You’d think with a lack of children and the inability to take time off to go visit them that I’d be in the catbird seat, wouldn’t you? The reality is I’ve managed to put myself in a position where I’m juggling more things that I’d probably have done if I wasn’t sans-children.
The first, obviously, is work. I still have my daily grind and everything. I have a July sweeps calendar. I have a couple specials I’m helping a colleague with.
Then there’s the musician in me. I let a touring musician stay at my house. I started writing more of my songs that were weighing on me and I’d not taken the serious time to work hard on them. Then – and this one cracks me up – I volunteered to help play guitar in a band for a fundraiser and awareness day for the Human Concerns Coalition. Not that it’s a bad thing, I was really excited.
But being the worry wart I am I looked at the set list . . . then volunteered to sing several songs . . . then realized that I’ve played maybe 1/3 of the songs on the list. Country. Rock. Hair band stuff. None of that had I come to before.
So yesterday and today I was recording, playing, writing and trying to learn all these songs and – in Ringo’s words – I GOT BLISTERS ON ME FINGERS!!!!!”
That being said, I have a hard time saying no and I wanted to do it. I’m singing Long Train Runnin‘ by the Doobies. I get Take It Easy by the Eagles . . . and my biggest worry is Wonderful Tonight by Clapton.
I’ve posted last year how there are a lot of things that I brought to my relationship with my wife that we began to enjoy together. Music was one of those things. The song that Andrea loved the most – one we had at our wedding and listened to over and over again – was Wonderful Tonight. I have practiced it – over and over – and finally gotten to the point where I can sing it without my voice cracking in the middle. There isn’t an eighth note of that song that doesn’t remind me of her.
And it angers me.
It’s like a thief walked into my life and took seminal points and stole away with them. Clapton. Hendrix. Miles. Bird. Every genre has some kind of reference for our lives together. Some I can listen with wistful memories. Others have me a gelatinous mess reaching for the turntable to get away from them as quickly as possible.
So the weekend approaches and I’m going to take my brother’s method of locking myself in the house and learning – over and over again – and hope I can keep up with the rest of the people.
But I sound so much like I’m complaining. I’m not.
It’s an opportunity. I’m still juggling, but I’m not dropping the balls. I’m pushing myself to add more to the group. Now, as long as I don’t add flaming swords and chainsaws I’ll be happy.
I am sure you noticed how I’ve not posted since a couple days ago. Stress will do that to you, as will running around crazy. It was Open House at school one day, bills due, sweeps approaching, then it hit. The petri dish that is grade school, and by proxy, my household (have five people in a confined space in the winter and wonder how you DIDN’T get sick, I say!).
Yesterday I sat at work and went into an interview with someone who wished to remain anonymous, skittish, not wanting to be imposing, I shut off my phone.
You see where this is going, I’m sure.
Mere minutes after shutting it off, at 10:30am, the phone blew up, calls coming in every few minutes from the school. Sam, you see, was in the office. Running a fever. Needing to be picked up. This is just after having to call the high school so my oldest, Abbi, could stay home as well. I wasn’t there to answer, so by the time I got the voicemails and the random text message I realized I had all this and it was nearly noon. I was absent for less than two hours and I was in a panic. I saw my son, in the office, burning up with fever, coughing, and wondering why his Dad didn’t come to get him because he feels so awful. I need those four kids to have faith in me, but I feel constantly like I am finding ways for that faith to slowly whittle away.
I called the sick Abbi in a panic and asked her to run and get Sam. I sat struggling how to figure out picking up the other two and avoid the inevitable scariness that was there with the fact Abbi was going to practice for her high school play at 3pm, sick or no. I stared at the clock and the phone. Then I got a text from my Sister-in-law.
“The school called, don’t worry, I’m on my way to get Sam!”
I tried to inform her Abbi had him, that I could figure it out, not to inconvenience her. But she had already left work and told me there was no place she was going to be but at the house to help me today. Nothing. She got in, took care of the kids, forced Hannah to do her chores, even cooked dinner! I kept thanking her and she kept telling me to knock it off.
I can’t help it. I know the biggest lesson I learned from all this is I cannot do this alone. It doesn’t change the fact that I feel that Midwestern Catholic guilt for having to ask for the help anyway. I just feel so much like it’s an inconvenience to the people involved that I don’t want them to feel like I’m taking advantage. I know they don’t feel that way, but it’s my own fault. I feel it anyway.
Then today Hannah and Sam are both sick. Abbi, too. Yet they stayed home and I was forced to let Noah go to the school Extended Day Program, or EDP, for the rest of the afternoon. After a bunch of legal wrangling over a particularly sticky script, I’ve been forced to call family friends to pick him up! The EDP room closes at 6pm, after all! Again, they tell me not to thank them, they do it all the time, it’s no big deal, come get him at our house.
But my absence from the house bothers me. It bothers me a lot. Nothing would bother me more than my kids thinking they can’t count on me; that they think I put my work before their livelihood. But I DO think about it. I debate it a lot. Sure, they come first, without question. But what happens if I can’t work? If I can’t do my job? What do I do then? I have been going through this since Andrea was here, debating the idea of whether or not there was something I could do about the fact sometimes I have to work late at a moment’s notice. That and the fact I’m 40 miles from home when I do work. The advantage of my job is that it gives me flexibility to be able to get to appointments, school events, and other necessities. But it can’t only be give with no take. I have to do the job I’m paid for or the kids cannot stay here in California, I couldn’t afford it. Sure, I’d love nothing more than to stay home and take care of the kids, I’d love to make that my only task in life. I cannot do it, though, not and survive.
So I lean on family, friends, Andrea’s family, and feel my heart racing. My stomach is growling. My head is killing me from the stress of trying to get this to balance. Problem is, sometimes the weights balancing my life fall off, sending me plunging and carrying more weight on my end.
What’s the solution? Asking for help. Problem is I have to ask at a moment’s notice. The other problem it makes me miss Andrea that much more. I look and think “I’d at least have someone who could help me to juggle all this” but instead I’m juggling with one hand. I look at how she’d figure out the schedules and the disagreements and be able to help me figure it out. I had that person who could help me to breathe. But now she’s gone and I can’t figure out what to do when my daily life gets out of control crazy.
Fortunately, I have been blessed with people who help me.
Blessed, because help was given, once without my even asking, another time when I asked and there was no reservation, no thought, no discussion. Just “what do you need me to do?” and it was done.
You may think this is no big deal, that you ask for help all the time, that you do this kind of thing yourself or help people all the time and it’s no big deal.
Being the man that has to ask for and receive the help: it is. Believe me, when I come to you and say how much I appreciate the amazing help, it’s not an empty state ment.
Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it also makes mine pump that much faster. And all I want is for them to have a little faith in me.