Tag Archives: grief

Listen to the Music

It’s been a struggle this last few days to understand what the last six years have been like.  Six years ago, in a sudden hit to our family, my wife – the kids’ mom – Andrea Andrews Manoucheri passed away.  None of us expected it.  None of us wanted it.  She hadn’t been suffering in pain from some ailment.  It was pneumonia.  Just that simple.

So six years after that terrible day when I had to come home and tell the kids that their mother was gone it’s really a very different kind of thing.

Perhaps the best way to digest what the 6th anniversary of her passing meant might be to look at it by how I see all the kids’ reactions to this day.

We put a video together, like several years past, to commemorate the day but also to celebrate just how far we’ve come.  We used the Doobie Brothers song “Listen to the Music” and my middle daughter Hannah really stepped up and did an amazing job singing.

But the day . . . My oldest may have taken the hardest hit in the whole thing.  She spent the most time with her mom.  She remembers it all, the good, the bad, the really ugly.  I had a big hand in a lot of that ugly part and it’s hard for me to face sometimes.  So when the day comes it’s different for her.  She is also about to graduate college and move into the wide world…that’s a lot of change to face without your mom.  I can’t fix that.  I just have to know it’s true, which as a guy, isn’t easy.  My middle . . . she lets it all out.  She doesn’t always talk about it but when it hits her, it hits her.  She cries, she gets sad, it’s out there on her sleeve.  It’s different than her sister, and with all that she’s had more time at home with a single dad than her sister did.  That’s not right or wrong, it just changes the shape of how they deal with things.  She faces going to college soon.

My boys, though.  They miss their mom but it’s the hardest for me to see.  When I started dating I asked the boys if it bothered them seeing me with someone else, someone who is not their mom.  The response was telling: they didn’t really have a lot of memory of me and their mom together.  It’s just a sort of ethereal happening, something that was.  Affection, hugs, kisses, those are reserved for what their mom did with them.  But even that . . . they were 7 when their mom left.  They have officially lived almost as long without her as they did with her.  That’s an odd thing to face.

So . . . having said I may not post here again, or not very often . . . I post.  We did a video that I think encapsulates all the last six years and more.  We face the loss but we kept moving forward and doing it knowing that it’s okay to move forward.  It’s okay to be enjoying things even though she’s not here to enjoy them with us.

And like I’ve said many times, we’re stronger together than when we’re apart.  We miss you, Andrea, and we love you.

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When the Morning Comes

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When the Morning Comes

I decided, after much deliberation and fretting and sweating and stress, that the first single from our recording session should come out.  This even though we’re still in the process of rehearsing and recording the rest of my record.

Why?

Because I . . . and frankly all the musicians in the Ain’t Got No time (Rock and Blues) Band were moved by the results.  That’s not something happens all the time.  The mixture of the acoustic guitar along with the beautiful vocals that Matt Retz and Eric Rosander arranged for the tune were so stirring I felt that the time was right to release it.

When the Morning Comes will be the first single, released April 22nd in iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, YouTube Music, iHeart Radio, whatever the hell that thing Jay-Z and Beyonce have is called . . . hell I’ll beam it to Pluto so the aliens can broadcast it to the computer chip in your fillings if you want.

So let me regale you with the background of this song, if you will.

I came up with two lines in the very beginning, and that was some time ago, not long after losing my wife, Andrea.  She passed away on March 26th, 2011.

I’m broken and bent, beat down ’cause I spent my time fighting my battles of the heart.

I also had the chorus:

I see the moon…rising in the midnight sky, I see your headlights as you pass me by.
Though I wait here for you you’ve left me behind

Some years later the aching and pain started to fade and were replaced with some yearning.  Not for who I lost but for wanting to find someone else.  When that came I realized that meeting, seeing, hearing someone new was just as exciting and lovely as what I had.  So the last line of the chorus just fell into place:
And she’ll be here when the morning comes

The song is about loss, about love, and about the drive and enjoyment of moving ahead.  Sometimes you lose and you never recover.  Sometimes . . . life catches you by surprise.

This project…it’s just such a personal one, and as a musician that’s what you want, I suppose.  You grab deep into your soul, find themes that are universal, and bring them to the fore.  You don’t have to lose someone . . . we all have had breakups, arguments, divorce, loss takes all forms and faces.  I feel like this song could apply in so many ways.

