.  It’s not any of your business!”
Abbi saw the query on my face and simply said “they’ve all been absolutely NUTS today.  I want to kill them all!”

Bear in mind, that I have to force myself not to chuckle or smile when she says these things because at the point I get home, at most, she’s spent 3 hours with the kids.  Not all day, 3 hours.  Even Monday, Memorial Day, when she was supposed to watch them, she ended up after 3-4 hours at her aunt’s house and didn’t have to really care for them.  So to hear this after just a couple hours I have to bite my lip.  Just a little.

But getting inside, it was clear: they’d gone absolutely bonkers.  In just a couple short hours, every empty storage bin, every blanket, and 90% of their video game boxes were scattered all over the upper landing and open hallway to their bedroom.  Sam had lost his  mind, he really had.  He said some bad word, which must have been particularly atrocious because Abbi wouldn’t even tell me what it was.  He was talking at 1,000 miles an hour, which makes his very slight stutter become a pronounced stutter.  When Noah tried to say what he’d done, he reached over, while I’m trying to get out of everyone what  happened, and punches his brother, with a large amount of force, in the arm.  The tears start, the screaming begins, Abbi goes into her room . . . and it’s welcome home, Dad.

“What the hell is wrong with you guys?!
Hannah volunteered the problem: “At EDP today they gave us all lemonade.”
“It was the sort of packaged lemonade.”
“And cookies,” added Noah.  I groaned.
“And a blueberry Muffin!” added Sam, seemingly proud of the massive crack-like reaction he’d had to the corn syrup and preservatives.

Bear in mind, by this point, I haven’t even boiled the noodles for dinner.  Given my trip to the music store (which I now sincerely regretted) I had bought the pre-packaged tortellini and pesto and was about to boil them.  In the middle of finally riding the back end of the wave of insanity Noah comes up and says “I should probably tell you about recess today, Dad.”

I literally dropped the package of ravioli on the counter.

“This other kid cut in front of me in line and I told him he shouldn’t.  It was his fault and it just got out of control then.”

I couldn’t help it.  I’m not sure if the other stuff hadn’t happened if I’d have reacted any better, but I lost it.  I really did, and I’m not proud of it, but I did.
Now what did you do?!”
“I have a slip you have to sign.  It’s not a yellow slip, though!  It’s just a note to the teacher.”
“Do you not get what’s going on here?!  Do you really not understand that every . . . single . . . slip is just leading to your ultimate goal of being suspended or kicked out?!  Did having this kid in front of you really slow down your getting onto the playground?!”
“In fact, you ended up staying out of recess, didn’t you?!  For the love of God, Noah, is it really worth it?!  Because I don’t get it.  Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s OK just to let the guy in front of you.  It’s not worth it.  Swallow your damn pride, eat the words, and once . . . just once . . . let the other kid be the freaking idiot instead of you huh?!”

It’s hard.  The school keeps pushing that Noah’s in trouble because of his Mom dying.  The doctors tell me it’s not.  In fact, he’s had problems with his temper since kindergarten.  I’ve said it before: Andrea had the same problems controlling temper and impulses.  She somehow mastered them, but never told me what the hell she did.  She doesn’t have to face the legacy of her genetics, I do.  And I have no idea what I’m doing, not with this.

I told Noah we’d have to get him back into counselling and he may even have to go to another school, while his sister and brother go to this one.  He started to cry.

After I got the noodles out and started to drain them, I sat at the table and went through the mail.  Noah sat next to me and looked up at me:
“Dad . . . will those counselors be like the one I had to see at the school?”

I could see his eyes a little watery.  I knew why he was worried.  In March, after the anniversary of Andrea’s death, the school had “grief counselors” on-hand because another school Mom had passed away.  Without asking or permission from me, they sent Noah and Sam to the counselor who, upon recounting by the boys, made them recall, over and over again, how their Mom died, when she died, what they went through, why the felt that way . . . even today they’re nowhere near as recovered as they had been before the so-called counseling.  Noah was fearful I was going to put him through all that again.

“No, buddy.  Those counselors didn’t do this right.  None of this is about your Mom, I know that.”
It’s not, either.  Every time someone talks to Noah they ask him if he misses his Mom . . . then asks if he’s upset and that’s why he acted out.  What’s he going to say?  “No, I don’t miss her, yes I like acting out?”

Hannah kept trying through the rest of the night to say silly or goofy things.  I was short, snappy, and suddenly exhausted from it all.  We made it to the regular nightly routine, but I’m not sure I really did them much good for the night.  The sugar and sweetners and corn syrup made Sam absolutely insane.  Hannah snapped and continued to yell at both her brothers, and Abbi couldn’t handle it and was getting shorter with them than I was – she is her mother’s daughter.

