Tag Archives: Gilmour

I need no blessings

An evening walk with the kids
This Heaven (Live) by David Gilmour from the LP “Live in Gdansk”

So break the bread and pour the wine
I need no blessings but I’m counting mine
Life is much more than money buys
When I see the faith in my children’s eyes

I cannot claim to be brilliant enough to have written the above stanza, it’s from the last David Gilmour LP On an Island .  It’s perhaps my favorite tune of his from the disc – which is quite brilliant – because of it’s off-time vocals and on-time refrain.  That, and it’s David Freaking Gilmour.

But the stanza is the inspiration that sparked me tonight.  I don’t know the man’s motivations for the writing.  After all, being a key member of the band Pink Floyd and touring the nation to screaming fans in arenas, he’s not hurting for cash.  He lives on a boat in England . . . that’s equivalent to a mansion on the water.  Calm enough the recorded On an Island on it.

But I listen to that song and it’s strangely appropriate.  People tend to look at me a bit cockeyed when I say we are doing well, that we’re counting our blessings . . . because we really do have them.

After the first few weeks last year the kids were motivation.  They were in need of strong people and I relied a lot on my folks.  After that, I took on the role of being both parents and it seemed to work.  It wasn’t easy, nor was enjoyable a lot of the time.  But slowly, over the course of the last year, I’ve seen those four kids move from motivation to . . . well . . . blessings.  I’m not being religious in my tone here, I’m being a proud Dad.

Noah used to be the complaining-est, grumpiest, most spoiled kid on the planet.  He wanted his way or he screamed.  When he screamed it drove his Mom and Grandma nuts until they caved in and he got his way.  Now, however, he’s much more agreeable.  Sure, he likes to be the center of attention.  He likes to put his nose where it doesn’t belong.  He asked – incessantly – for things he wants.  Still does.  But when he’s told “no” there’s no more tantrum.  No screaming.  He likes to help and do his chores.

Hannah was Andrea’s little girl.  She didn’t like being girly.  She didn’t like dresses.  Still doesn’t.  She didn’t like hanging out with her Dad.  We didn’t play favorites, not at all.  We tried our hardest to treat each of them the same.  But what we didn’t do was try to interrupt that.  Hannah had a hard time and I went crazy over the last year trying to keep the girl on-track.  But now . . . while she won’t do her chores without incessant complaint from me . . . she hugs me the moment I’m home.  She checks her homework.  She plays guitar.  It’s a big shift and a big change for a little girl so hurt.

Sam . . . he was always the flirt, the funloving kid.  When I’d sit next to my wife he’d muscle his way between us to be by his Mom.  He hugged and loved me, but he favored the girls in the house.  After he lost his Mom he grew reserved, quiet and withdrawn.  He spent excessive amounts of time in rooms away from the rest of us.  He wasn’t the Samwise we all knew.  Now, though, he comes and stands in front of me, looks up and says: “hug?”  Then throws his arms around me.  He makes sure we’re all together.  Every 15 minutes he checks to make sure I’m here and when I say “yeah, Sam?”  I hear: “love you!” and the scurrying feet of him going back to his room.

Abbi had the biggest change, though much of it is due to age.  She’s the girly girl.  She faced no dates for dances and no boyfriend and breaking up over text the month her Mom died.  She picks up the kids and figured out ways to get them home during her drama practices.  Where before she clashed and fought the tide she now sees she has to ride it sometimes to get by.  She’s about to leave home in less than a year so and she’s stressed, but she holds court over her siblings like she has authority.  Funny thing is they actually believe she has it.  She’s not mothering them, she’s protecting them.  I remind them and her who’s the parental authority here.

We have a roof.  We have food, we get by.  Sure, college is on its way.  I don’t pretend that doesn’t stress me out.  I do, however, know that my kids spend time with me.  I don’t look at them with sadness.  I don’t see us as broken any more.  Sure, we were.  But we’re not lost.  What we are is . . . well . . . blessed.

So break the bread and pour the wine.