My colleagues and fellow musicians say they can hear so many of my influences, from the Allman Brothers Band (particularly in the guitar solo) to The Black Crowes to The Eagles (particularly in the harmonies).  In the end, though, that combination of all of those makes this uniquely our own creation.

April 22nd the song drops.  I hope you are touched by it as much as we were.

 

A Time to Release . . .

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A Time to Release

Things have been a bit radio silent here for the last several weeks.  It’s time you knew why.

The picture up there is from last Monday, the 28th of March.  Just two days after the anniversary of my wife’s passing . . . two days past what would have been my 23rd wedding anniversary (we married young, and yes…they are the same day) I was in a recording studio.

Fancying myself a bit of a storyteller let me give you the long-winded explanation of why this is significant.  It comes, essentially, in two parts.

First . . . this whole thing started in the week or so following my wife, Andrea’s death.  I binge-watched in a sleepless week the entire TV series The Wire, which was good, from what I remember.  Then I did something my wife disliked…I picked up a guitar, in the living room, at 3am.  A song started to form and the anger and frustration I had got my blood going and in my sleepless state I had inspiration for music.   All the anger and emotion flooded out and I wrote a song about where I was at.

Then the writer’s block hit.  For more than a year-and-a-half I was unable to write music.  It was frustrating.  After that time, though, the dam burst and I was nearly prolific.  The result was close to a dozen or more songs that I was constantly honing and re-recording in demo form.

Fast forward a few years . . . my oldest daughter was struggling with what her career choice would be.  Deep down she wanted to do one thing but was clinging to what her mother wanted: something in the medical field.  She would have been good at it, it’s a noble thing to do . . . but I knew she didn’t want to.  So I told her to look at herself, her life, this was her time, after all.  “Find something you love, what you’re passionate about and work really hard at it and you will be happy.  Maybe not rich, but you will be fulfilled.”  (Or words to that effect)  My daughter turned that around on me a year later.  “When are you going to do that, Dad?”

I was floored.

“You need to go into the recording studio again.  You’re too good and you talk a good game . . . but don’t use us (the kids) as an excuse.  Find a way.”

So I have taken my own advice.

I joined a band . . . the Ain’t Got No Time (rock and blues) Band.  This is a group of some of the most talented people I know.  We started gigging first, a couple free fundraisers for charity.

Then I asked them if they’d record an album with me.  I even considered, at their suggestion, whether or not this could be a band album.  I almost did that . . . but a couple things stopped me:

  • Much of the material (most of it, in fact) helped me get through the struggles, the grief and confusion.  I wrote what I felt and this was a very personal project.
  • I wasn’t going to say this was “the band’s” record when I wrote all the material.  These guys all write and they write amazing stuff.  The world needs to hear a full band record, too.  That will come later.

We started rehearsals:

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And the band seriously became nearly de-facto producers of the record.

Here are the cast of characters of AGNT:

IMG_6543Kevin Mooney is the drummer.  He basically looked up, said “who do you want this to sound like,” and counted off the beat.  When we said more he gave more.  When we needed a break in the song he hit it dead-on.

IMG_6565Eric Rosander plays bass and sings backup (at least here).  He sings in an a capella   group so his vocal arrangements are strong.  He plays upright, and is one of the best bassists I’ve ever played with.

IMG_6569 (1)Matt Retz plays guitar – rhythm and lead – and sings.  He and Eric arranged backup vocals for my first single that sound like a full chorus of people behind us.  It simultaneously evokes gospel meets The Eagles and I’m so proud of it all.  Matt took some of the reigns and helped produce an amazing three songs.

IMG_0752Then there’s Robert Sabino…our keyboard player…though he’s so much more.  A resume that includes Bowie, Madonna, Simon and Garfunkel, Mick Jagger, and a who’s who of people from the 70’s-90’s and beyond.  Rob helped so much with arrangements that made the songs so much more than I ever thought they would be.  Between Rob and Matt the material didn’t just get better, it sang.

So two days in the studio, a massive amount of guitar amplification and a set of torched vocal chords by the end and I have two full songs and an acoustic instrumental that may be my proudest work so far in my life.