So often we project what we think is or should be happening or being felt by kids.  They’re smarter than we give them credit for, they really are.  Noah has a temper he wants to control but needs the tools.  But rather than helping him with them, so many want simple answers.  He’s sad and grieving, so that must be it.  And the others, I just don’t think the rest of the world gets it.  99% of people are able to eat all this stuff with no problems.  They just don’t see that mine can’t.  Give it to them . . . and then you get the evening I just had.

It may be sugary sweetness, but it just turns the whole day sour.

If it was easy, they’d call it fun!

My extended family…in our last NE trip

Falling Slowly (Live) by The Swell Season

While I’m writing this during the waning hours of the first holiday of the Summer (even though the calendar isn’t calling it Summer) recognizing, of course, that I didn’t really have a holiday.  I worked.  This isn’t a complaint, really, it’s just reality.  I left after logging video and writing a skeleton of a script that was vastly uninspired and went to Andrea’s sister’s house to meet up with my kids.  They love going over there to see Andrea’s folks and while they won’t admit it, most likely because they want to swim in their pool.

Now, given the headline up there, you wonder why I bring this up.  It’s because I’m really not complaining about working, it’s something everyone really needs to do, whether they want to or not.  The kids came up to me on Sunday and asked if I had to.  I always marvel at how kids – even me, when I was that age – will ask the same question 1,000 different times, getting the same answer, and marvel at how it still isn’t the answer they were looking for.  Sam, one of the twins, is particularly invested in having me spend time with them.  They like it when I’m home.  They like it even more when I’m home and we’re doing something together.  So it should come as no shock that he was slightly crestfallen when he heard, for the 999th time that I wasn’t staying home, their sister was watching them.

But my point isn’t about my job.  I like  my job.  They more or less created this position for me and they treat me very well.  I should not complain.  No, my point is about marriage, family, all of it.  My father always had a line when my kids would complain about the chores over the last year.  “Of course it’s hard work.  If it wasn’t, they’d call it “fun” and everyone would want to do it!”  Sure, work is just that – work.  But there are a lot of things about both marriage and parenting that the uninitiated just don’t seem to grasp, though they love to come to me with their analyses of them.

Let’s start with marriage.  There’s a misconception on both sides.  Those who are opposed think it’s horrible, stifling, whole bit.  Those who are desperately trying to find it think it’s flowers every weekend and fun trips to the Wine Country on every whim.  The truth is that it’s both, and not either . . . not all the time.  It would have been depressingly easy to pick up and leave Andrea on a hundred occasions.  We weren’t making enough money fast enough.  I wasn’t looking hard enough for a house.  I didn’t jump up and down ecstatically exuberant about having twins when we were desperate to keep our house.  I couldn’t grasp how this amazing woman could be jealous of anyone else . . . I loved her more than anyone.  But all these things weighed on our marriage and the weight was back breaking.  Yet for every depressing, sad, grueling struggle, there were the fanciful weekends at Napa.  There was the evening Abbi was born.  There was the panic when she passed out and started bleeding during the C-section for Hannah.  There was every . . . single . . . kiss.

Then there’s kids.  Again, the critics point to diapers and bottles and sleeplessness and worry weighing on you every minute of every day.  The proponents think it’s all piggy back rides and giggling.  The critics don’t realize that the diaper changes and projectile vomiting and sleepless nights are what you pay for the trips to the park and riding bikes together, and when you’re older, watching horrible television to rip it apart with your child.  They also don’t stop to think that every Sunday morning hangover is 10x worse than the sleepless nights that end after about 3 months.  The proponents don’t see the financial stress or the arguments over whether the baby should sleep in the bed with you or the worry when they get sick.

My point here is that it isn’t easy.  It never is.  I was talking with someone recently about marriage and how they’ve been looking and desperately want to find that person to spend their life with.  But all they see is the trappings and the happiness.  The best marriages are the ones that you fight for and drag yourself through the quagmire to keep.  Family is the same way.  Sure, I could spend every night out drinking and partying.  I could hit the road and tour with a band.  I could go to a war zone and cover fighting as a freelance writer.  But I don’t do those things because I fight for what is worth it.  My kids are there for me as much as I am for them.

I bring this all up because I had such a pleasant number of conversations about Andrea today with her sister and my kids.  It’s taken me a long time to get here, too.  I criticized as much as celebrated, but that’s what made us a couple.  You don’t love what attracts you . . . that’s easy.  Love is the maddening, obsessive and strange little things about that other person that make you want to understand them, to figure out why they do those things and share them, not stop them.