This Earthly Heaven

So break the bread and pour the wine.
I need no blessings but I’m counting mine . . .

I don’t normally start with a song lyric (well, unless you count the post where I started with Rush’s Dreamline, but hey, it’s Neal Peart, obviously!)  The lines up there, though, seem oddly appropriate to the way this last couple weeks has played out.  On the weekend I made my daughter cry, not on purpose, but because I was so focused on the events to come, the finishing of this anniversary project, that I hadn’t looked at what was around me.  I was focused on the ethereal and not the physical, so to speak.

The best example or reasoning would again be my son, Noah.  He woke up with a bad dream, unable to sleep again.  For the first time in awhile, after coming to terms with the fact that life, the song I’m writing, the recording process, none of it has to be perfect, I was sleeping lightly enough – the way I used to sleep – that I heard him come out, his little feet making only a hint of sound on the carpet in the hallway as he walked.  He wouldn’t tell me about the dream, but I just tapped the pillow next to me and said “climb in, kiddo.”

I have been so focused on what to expect with the coming couple weeks that I haven’t taken the time to look at what’s right there in front of me.  I’ve used the line before, sure, and commented that we have more than we really should, considering everything we’ve been through.  I lost my wife, lost my house, more or less lost my job, even.  When it should have been at its absolute darkest I was able to pull through with the help of my family and friends.  The weeks after the funeral we didn’t have to cook a meal.  I mean, nearly a full month’s worth of lasagnas, comfort food, deserts, you name it, were in our fridge and freezer.  My kids ate it and my parents went about putting the house in order while I sat and tried to put our lives in order.

But it all changed.  I had been negotiating with a rival station and they gave me a job – a better job than I had.  They understand my situation and are not put off by the fact that sometimes I have to drop everything because, well, I’m it for the kids.  Sick days, doctor or dentist visits, days off for strange holidays I never got off, all those are things I have to contend with.  They don’t bat an eye, and that’s something I just wasn’t used to.  Within weeks of that job offer a property manager emailed me with a house and had already arranged that I could move in, if it was a good fit, in spite of my credit and loss of half our family income.  I re-connected with a former colleague – Rene Syler – and now write for her website, www.goodenoughmother.com

None of this would have happened in the plot of the story we were writing just over a year ago.  That story ended, rather abruptly, and changed completely the family dynamic and the way we look at the world.  I mean, it hurts, even today.  Last night, while reading freaking Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire I found myself choked up.  It wasn’t even a terribly bad section.  The character who died had died two chapters ago.  But I could see in my sons’ faces that when the main character talked about getting a hug from his friend’s Mom, saying he’d never really remembered how it felt to get a hug like that, to have someone love them so unconditionally – well, I could just tell what was on their minds.  I was thinking it, too, though thinking farther ahead. 

Noah and Sam, you see, are only 8.  I have lots of memories from that era, sure, but not as many as from, say, 18.  I look at them and wonder if the memories of their Mom are fading and if they’ll fade to the point where they don’t have the deep connection their sisters do?  What is it like not having that soft, caring, loving feeling next to you?  I mean, i try, sure.  I love them as much as their Mom did.  But I love them far differently, too.  To start, I didn’t carry them for 9 months inside me, there’s no deep, biological connection like that.  I can’t give them the connection a woman would.  The subtle caring, the gentle touch just isn’t there.  I was always the disciplinarian in the house.  I kept them in line.  I was the person their Mom called when she couldn’t control them and was at her wit’s end.  I start to choke up because I know what they’re going to miss – I had it.  It saddens me because they won’t.

So when I heard that song, saw the Facebook update while the computer was on saying it was David Gilmour’s birthday, it really did make me take stock in what I was doing. 

Like the lyrics say, “I need no blessings, but I’m counting mine.”