This was certainly something I did for me, for sure.  But without this band and these people it certainly wouldn’t be the material it is.  I love them all and they are truly magical people to be around.

So . . . that said . . . instead of working toward a full record and holding off, I’m so proud of this material I’m going to release a single in the coming weeks.  I am simply waiting on the publishing and copyright paperwork to clear.

Stay tuned for updates . . . hopefully the term “radio silence” will not be applicable is so many more ways.

Over and Over Again

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Over and Over Again

There is something people don’t really think about when you go into a situation where you want to record music you have written.

This stuff doesn’t magically just appear on acetate or hard drive or in the cloud or wherever it’s stored today with perfection and  bliss.  This is something taking preparation and arrangement.

I am lucky in that I have this group of amazing people who, even with little time on their hands, are willing and able to meet to settle those arrangements for music before we go into the studio on March 28th and 29th.  This is a particularly interesting thing because, though I can read music, I cannot write out charts and give full transcripts of all the stuff I have written.  I even have to look up some of the chords I’m playing because I honestly have no idea what it is I’m fingering, it just makes some sort of logical sense.

Then there are bass parts and keyboard parts and rhythm/lead guitar and what breaks we put in and what ones we ignore and . . . you begin to realize just how much more work there is than just “writing” your song.

Part of all this is playing sections of your song over and over again.  Some of you may have been through this if you ever sang in choir or were in the high school band or marching band.  You mess up a section . . . you do it over and over and over again until you no longer mess up that section.  With the help of technology today we can get those arrangements going and suddenly . . . we have a recording from a cell phone.  No, it’s not one you’d put on the record itself, but you can share it on a cloud-based drive, share that with everyone in the band, and suddenly you all have access to what the arrangements are.

Repetition might seem like it would get monotonous, but it actually is inspiring, particularly with talented people.  We suddenly have breaks where I had put none.  We suddenly have harmonized guitar lines and backup vocals . . . something I’m particularly poor at arranging, harmonies.

It’s been an amazing thing just to arrange two songs.  You might think that sounds a bit strange, only two songs in two days.  It’s not.  First you set up everything, and drums are the biggest thing to set up.  You mic up all those things, instruments, do a scratch vocal track while you play.  You will put a backing track with everyone.  Then you’ll do lead guitar.  Maybe acoustic.  Then vocals . . . then more backing vocals.

By the time we are finished I’ll be thrilled if we get these two songs completed.  The next step will be learning a few more . . . then a few more . . . and so on.

In the midst of what in years past would be one of the hardest months of the year – March, when my wife passed away – this is turning out to be the most ambitious we been through yet.

And it’s not even the end of March yet!

More updates later in the week!

In Three Part Harmony

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In Three Part Harmony

Working on your own material with a group of very talented musicians might seem nerve-racking.  I can’t speak for  other writers, but I always have apprehension when I bring up a new piece of material.

Yet when you have a group of guys who are not just talented but wanting to hear your stuff and wanting to help you succeed there is something so very satisfying about that.

My goal in the first recording session is to have two songs recorded and completed.  If there had been any fear that this wouldn’t happen I left those by the wayside after Friday’s rehearsal.

We started slowly, listening to the very bare demo and quickly put an arrangement together.  Then we tweaked it, wrote out a bass line, put things together, took them apart . . . and then it just seemed to work.

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When we finished the arrangement came the harmonies, which just added even more life to the song.  Something more than I could ever have hoped.

This all came after visiting the studio, Pus Cavern studios, which is small but comfortable.  It looks like the right kind of place for a group of guys working out harmonies in the drummer’s living room.

Not that doing this in a living room detracts from the material.  One of the best feelings is to have these guys say they like the songs and help me make the arrangements.  One of the bad parts of having learned guitar by ear is the fact that I cannot easily write up anything about what we’re playing.  It takes me awhile to even figure out what chords I’ve been playing by scrolling through reams of chord charts.

But as I look at the material, my daughter on the couch listening, she started to hear what it was all pointing toward.  “I always liked that song when you played it,” she told me, remembering my writing it with an acoustic guitar on the living room couch.  “But I just listened to the lyrics all the way through and . . . wow, I just never thought about things like that, from how you look at it, dad.  Wow.”