It bothers me a lot how grief is treated in books and movies.  It’s  a very throwaway thing.  There’s a prevailing mentality that time heals all wounds and that’s it.  Sure, it does.  But what it doesn’t show is the struggle to just be.  God, how I wish I was a musician.  I don’t wish to have the horrific tragedy that befell the drummer Neil Peart from Rush. . . but I do wish that I’d had the freedom to just jump on a bike and drive until I can’t see straight and get it worked out.  Even if it took 2 years.  I wish I was like Tom Hanks in the movies, where you can move to another city, your kids are OK with it and you seem to be home more than you’re at work.  Yes, I went back to work way too early, even though it was something like 2 months.  I couldn’t write well.  I took on projects that I have yet to finish.  I was a mess and really in no shape to take on that responsibility and still carry the parenting responsibilities.  But I am not Neil or Tom.  The world keeps turning and I either stay in the same place riding the crust of the planet rather than traversing it or I move.  Staying here fails myself and the kids.  I have to work.

It isn’t easy.  If it was, those cliche’d lines in the movies about how “I’m happy, I celebrate her life, I’m just so fortunate that I had the time I did . . . ” would be something I’d embrace.  Sure, they’re all true statements.

But they suck.

Yeah, I’m happy I had the time I did, but why did she have to be so maddeningly inflexible sometimes?  I’m thrilled she doesn’t hurt any more but she’s at peace and I’m hurting even worse.  I wonder if, wherever she is . . . if she’s somewhere . . . does she miss the touch, the smell, that physical and chemical attachment, or is she so at peace she doesn’t need it any more?  My fingers ache to touch her cheek again.  My body shudders when I think about her next to me and I realize she’s not there.  My kids wonder where she is.  Does she see what her kids are going through without her?  Does she realize what leaving did to them?!  This is my point.  I’m still trying, working, doing my best.  She has it easy now.  She had a difficult and horrible week in the hospital, but so did I.  Now it’s easy for her.

Finally, after more than a year, I can speak her name without having the wave pull me under.  The wound still bleeds, it always will, but I can tell the full picture.  It’s not just the best times I remember now, I can talk about how she didn’t see the things around her, just what she wanted to get the achievement.  I can hear her telling me the bathroom is clean, but it’s not cleaned the way she would clean it.  I can also hear her shrieking in delight when our kids would do something great.  I can feel the radiant smile when the kids do something that makes me just so proud.

But it’s work.  The kids are work.  The grief is a lot of work.  But it’s work that’s worthwhile.

After all, if it was easy, they’d call it fun.

Why Vinyl is Just Better!

New Tedschi Trucks LP on vinyl!

I’m going to just come out and say it, Hipsters be damned and readers who think I’m being a hypocritically arrogant ass can criticize all the want: vinyl is just better.

I know you’re going to tell me I’m nuts.  “CD’s and iPod downloads are just so better!  They can go with you anywhere,  you can take them with you, all of that.”

And you’d be right.

Yes, you can take the equivalent of every CD and LP I own with you on a single iPod, I’m sure.  But that doesn’t make them better.  You have to understand, I’m not talking about audio quality or digital download rates or even the frequency sweep or response of the audio signal.  Vinyl is just better, particularly for me and my family.

When I was a kid, you waited desperately to see if there was a new album coming out from your favorite artist.  I loved Santana, Clapton, the Eagles, BB King, Alan Parsons, Floyd . . . all of it.  Even when cassettes came into fashion I bought vinyl anyway.  You could always make a copy of the LP, you couldn’t easily (or sonically) make a good copy of a cassette tape.

I remember growing up and going into town to the department store and going through the records.  I remember the feel and shape of the sleeves.  Every LP was like a picture wrapped in cellophane.  Layla is one of the most amazing records ever recorded and it’s got one of the most distinctive album covers of all time.  Led Zeppelin III has a spin wheel inside where the crazy, psychedelic items move through windows on the front cover of the album.  Santana’s Abraxas and III were both literal works of art.  Hell . . . Velvet Underground’s LP was done by Andy freaking Warhol!

There’s also the ritual.  An iPod isn’t shared music.  And LP is.  You have to turn off the TV, the extraneous noise, and be careful not to bounce around and skip the needle.  You have to listen.  You gently pull the sleeve out of the cover and clean the record and let the needle do its work.