We could have just fallen apart this last year.  It would have been really, really easy to do.  What stopped that from happening was the blessings around us.  I don’t say this in a religious way, it’s not something that should be off-putting to my non-Catholic or atheist friends. (I’ve never been one to try and convert, particularly to those not wanting to be converted!)  The last year was filled with not-so-subtle reminders of what made us who we are.  My Mom and Dad – two people who don’t just dislike but loathe California honestly lived here for nearly half a year.  Two days before Andrea passed away – on their way to visit my brother in Texas, they completely changed their plans.  I called them in the middle of a deep, pleasant sleep in a motel in Okalahoma and while still on the phone with me, while I hyperventilated, they had packed up and started driving West, right from where they were.  I didn’t ask, nor did I expect them to.  I needed a friendly voice.  What I got was support and love.  They got here just after I had informed the kids and lived with us until they knew I’d moved into and settled into a new home.

Our friends amaze me.  I have called my sister-in-law and family friends in a panic when I had kids at school with a fever or throwing up and they dropped everything – literally – to help me get them picked up.  At one point a friend was out for ice cream and left the 31-derful in order to go get Noah when he was sick because I was knee-deep in story meetings.  They got us support but also gave us hope.  When I couldn’t decide whether or not to change our routine on Christmas because I was unsure they called out of the blue and asked us to come over for a pre-Christmas celebration at their house.  We spent too many hours there and they never complained.  It softened the day.

There’s physical stuff, sure.  I have a new car from cashing in the retirement options from my old job.  Moving Abbi to a new school was really hard but now she’s actually coming to embrace and live the public school life.  I have my daughter driving and helping me more and more each day.  The kids get better every day at doing their chores.

I’ve said before, our lives would be perfect – simply amazing in fact – if Andrea was here.  But much of our lives – the house we’re in, the meals we eat (we’ve drastically improved our pallette since she passed away), the exercise and better shape we’re in, all of those would never have happened had she stayed.  The music we listen to at dinner, the guitars out and the songwriting would have taken a back seat.  Would I trade them back to have her back – back the way she was before all the problems, the difficulties, the heartache?  Yes.  Absolutely.

The difference now, though?  I appreciate what I now miss so very much.  I hate that I didn’t appreciate her or what she gave me like I do now.  Yes, hindsight is 20/20 and I can’t change it.  But now, I also have so much going for me.  I have an amazing job, a great house, we’re stable, we make ends meet – for the most part – and I can’t keep looking backwards, even though I can’t help it.  I walk forward with my head slightly askew looking always back, a little less each day, at the road – the story – we leave behind.

But as the song says, “life is much more than money buys.  When I see the faith in my children’s eyes.”

When I look at my son content and no longer scared because he’s lying there next to me, I realize it. 

This earthly heaven is enough for me.

Take a Breath, a Deep Breath Now . . .

Take a Breath (Live) by David Gilmour from “Live at Gdansk”

20111223-100953.jpg
One of the new holiday events . . . part of our new story

People have a mistaken expectation of what the holidays will be like in my household this year. I am getting the typical, and honestly sincere thoughts and support from a great deal of friends and family. But I can’t tell them whether or not the holidays will be amazing or brutal because I just have no idea. There are days – well, let’s be honest, it’s more like moments – when things are brilliant. We bought our tree, we cut it down, made s’mores, put up the decorations, talked about what we wanted from Christmas, all the typical stuff you’d think about as a family during Christmas.

But then there are the moments that just make your heart feel like it’s being ripped out of your chest while it’s still beating. I found her stocking with the rest of them and didn’t know what to do about it. Half of our ornaments were pieces my in-laws wanted to rid themselves of and dropped off to us a number of years back, all of them Andrea’s.

There’s one that hurt more than anything, that I hadn’t anticipated or expected. I was just pulling out a simple, homemade ornament, one that was shaped like a star, and inside was Abbi’s picture. The picture itself was an event. Abbi was in this robin’s egg blue outfit with black velvet on the cuffs and collar. There was some sort of white furry material on her hat and she had the biggest, most amazing smile on her face for a child in that time between baby and toddler. She was sitting on a little red chair, and she couldn’t have been happier. The picture had been taped through the back of the star, the center of the ornament open so that the face of the picture showed through. The star itself was a little wooden thing, a red star with the shape accentuated by a white line that traced the shape of it’s pieces as well.