When you can touch a 16-year-old with your lyrics and music it’s a big deal, at least to me.  That says the themes are pretty universal.

It also says that the idea of finishing this and closing one door while opening another on my life is the right direction.  What an amazing experience to work with such talented people.  The songs take this raw form and turn into something so much bigger and livelier.

What an amazing experience . . . and we haven’t even hit the studio yet.

Adjusting Your Parenting

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Adjusting Your Parenting

Parenting itself is a strange occupation.  It certainly is the most important and amazing thing any person will ever undertake.

It’s also the most ridiculous.

Seriously.

Even Ikea gives you bookshelves to build with an instruction manual that any language can at least minimally understand.  Sure, there are some parts left over but as long as they stand up you’re good, right?  Kids?!  They have no instructions.  You’re given this little thing that changes not just on a daily but almost hourly basis and you’re supposed to understand what it needs by the tone of its screaming.

It must be internal wiring, then, that allows us to hear those variations in tone and pitch that get us to understand “nope…not hungry. Must be the diaper needs changing.”  That…and the fact that we feed them, then change them, then rock them anyway and get them to sleep.

But those early days, the days where only the most basic needs are the things that babies require, are universal.  Everyone from our ancestors to our grandparents to our parents went through these days and apart from the types of diapers and “Diaper Genies” and pre-measured baby formula, there’s not much difference there.

It’s when they start to talk that things changed.

I even saw things change from one child to the next.

I remember when my oldest child, now 21, sat on my lap in front of a massive PC and played CD-ROM games with me that had The Cat in the Hat along with Green Eggs and Ham and Little Critter.  It was like Sesame Street on a computer.

Now I’m at teenager phase with the other three kids.

My example of good parenting is no farther than a generation up from me, my own parents.  So when I became a single dad after losing my wife in 2011, I stuck to that example.

The problem became twofold, though. First: I was alone, there weren’t two of us parenting anymore.  So I had to adjust my time spent acting like the at-home parent to when I was at home.

Second: times have changed.

I rode my bike everywhere and grew up in a really small town.  We rode a three-wheeler in the snow and played baseball or football or basketball all day long.  We had an Atari 2600, but even that got old after awhile and you went outside and played all day.

Today we all have cell phones.  That little thing in our hands has more power than even the most powerful videogame system I ever owned as a kid.  The graphics look more real on my phone than the Sci-Fi movies I saw as a kid.

So what do you do?

You adjust.  My kids have their video games but they also have time. They go to the park.  You adjust to technology.  There are 700 channels but rarely anything on television.  You mix the old with the new.  Where they want to listen to Kendrick Lamar you mix in some Sam and Dave in the middle of it so they hear the greats.  You play Clapton after they hear Black Keys and Hendrix after 21 Pilots.

And while you adjust you also tell them how life isn’t all that different. You are here, stable, holding them and shaping their day just like your parents did.

Technology and society may have changed and you have had to adjust to them.  Still, your basics remained the same: you’re there. So no matter where they are you will be there.

That’s not much of an adjustment.

Another Year

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Another Year

I noticed just today, as I got an alert that there was a bunch of traffic on this site . . . that I haven’t written here in awhile.

Let me explain, for those who might subscribe, or want to read, or the less likely few who might wonder “why?”

There’s a pretty simple explanation.

I haven’t really needed to write.

This isn’t some epiphany, I haven’t had a resurgence of religious fervor or fallen down a well or freaked out or anything.  I’ve simply not needed to do it.

I started writing here, I’ve said before, because it was honestly helpful.  Think of it as an online journal, a way to express the really good, really bad, and in-between when I needed to get all that feeling and reality out of my head so I could move forward with my day.

Most of the things I’ve written, some of it more than four years ago, came from the darkest part of my life up to this point.  I was grieving.  I would run at 1,000 mph with the kids, cooking, cleaning, laundering . . . and then they would go to bed.

…and all was silence.

The only thing left were the voices inside my head, the worries, the memories, the grief, and the panic.  They all swirled around.  When the kids wouldn’t listen; when there were bad grades; when I had to face punishments and there was no one left to back me, just me.

8:30pm through midnight were the worst hours of my life and the times I wrote, every weekday, about what went on in my household.