When I was little, no more than 7 or 8, my Dad brought home new LP’s nearly every week.  He’d walk in and before we even ate dinner he’d take them out of the bag and we’d go through the stereo ritual.  We’d take the album out, clean it, start the turntable and listen.  I remember the very days he came home with Hotel California; Aja; Fly Like an Eagle; Live at the Regal; Time Out; Kind of Blue – the greatest records ever made and I was sharing the experience thousands – millions – did as well.  The disc turned and I read the liner notes and looked at the gate-folds and reveled in the music.

Don’t get me wrong, I walked around the Black Keys concert I attended with my daughter and had to get a beer in order to chemically calm myself from grabbing a razor and a shotgun and forcibly shaving the awful hipsters around me to act like earthly human beings.  That, and the number of guys my age trying to find girls Abbi’s age who were wearing t-shirts cut to show cleavage and shorts that rode up to reveal far too much of their asses.  I don’t like the idea of vinyl because it’s a status symbol.

At our home, vinyl is put on the turntable for dinner.  We use it to relax.  It’s a shared experience.  I have the stereo set up in the living room and we listen.  Each child gets to choose, and while they have the option of grabbing a CD, we’ve only done that a couple times in over a year.  The kids like the idea of using the records, some old, some new, like the Tedeschi Trucks LP you see up there.

It’s a routine we’d never done when my wife was around.  We used the awful sound from the DVD player or used the Jazz channel from the cable box when Thanksgiving or Christmas came around and it grated on me.  Andrea always wanted me to get rid of the stereo but I wouldn’t.  I’m glad I never relented.  I have the same turntable I did through High School and college.  I have the same stereo.

Having been in the recording studio and my brother and I knowing that the analog equipment sounds better than the digital – I understand the appeal.  But for me it’s not just the vinyl.  It’s the memories.

Memories that are old . . . and now the ones we’re creating.  So you can be cleaner, digital, cold and crisp in its sterility and perfection.  It’s the mistakes and off-key notes that make life interesting.

Vinyl is just better.

When Summer Comes

My extended family…in our last NE trip

Summertime Blues (Live) by the Who from the LP Live at Leeds

In my poor planning and idiotic reliance on a tax refund, I hadn’t realized that I’m only weeks away from the end of the school year.  Less than a week and Abbi’s out, moving onto Senior year . . . just like that.  Hannah will head to her final year of middle school.  I let it slip by, ignored the dates, and my father hit me with the question he’d asked over and over again: “when do the kids get out of school?”

The girls were the first to visit their grandparents.  It started the year we moved to Sacramento.  My folks missed the kids horribly and wanted to spend time with them.  When my folks wanted the time to get longer and longer it weighed heavier and heavier on my wife.  She didn’t like being away from the kids.  I think part of her really didn’t like my parents having any influence over her kids, which I believed then – and firmly believe now – was a foolish thing.  My Mom is definitely a take-charge kind of woman and my Dad has his opinions.  They might very well take over and run things if you let them . . . but that’s the key: if you let them.

The longest the kids ever stayed with my folks when Andrea was alive was a month.  Andrea hated it.  Even 2 weeks was too much for her.  You have to understand as well that when we got to California she had a very unrealistic view that her Mom would take care of the kids while she worked . . . and I think she believed her Mom would take care of her when she got home.  The hardest thing in the world is to grow up and see the weaknesses and flaws in your parents.  To you, particularly in those most formative years, they are indestructible.  Andrea always fought them but secretly wanted her Mom to take care of her.  The worst thing in the world was when she realized, as an adult, that her Mom was neither willing nor able to do that work – not when she was a kid, and really not now when we had our kids.

Look, I know this sounds harsh and I’m not trying to be mean.  Four kids . . . it’s a hard number to wrap your head around.  I even told Andrea she had no expectation – nor no right – to try and make her Mom take care of bother her and the kids.  I had raised a red flag saying that the agreement her Mom would watch our kids would never come to a good end.  I had seen the reality by how many times Andrea had been disappointed in our marriage with too high expectations and I expressed my worries to both her and her parents.  I was assured they were unfounded.  In the end, they weren’t.  It led to major bouts of depression and anxiety on my wife’s part.  It also led to my having to try and calm down both Andrea AND her Mom on some days, something I was not equipped to handle.

Now, I’m faced with doing the very thing my wife hated: sending my kids away for the summer.  My dilemma isn’t whether or not they can handle it, though I have that worry.  It’s whether or not they’re bored or hurt by having to be there.  That . . . and I’m not sure can handle it.

I was in a fog when I got back to work last year.  When I changed jobs (by necessity, not choice) I probably should have taken even more time off.  When July came last year, I took a pilgrimage over 1 weekend . . . on my birthday . . . to avoid being here.  Now I hit my 2nd summer and I’m not sure what I’ll do alone in the house.