Pictures are hard. By their very nature they capture entire moments in a singular frame. In this particular case I remembered the fighting Abbi did with Andrea to get the outfit on, the complaints about doing her hair, the pouting face and her lip sticking out when her mother asked her to sit still while she put her bow in her hair. Then the girly-girl was so proud of all the compliments and gushing parents talking about her as we stood in line waiting to get the picture taken. It was another example of what was so right in our house when Andrea helped us put the holidays together.

But flipping it over was worse. On the back, Andrea had written “I love you, Dave, with all my heart. Andrea, 1996.”

You wouldn’t think that little line would have such impact, but it does. It swirls around your head. You know how ridiculous you feel seeing the small line and the emotions that well up in your chest. You wonder how you’re going to do this without letting the kids see you starting to fall apart and stopping the whole process. It’s like little pieces of her ghost float there on the tree.

I had to debate the stockings . . . do I leave hers up? If I do, will the kids then wonder why Santa didn’t put anything in it, or do they get confused if he does? The decorations from last year that are so beautiful you put them up but so many memories of her that you are surrounded, again, by her?

But the presents go under the tree, and you smile about the stuff you’ve managed to get hoping your present is perfect. Your kids worry you don’t have anything and feel for you. There are just as many moments sitting there that make you smile as ones that make you sad.

I can’t tell people what this holiday will be like because I really don’t have any idea. Nor do they. I mean, sure, lots of people have lost a loved one, or been widowed (widowed? widowered? Whatever . . . ) but I can’t take their experience and make it my expectation. It won’t be the same because I’m not them. This could be the hardest, worst day of the year. It could also be one of the most amazing. I just don’t and won’t know until midnight strikes on Dec. 25th. That’s when the indicators will hit.

So when it’s time to put together pieces that say “some assembly required” knowing full well that only a Chinese engineer with tiny hands and a tenuous grasp of the English language could construct I’ll continue my own, singular tradition that I started years ago, in another state, when I had a perfect life and I had my best friend, my love, and my four kids near me, but all sleeping.

That night, while the kids lay all asnooze in their beds, Andrea gave in to exhaustion and fell asleep on the couch. I was busy bandaging a cut from the screwdriver that had stripped a cruddy Chinese-made screw on a present and I did what most parents would never do.

I took a breath. A deep breath.

Andrea was so beautiful. Even then, I looked at her and was amazed at the woman who moments ago had annoyed me with her obsessive control of how I placed the presents because it had to be placed just-so. I stood back, while she laid there in flannel pajamas with coffee cups all over them and it all melted away. I looked at Abbi, Hannah, Noah and Sam, too, and realized that I was fortunate. One of my favorite movies, “The Apartment” with Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine (before she went crazy and started realizing she was Joan of Arc in another lifetime), was on the TV. I should have finished right there and went to bed. Instead, I moved over, put Andrea’s head on my lap, and watched the rest of the movie. I knew it probably only be 3 hours before the kids snuck out of bed and looked at their presents, but what the hell. It’s Christmas.

So this year, I’ll take a breath. For the first time since Abbi was my only child, I’ve got the shopping done, the presents wrapped and the thoughts to Santa for his Midnight gift run. It won’t be the same, not this year, but how could it be? This is the new story, the next chapter in the Manoucheri household. None of us wanted it, but fighting it won’t do any good. It won’t be easy, but I also know there’s a lot to reflect on that’s good. We have a roof over our heads. I have an amazing job, one that I shouldn’t have been able to get. I have four amazing little children who make life wonderful. I was fortunate to come into a little money and make Chirstmas a little better. Like everything in our lives, it’d be perfect if she was just here. But she’s not, and we have to come to terms with the fact that we’ve done OK without her, which none of us wants to do. But we do it, or the lines on the page become stilted.

So Saturday night I’ll have some hot chocolate, turn on my AppleTV and watch “The Apartment” and wish I had my own version of Miss Kubelik next to me . . . and I’ll take a breath.

A deep breath now.