But as I said, a strange thing has happened.  Maybe not strange, wonderful perhaps.  Joyous? Loving?

This coming year, 2016, will mark a year where there has been more happiness than disappointment.  Not as many screw-ups and nowhere near the panic or disappointment that were there.  Tears that are shed come mostly from laughing so hard.  When letters, cards, pictures or other things of my late wife appear they’re happy memories, not bad ones.

So 2016 comes and we have made plans, have been moving, thinking, and creating.  College beckons for one kid, graduating college is on the horizon for the following year too.  My boys are reaching out and doing more than they ever had before and doing it separately.  Student Council, Academic Clubs, guitar, reading, writing, basketball . . . all my kids are doing amazing things, things that I didn’t anticipate.

Things we hadn’t done before.

The year is a new one, and it’s a blank canvas.  It’s an empty page awaiting the first grey and silver smudge from the pencil as it hits the paper.  It’s waiting for us to tell the story . . . and it will get told.

But it doesn’t always get told for all to see.

As much as I wrote it was never everything that happened in our home, that would be impossible, impractical, and self-aggrandizing.

No . . . this last year has seen something extraordinary.  It saw us all becoming the people and family we are today.  It saw us being influenced by the past but not living within the past.

A new year holds so much promise . . . we just have to live up to that.

After the last year?  We might just be able to do it, too.

New Traditions

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New Traditions

I used to wait until the 1st or 2nd week of December, at the least, to do the decorations on my home.  This was something that started years before, when I figured we needed to recover from the event that was, every year, the Thanksgiving holiday.

It’s not that I fought the commercialization of Christmas – though I hated that the stores were playing Christmas carols right after Halloween.  It wasn’t even laziness.  I inevitably had a house filled with people – my family, my wife’s family whatever.  If they weren’t in my house I was at theirs.  If my family, travel was involved.  If my wife’s family, there’s always the stress of being with family and such.

Yet things changed.

2011, after my wife passed away, Christmas was just . . . weird.  That’s right, I said weird.  I didn’t know how to get everything alone, decorate the house, none of it.  Christmas was always a huge holiday for me growing up, I loved it, and it seemed like some of that magic had been stolen away.  It had drifted somehow.  There was a part of me, though, a part of my kids too, that wouldn’t let it go without a fight.

So when I got my feet things changed.

We have an artificial tree.  I didn’t want to keep that up.  If that was the way things were then we would have it different.  The way things are, then, is that we go get a real tree.  Since my daughter had headed off to college, I went the weekend of Thanksgiving and we got that tree.

My wife had been a superb decorator.  It was far more than what I could or would have done.  Sometimes I bristled under the constraints, like limits on lights or what lights or how to put up the lights.  She also made gorgeous tree decorations and we were only allowed to use those.

But when we were without her I realized we had boxes filled with decorations that she had made, my kids had made . . . even I had made.  We’d softened that “annual style” idea to one that included many of those before my wife passed away.  Now that it was my house only . . . the themes kind of drifted.  It wasn’t a nostalgic theme, it was putting the ornaments on we wanted to put on the tree.  As a result the house and the tree are a hodgepodge.  So is my house.  That way it matches perfectly our personalities, the broken, bent, re-shaped style that we all have.  That’s our decoration, too.

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I got new lights and that same weekend every year we put them on the house.  My son, who is afraid of heights, started coming up on the roof and helping me install them.  We put reindeer on the lawn.  I put garland on the porch.

It’s an all-day event, with the tree, the house, all of it.

Certainly, you could call them new traditions.  It wasn’t intentionally shutting out the old ones.  It was merging the new with the old.  I had lost a lot . . . I wasn’t going to lose Christmas.

This year we did it again.  A huge tree – bigger than I wanted, but then I am a sucker for Christmas.  I put the lights up, added some to another tree, and worried not one lick about if it was too much.  It wasn’t.  I already have some presents, too.

We took what was an old set of traditions, ones that could have hurt terribly, and made them our own.  Re-shaping the ideas into ones that match our current lives, states of mind, and feelings.  That’s not a bad thing, it was a good thing.

They are new traditions, and we never lost the magic that Christmas brings as a result.  That’s what was – if you’ll excuse the cheesy line – so magical about it all.