I know I could go to Nebraska and visit the kids, and I will, but it’s not the whole summer.  I could surely work my behind off, hang out downtown, do a bunch of things, but it’s not changing the fact that I’m faced with the fact that I have 2 and a half months where I’m left to face the fact that my house is empty.  It’s like looking at my future and realizing that it’s where I’m heading in the next 9 years.  I don’t know what I’m going to do from here.  I love my job, but do I love it here in California enough to stay after the kids leave?  Will I continue to be an investigative journalist?

I know it’s not easy to face these questions, and I shouldn’t.  But I’ve come to realize that I’m only just now, in this last few weeks, looking more than a day ahead.  I got through last year, last summer, all of it by looking only at each day . . . trudging through the morning, the afternoon, getting through to the night, and then starting it all over again.  It became routine.  But the routine isn’t effective when it’s having to change constantly.  I will have 5 more years with Hannah and then it’s me and the boys.  After that, what?

It’s hardest because, the weeks that the kids would spend in Nebraska I always wanted to take advantage of.  I wanted to grab Andrea and head to LA or to London or anywhere . . . I wanted to find some of that spark again, the thing that had us so amazed with each other, unable to stop holding hands or kissing in public, damn the stares.  But she wouldn’t do it.  She was obsessed with the fact the kids weren’t here, wouldn’t travel, and counted the days until they were back.

I now face those summer days alone.  I don’t have a choice.  I can’t work if they’re home alone and it’s not fair to my oldest to keep them home and make her watch them . . . that, and I’m not sure she’d do it right.  It’s easy to be coddling and attentive when you’re babysitting.  It’s easier to ignore the arguments and head to your room when it’s your siblings. To survive and pay for everything these kids need I have to work and keep them watched and cared for.  My parents volunteer to do it.  I also love the influence they have and the feeling that my childhood home, to these kids . . . is home.

It’s the one thing that gets me through the summer.  Where they are far away, they are so happy and cared for.  I’m happy they have such an amazing summer ahead of them.

And perhaps I’m a little jealous.

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.

In From the Storm

In from the Storm by Jimi Hendrix from the LP First Rays of the New Rising Sun

The projects, near completion, that blew in the storm
I was a storm of fury this evening.  It wasn’t work stress.  I use my computer to write during my train ride to and from work.  I had a script that my boss made much better after his review.

But getting home started the lightning and thunder swirling.  The boys, the two masters of mayhem that they are, had procrastinated in a form that would make even their middle sister proud.  The twins had a project that they’d needed to finish for more than a couple weeks.  Now, I understand, I’m the Dad, they’re 9, just as much blame to lie on my shoulders.  That’s what makes me even angrier.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been constantly reminding them of the fact that they had to do the project, telling them where to get the information, allowing them to use my computer (a cardinal sin, usually) and informing them that yes, we do have poster boards here in the house!  In spite of all that, today, knee deep in it all, they inform me that they still have most of their project to complete.  They haven’t printed their pictures.  They did an awful job of writing their fact sheets so that you couldn’t read them.  Nothing was the way it should have been.  The clouds were rolling in.

At 2:30 in the afternoon the school calls and says Noah has a slight temperature: 99 degrees.  Nothing horrific, and if he’d been running crazy around the school quad – which I’ll lay odds happened – he would be that warm.  He complained his throat was scratchy, which wouldn’t have happened if he’d taken his allergy medicine in the morning.To make matters worse, when I got home from work, after taking the light rail train, they were all sitting on the couch, watching some God-awful Nickelodeon show.  Not even a good Nickelodeon, which is like finding a needle in a stack of needles anyway.  This after the insanity of trying to get them into their projects.  I had pushed their older sister to help them because I didn’t want to just come home and spend all night working on these things.  But all they’d managed was the fact sheet and their sister, Abbi, was on the computer looking for more pictures of the things they needed.  They’d all abandoned her to doing the work for them.  I could see the fingers of lightning licking across the clouds in my head.

I immediately asked what in God’s name they were doing, as I put frozen pizzas – yes, I didn’t even have time to make my homemade pizza – in the oven.  It’s funny how you can watch all three heads, even their sister who wasn’t working on a project, jump in unison.
“Abbi’s helping us” was the response.
“No, you’ve conned her into doing it for you.  You can type and spell and know the computer better than most adults.  Get your butt in there and look for this crap yourself!”

As the pizzas cooked, I changed clothes.  As I opened the laundry room door to start a load of clothes I noticed the gigantic pile of clean clothes still in the room, spilling out of the baskets.  The boys’ chore is folding and putting away the laundry.  Hannah’s is the dishes.  Abbi has to watch them.  This entire week, though, has been laden with my coming home to find Abbi in her room on the computer or listening to music while her siblings run the house; the kitchen a gigantic mess; and Mount Saint Laundry growing by the foot each day.  It didn’t sit well with me.

I came downstairs and the one bright spot while the clouds began to rotate around into a funnel was that my middle child had actually unloaded and loaded the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen counters.  She and I have a deal.  Any more missed assignments and: first, she doesn’t do her chores and gets another “zero” on an assignment she doesn’t get to go with her sister and I to see her favorite band “The Black Keys” a day before Abbi’s prom; second, if she  doesn’t pass her school work and get through 7th grade she’s not going back to the school.  None of her friends, no choir, no band, nothing.  She’s got to pass or she doesn’t get the crazy, expensive Catholic School education.

We ate dinner, admittedly late, and the boys had to keep working on their projects.  I spent, literally, 3 and a half minutes in Abbi’s room showing her something on the computer and the boys were screaming, Noah bawling, Sam standing looking like Sheriff Matt Dillon after shooting a gun-toting thief.

Here’s where the storm hit in earnest.  I blew, and I mean loud, screaming, hoarse voice afterwards – blew.  Instead of working the projects they’d started playing with Legos.  They were throwing them at each other, hard, angry at the other and making marks and angry bruises on each others’ arms.  My tirade was long enough that I watched Sam’s eyes get wider and wider as every angry word came out of my mouth.  It wasn’t pretty, nor nice, nor even right I suppose, but they started moving.  Quick.  Glue sticks were flying and I was furiously screaming at them to get moving and directing their work, like Leopold cranking the best out of a mediocre orchestra.

In the middle of this all, as I started to come down from the top of the funnel cloud, Hannah, the middle child, comes into the room in a panicked, shouting, crying mess; howling about the tests she has to make up and how she’s going to fail.  I’m not proud of this, but I looked at her and shouted:
“Really?  Right now, this is when you choose to make a ‘look at me’ scene about something you’ve never even told me?!”
Hannah looked at me incredulously, her eye lashes matted down with tears.
“I just . . . I know I didn’t get them and I’m going to fail and I’m not going to get to finish in my school and I don’t have the information and none of the teachers gave me anything and . . . ”
I stopped her mid-ramble.
“Have you taken the tests?”
“Have you missed the tests and gotten zeros?”
“No, but the teachers didn’t tell me about them because we were gone and . . . ”
STOP!  Have you taken them and have to re-take these now?”
“No, they’re the tests I have to make up for when we were gone and.  .  .”
“Then do you think now, in the middle of an angry tirade when your brothers did not complete their work and I’m in one of my worst moods ever, is the appropriate time to come to me with a panicked whining “look at me I don’t get any attention” moment?!”
“What does panicking about something you haven’t even done yet do?  Does it help the situation?!”
“When you’re standing here complaining about your tests – what did I see you doing when I got home?”
“Watching TV.”
“Reading “The Hunger Games.””
“So if you should have been studying so you don’t panic, why were you doing that?!”

Hannah left, her tirade backfiring on her and realizing that sympathy was not forthcoming when I was in the middle of a stormy mood.

The projects were completed.  The boys looked up to ask for Midnight Snack and stopped, knowing better.  They asked if I’d read Harry Potter and I just looked at them.
“Sorry.  No, it’s too late.”
“Beyond too late.  Almost two hours past your bedtime.”

I went into Hannah’s room and apologized for yelling at her.  I was coming in from the storm.  But I reinforced that her panic wasn’t doing anything but . . . well, making her panic.  Then she handed me her math chapter check and there were 3 blank spaces.
“Where are these assignments?!”
“I don’t know.  I looked for them.”
“You know our deal, right?  I mean, we haven’t been looking through your planner every moment because your grades had improved.  But ever since you started reading “Hunger Games” you’ve done nothing else.  If you can’t find these and get your grades, passing, I’m sure I can find a person to go to the Black Keys with us.”

I had troubles with all four prior to losing my wife, sure.  But then we were a united front.  I never raised my voice to the degree I did last night, but now I’ve done it for a second time.  I’m not trying to be my kids’ friend, I’m trying desperately to be their Dad.  I am trying to make sure they don’t fail.  I want them to be able to trace back to March 26th, 2011, and realize they lost something special, but they didn’t fail.  But nights like this make me think I’m slowly slipping off the stones; like I’m getting blown by the wind without a shelter from the tornado.