Forgotten Memories

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Forgotten Memories

Ever found something you didn’t even remember you’d lost? That was what happened to me the other day.  It wasn’t a watch or piece of jewelry or a favorite shirt or lucky penny or anything like that.

It was a camera card.

You know, those SD cards that you put in your camera?  In the old days you had film, negatives, prints, those all took up space and you might forget them but they were hard to ignore.  These . . . well, these were easy to lose and ignore they are the size of a postage stamp.

I found this card strictly by accident, I was looking for something completely different in my office.  I didn’t even know it was there, but having seen it on the top of a shelf I put it into my computer and there it was.

A series of photos, apparently taken by myself and my children, a combination of both for sure, that had tiny little twin boys and a pre-teen middle girl and my oldest…graduating 8th grade.

It’s interesting to see the differences in the kids.

The boys, certainly, have the happy ignorance of youth.  The girls have that giddy smile of transition that you get when you’re not old enough to care about the homecoming dance or who’s dating whom or whether you look good enough in that outfit.  (Okay, the oldest did, but the drama didn’t come until much later)

The hollowness of grief isn’t visible here, either.  That’s not to say that they bear some major burden or massive weight on their shoulders, that’s not true.  They don’t look that way today.  No…what they show here is the lack of instant and quick maturity and age that they developed in a matter of weeks or months after they lost their mother.  The smiles are carefree and sincere and without hesitation.

A couple things are evident to me from this.  The carefree smiles are back.  It took . . . whew . . . more than a few years to get here.  It took stability and knowing things are okay and that I’ve not completely screwed up to do it.  My daughter still asks when I get paid and if we’re okay financially, though, which is a throwback to when we were struggling.  That’s when their mother was alive, not after she passed away.

The other noticeable thing that saddened me a bit was what was missing from the photos.  Even if the kids had taken them two people are nonexistent: me and their mother.  I kind of understand why I’m not there, I was probably taking some of the pictures.  Their mother, though, hated her photo being taken.  I like to believe that if she’d known finding this card with her on it would have given me and her kids some pleasurable smiles she’d have allowed the pictures, though.

This has been the case with so many of the memories we find buried in boxes or on shelves…the real moments, the ones where kids are covered in frosting or taking a bath in the sink or running in the cold air . . . those are missing her.  It’s a sad reality that we don’t have her in there . . . the ones we do have are the sort of portraiture and staged photos.  Yet the ones we love – even from those sessions – are the outtakes where we all are smiling, laughing or being silly.

Still . . . it’s nice to see those smiles and realize just how far we’ve come.  Maybe that’s why fate put that card just where I could find it in the first place.

 

30 Reasons

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30 Reasons

Today my wife, Andrea, would have been 45 years old.  For me and my kids it also marks 4 1/2 years, 5 birthdays since she passed.  I wouldn’t say every year has gotten easier, that doesn’t feel quite right.  Perhaps it just means . . . each has been different.

October 30th is always a bittersweet day, particularly for me.  For most people this is the day before Halloween, nothing more.  Unfortunately, for me, it has a couple more realities.

October 30th reminds me of my late wife, who you see up there.  She passed away in 2011, on March 26th.  But now it’s a day I celebrate with those closest to me, immediate family, so to speak. They could be related by blood or they could be family because we love them.

The day also reminds me, annually, that I screwed up, a lot, on more birthdays for my wife than I succeeded.  There were some, like the weekend overnight in a B&B in Napa.  There was the earlier part of our relationship and marriage where you are so happy you give them a card and it’s amazing. However, I didn’t make the time I should have. That hurts.

But we don’t dwell on the bad. We dwell on the good.  We call it, as I posted last year, Celebration Day, which is, of course, a Led Zeppelin reference.  (Ever the musician)  But we have tons of reasons, most are amazing, some are shallow, all are wonderful.  They are the reasons we celebrate.