I hadn’t let up but a bit and they did an end-run around me anyway.  I wanted so desperately to come in from the storm, but it looks like I still need to get a little wet.

The Lines That Give You Pause

We’ve done pretty well since the anniversary of one year came and went.  I hate to say things went better, my step a bit lighter, the kids a bit less weighed down, but it certainly started to seem that way.  That isn’t to say things don’t affect us because they always will.  I suppose that is the one thing that others who have never experienced this will never quite understand.  There are so many random things that will hit us out of left field.  I’ve said before that it’s not the big anniversaries: the day she died, her birthday, Christmas, none of those hit us quite as hard.  People don’t get that.  Sure, they’re hard to deal with but we see them coming from miles away.  We can look to that bump in the road and plan a way around it.

Yet last night is a perfect example of something that we’ve probably watched more than a few times and never gave a second thought.  A few years ago Disney made a movie with the actress Amy Adams called “Enchanted” that had storybook characters suddenly thrust into the real world.  The actress’ character suddenly in the home of a father who is raising his daughter alone, the Mom having disappeared for whatever reason.  That in and of itself isn’t what hit everyone.

Somewhere toward the end of the movie the little girl decides to help the “princess” to get clothes and everything she needs for the “King and Queen’s Ball” by – and I just love this message! – grabbing Dad’s emergency credit card.  At a certain point she’s in a hair and nail salon with Amy Adams and asks the simple question:
“Is this what it’s like?”
(Amy Adams:) “What?”
“Going shopping with your Mommy.”
“I don’t know, I never went shopping with my Mommy either, but I like it!”

Now, bear in mind, the two kids who were probably most affected by this were my sons.  That’s where I’m fortunate, I suppose.  Whenever we were forced to go shopping with my mother we kicked, screamed and yelled through the whole process.  It was never fun, took too long, and we drove our Mom nuts.  “Fun” was never part of the agenda.  Planned torture, for all involved, was more like it.  But the feeling in the room was definitely more palpable than before.  I’ve mentioned before that the thought of future events, the proms, pictures, holidays, marriages even weigh on me fairly heavily because of the fact that so much of my kids’ future is no longer similar to everyone else’s.  Where their friends’ Moms will cry at their weddings they will have me.  (Not to say I won’t cry, the most random things get to me lately) My daughters will have me to walk them down the aisle, but no Mom in the sacristy primping and posing them so that they look just perfect for their day.

The difference tonight compared to the other nights up to this point is that the feeling was palpable, but passed.  It’s exactly as I said up there.  It’s a line that gave us all pause, but that’s all it is, a pause.  If we dwell on the fact that we don’t have these things we’ll never move ahead and that’s the worst thing in the world for us.  By no means should anyone take this as some idea that I’m “ready to move on” and looking to replace their Mom.  I’m not.  She can’t be.  They loved their Mom like they can love nobody else.  I am now thrust into the same roles.

But where my relationship with my wife was so close and so intense, we also had so many conversations, both intimate and mundane, that I have at least some idea of what I’m doing now.  Little things, even “female” things are not foreign to me.  I used to buy tampons and panty liners for my wife at the store, even knowing what she needed.  Her PMS was so bad I knew exactly when it was coming and what time of the month it was likely to hit.  So when my daughter was upset and couldn’t figure out why her jeans fit differently and seemed to gain weight but was working out more and eating better than she has in the last couple years I had the great pleasure of actually knowing that water weight, muscle gain and all the other down sides to being a girl were the things causing her problems this week.  Doesn’t mean she didn’t doubt me, looking at me askew on the couch, but I could confidently say that if she just kept working out, drinking lots of water, maybe adding a cup of coffee or tea extra to reduce the water, she might feel a little better.  The fact that I could have this conversation and make her feel more confident in herself made us both feel better.

It’s the lines that give you pause, the random events – a smell, a sight, a song that fires your synapses, the memories exploding in your head – sometimes even a random line from a movie can force you to think about things you never thought would affect your lives.  Don’t take that to mean we’re healed and everything is perfect, sunshine and rainbows.  I’ve said before, and I believe it, that this wound never heals.  You learn to live with the pain and the sorrow until one day the memories and the thoughts make you smile in memory more than they make you cry in pain.  That day’s not here yet, but at least now we can think it may be coming.

The lines that give you pause, though, sometimes give you necessary time to think.  The best part is, after a full year, that pause doesn’t make us stop, it just slows us down a little.