  1. My wife was a force of nature.  My brother used to have a reference “a bottle of fire.” That was Andrea, a woman who grabbed you by the hand and barreled off the cliffs of insanity, damn the consequences, enjoy the ride!  For the most part, I really did enjoy the ride.
  2. That Smile – Some people smile and they have great teeth or great personality. My wife smiled and her whole face smiled with her. It lit up a room and my heart.  Friends tell me I’m a sucker to this day for a great smile – a whole of your heart smile – and they’re right.
  3. We didn’t celebrate enough before – this is one of those selfish ones. I didn’t celebrate enough when she was around.  I want her family and friends to know how amazing we still think she was.
  4. We aren’t sad – This is hard for some people to grasp. OF COURSE we miss Andrea.  She was a wife and mom and friend and amazing.  But we can remember her, honor her, love her, and still find life, happiness, adventure . . . and even love again. We still love her.  Yet she is the one who is gone, she had it easier in some ways.  She doesn’t have to miss us.
  5. We Miss Her – Again, selfish, but of course we miss her!
  6. The kids should find this a happy day – How do you hit this day without the kids feeling like it’s yet another reminder she’s gone? You embrace the day. Talk about her. Love her, embrace the goofy things she did and talk about what made her wonderful.
  7. It’s a fun day – You carve pumpkins, have cake and ice cream, and laugh. What’s wrong with that?
  8. It’s a reminder – Not just a reminder of who she was but who we should be. We should make time, and though I am often late from work, even if I’m late on this day we will celebrate.
  9. The Goofiness – While the kids remember parents as parents, they get to hear the silly things.  They hear about dancing around in the living room and singing off-key and Halloween nights drinking beer and driving around in a golf cart with Andrea’s uncle.
  10. Warmth – We grieve at different times already. We grieve when the day she died comes, which is so hard for me because it’s also the day I married her. We smell something or see something or hear a song and we get emotional thinking why is this happening now?  Rather than do that why not embrace this as a day to be happy?
  11. We celebrate that we had her – We could be sad she’s gone, but how amazing is it that we had her at all?  Most people don’t lose a parent or a spouse like this, I get that.  But how often do you celebrate without the stress?  How often do you look at your wife’s birthday as a celebration you get to have her?  Instead you’re probably stressing about getting everything right.  Which one sounds better to you?
  12. Why Not? I mean . . . I won’t be able to do those birthdays over and I don’t ever think of it that way.  Still . . . why not do it to show your kids what’s supposed to happen?  Why not make it an enjoyable day?
  13. Memories – We all have different memories of people and events.  This way I get to hear different perspectives from my kids of what their memories are of their mother. Same with family and friends.
  14. Cake and Ice Cream. I mean . . . who doesn’t want a night that ends in cake and ice cream?
  15. It makes you feel good – let’s be honest . . . the cliche’s and tropes are right.  It’s so much fun to give to someone and have them have fond memories of Andrea and of the day because you gave them something?  That’s pretty damn amazing.
  16. You connect with family and friends – I love my kids to the ends of the earth.  Yet this day I get to FaceTime my daughter in college and the kids stay home and we do things. That’s important.  My family, Andrea’s family…we all have this day to remember her by.
  17. You Confuse People – This sounds weird, I know, but it’s fantastic to confuse the hell out of people who think you’ll hit this day and just . . . fall apart.  I don’t.  Okay, maybe a little sometimes.  Mostly, I hit this day and smile because I know we’re doing it right.  I remember her.  It confounds people that you aren’t in a puddle in the corner.  I mean, in the beginning you laughed to keep from crying.  Now you cry because you’re laughing about some ridiculous story.  It’s pretty great.
  18. You Prioritize –  Even today I have a colleague who yells at me if I’m late getting out the door for a kid’s event or a holiday or anything.  But this day, even if I have to work late, reinforces that I’ve put the kids and family and close friends as a priority.  That’s just a good message to send.
  19. You enjoy the day, not the stuff – In the beginning I made cake from scratch and got fancy and . . . it stressed the hell out of me.  Then I realized that if I have time, it’s fun to make the cake.  If I don’t, a decent cake is good, too.  The kids started to ask for things like it’s Christmas…which I quickly put a stop to.  It’s not about that, it’s about all of us together.  So cake from Freeport Bakery . . . that’s just fine with everyone.  It’s fine with me, too.
  20. You make the day about us, not just her – It’s important to remember this . . . it’s certainly about her.  It’s not about presents or cake or treats or any of that, though.  When the kids start saying “I want (insert toy here) for Celebration Day” you remind them it’s a day about us, not about presents.  Then it’s amazing. My son asked if we could call his sister in college and was happy that this year it’s Friday, and he thinks she’ll be around.
  21. You Put Aside the Guilt – Yeah, my guilt for sure.  But the kids have it, too.  My son, who worried his temper tantrums wore his mother down.  How he thought it was his fault she was gone.  How my daughter fought her tooth and nail on everything.  None of that matters.  This isn’t a day to dwell on what went wrong.  It’s a day to remember what was right.
  22. It’s not about living in the past – We live different lives now.  Far different than the lives we were looking to live a few years back.  A daughter who isn’t in a medical field.  A son who loves movies.  A musician daughter.  None of those were expected in the scheme of things from a few years back.  Yet we will celebrate those, too.  This is as much our day now as hers.  That’s a good thing.
  23. It IS about the future  – We’ll talk about what’s next.  It’s certainly where we’re going now.  I have learned through the last few years to be very, very supportive.  I am trying my hardest to do that and this helps me more and more to do so.
  24. It IS about those close people – We use the connections we made this day to stay close to those around us.  I have a friend who is my friend now . . . who years before would have been “Andrea’s friend.”  That is pretty amazing and in a tangiential way Andrea’s the one who made it happen.  I am better for it.  Others who I might have talked with occasionally I talk with all the time.  That’s important.
  25. With my wife, AndreaThat smile – Yeah, I know, on here twice.  I’m not simply a person about looks or image, but . . . for good or ill, when she flashed that I was hopeless.  You have to admit, it’s pretty spectacular.
  26. It’s not loss, it’s leaving them behind – We continue to age.  My sons are literally feet taller than when they lost their mom.  My daughters, too.  My oldest is in college, about to be 21.  She will remain that pretty, smart, silly, intelligent woman at the age of 40.  She will never get older.  It’s like we continued on another path and she’s behind us somewhere.  Never meeting up again.  That’s hard, for sure.  Then again, we remember where we came from and that makes us happy.
  27. Remember it’s about the journey – Part of leaving the path we were on with Andrea is remembering that it’s not about the path or where we are going.  At the end of the day, we need to enjoy how we got there.  Sure, we got lost in the woods here and there but how amazing was the view when you had to climb a tree to find the path?  How close did we get trying to find our way?  That is what it’s about.
  28. It’s not about what she’d want . . . it’s building off what she started – No, we aren’t doing what we thought we would five years ago.  That’s not a problem, not for us.  Yet we know the great things she gave us before now.  My girls know they can do anything and don’t get discouraged by others because of her.  My sons know that their mother loved them and wanted them to be happy.  No matter what the plans were . . . they’re far more now.
  29. It’s okay to be sad – Sure, the kids and I will have moments where we’re sad.  How could we not be, it’s her birthday, we loved her, love her still, and we do wish she was here to celebrate.  But we don’t live in the sadness.  We live and that is part of the sadness.  It’s hard to know we’re going to keep experiencing these amazing things – a movie studio tour; homecoming; prom; 21st birthdays; all of the things life brings and know that she’s not experiencing them with us.  But this day lets us realize we know what she’d be thinking and doing and loving us all.
  30. Love.  In the end it’s love.  That’s cheesy, sad, Lennon-esque for sure . . . but it’s about love.  I . . . loved . . . her.  I still love her, it’s not that I ever will stop.  Think about the first man or woman you loved and then it ended.  Did you stop loving them, even if you had a terrible, horrible break up?  No.  You didn’t, stop kidding yourself.  But life is about continuing the journey.  You keep moving because the world carries you along on it’s crust, spinning around the sun and taking you with it.  When they are gone you can try and stop with them . . . which will do more damage to you . . . or you can live.  We can honor her and love her . . . but we all change in life.  The hard part is that she is now unchanging, where she was in 2011 forever.  We are not and we have to move forward.  That’s what’s difficult.  So we honor Andrea on the 30th to remember what we were and remind us that we can continue to keep living.

This is our day now.  It’s also hers.  Happy birthday, Andrea.  Happy Celebration Day to my kids and my close circle of family/friends.  Don’t be sad.

Celebrate.