Fairy Tales and Wishes that Can’t Come True

In the early 20th Cent. 2 girls took photos of fairies that got Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini himself investigating

Dreams by The Allman Brothers Band from the Dreams Box Set

If this post seems a bit disjointed it’s because I barely got to the bedroom and logged on the computer tonight.  It amazes me the punishment the human body can seem to take, particularly when you are determined to push it to its limits.  Not that I’m an amazing specimen of the human condition, I need to lose weight, gain muscle and eat better.  But having taken several sick days to care for my children as they got sick and less than a week into the ratings period I cannot in good conscience call in sick.

So here I sit tonight, after working my 8 hours, going to the grocery store, cooking dinner, making brownies for lunch and I was about to pass out.  You see, I have the flu as well.  Got the Tamiflu doses at the doctor and tried to stave it off, but when you are stumbling along like I was your day gets a bit dizzying.

Between Abbi’s play and the shows on the television, we’ve had a lot of fanciful tales swirling around us lately.  At one point during the night we had some cartoons on and it involved – of course – a fairy offering wishes to the protagonist.  3 wishes, of course, is the norm, something that the 3 youngest kids were oh so eager to embrace and believe.  Even Hannah, the 12 year old, had that starry-eyed look.  Hannah, you see, is just starting to move from watching “Transformers” to thinking “27 Dresses” is her favorite movie.  (Don’t ask me, I don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy and couldn’t tell you a single thing about the movie other than “Benny and the Jets” plays a prominent role)

But at this point they had a discussion about what they’d wish for.  There was the typical boy stuff, “A million dollars!”; “A new bike”; all that seemed to come out of their mouths.  But Hannah spouted out what I was waiting to happen.

“I would wish for Mom.”

And there it was.  Like the song up there says, it would be amazing to see what would happen, hungering for the dreams we never see.  I wasn’t angry, I’d have wished it too, I suppose, if they’d said “hey, 3 wishes, no waiting,” but there’d have to be stipulations, too.  I mean, it’s been 10 months, and 10 months of hell.  It really has.  We’re just now hitting our stride.

And here’s where I’m going to come out with one of those “stages of grief” that everyone talks about, but realistically, it’s been on my mind since last year, since the day after she died.

She left us.

I mean, I miss her more than anything in the world and I would never, ever give up the chance to see her just a minute more, to kiss her again, to tell her I loved her as many times as I could before she left again . . . but there’s also the fact that she’s gone and we’re here left to pick up the pieces of the life that shattered apart.  Say what you want about how well we’re doing or how wonderful my kids are and how amazing things have worked out – and all that is true – it doesn’t change the fact that starting on March 26th all five of us stood there with the world in a blurry swirl moving around us looking at the pieces of our lives scattered around us.

The kids miss what Andrea gave them.  They miss their Mom, the kindness, the softness, the whole thing.  It’s so easy to push all the negative things aside because you really don’t ever want to think about those anymore.  The bad things, the annoying habits, all those were part and parcel with the person you loved.  If you can’t live with those you’re not really in love.  You love someone because you think those little things are cute or because they’re part of what make them who they are.  If you can’t accept them you really aren’t in love.

But the stress, medical bills, college loans, tuition costs, mortgage overdue, car payment, uniforms, hell everything down to breakfast, laundry and housecleaning.  All those fall on my shoulders – our shoulders.

I sound mean, flippant, angry even, but she left me here to deal with the shattered pieces and not enough glue to put them back together.  She doesn’t have to deal with the flu and fevers and the school calling and Hannah not turning in her homework.  She doesn’t get to see the amazing picture of a cat Noah drew at school today.  She doesn’t get to see Abbi in her play looking just like her mother.  And her children don’t get to share that with her.  On some level, sure, she’s seeing this, I hope, I pray.  But the physical, emotional bond that makes a parent tear up when they see their child succeed . . . Abbi only gets that from one person now.  So do the others.  It’s not just that Andrea doesn’t get to see what her kids are doing, my kids don’t get to share this with their Mom, and that’s the sad part.

I get angry sometimes because I needed her.  I needed her this last week.  I needed her when Hannah got her period for the first time.  I needed her when Noah hit a kindergartner at school and got in trouble.  I am angry because where I just needed that person – the one human being who understood me above all others – the most, when I needed her hands on my back holding me up so I didn’t fall off that pedestal my children had placed me on, she wasn’t there.

I also hate the fact that I’m mad at her.  I love her too much to hold that anger more than flashes at a time.  Still, when Hannah looks at that fairy and says she wants her Mom, there’s that part of me that agrees . . . and there’s that part of me that thinks she needed to fight just a little harder to deserve that chance.

And I hate myself for thinking it.  Because I do hunger for the dreams I’ll never see.