Tag Archives: life

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.

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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.

A Complete Oddball

A Complete Oddball

 

My house is a haven for oddballs.

I don’t take in strays, that’s not what I mean. I mean that it is a house that contains, houses, breeds and encourages same said oddball activity.

There is no one odder than the head of the household, your humble author, the person tapping these small letters into the computer.

Perhaps I should explain. It all comes down to a cluttered mind, I suppose. Maybe it’s attention deficit. Perhaps it’s just over-ambition.

I am a journalist for a living. That’s my day-job. It pays the bills, I enjoy it, I encourage it and I believe in it. The Fourth Estate isn’t a textbook and esoteric for me. When I see something worth digging into I do it and when things like new laws of criminal cases or other things come from what I do I feel that my belief is proven again.

I am a writer part-time. I have written a novel that didn’t get published. I used to write here daily in therapeutic and sometimes prosaic phrasing. I write about my life, about raising kids, about being alone while doing it, all with tongue firmly in cheek and smirk clearly on face.

I am a musician. That may be the first and foremost thing after parenting four kids. I play guitar daily if I can. I am writing music again. I hope to go into the studio. I listen to blues and jazz and rock and world music and many other forms because, again, I’m an oddball.

But it’s not just the things I do that are ingrained in my personality.

While cooking I sing. Sometimes, in July, I sing Christmas carols. I shouldn’t, but I do it.

I quote Monty Python and This is Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride and a myriad of other movies, TV shows and whatever else hits my brain.

I talk to the kids like Bullwinkle Moose. I do crazy voices, talk like Daffy Duck, Charlton Heston, bad versions of Christopher Walken.

My house is a mish-mash of decorator things. There are leftover decorations from when my late wife put our home together, for sure. She had a knack for decorating, far more than I did. She’d explode if she saw the home now, though.

For one . . . the guitars are out. They are out and everywhere.

Gear

In the office, in the living room, bedrooms too.  There are guitars all over.

We love cartoons. They are art to us.  I have a wall of cartoon art.  I have an animation cell from one of the episodes of the cartoon Animaniacs.  I added to the wall this week:

Boris

Boris Badenov, the inept villain of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends. I got this cel from one of the cartoons just because . . . well because it’s cool, that’s why.

Pink

Then there’s the Pink Panther. It’s one of my favorite cartoons from when I was a kid and then this came up for sale, a cel from one of the cartoons I grew up watching as well. This is 1/24th of a second of an actual Depatie/Freleng cartoon and I’m thrilled.  It’s part of a cartoon art wall in my home.

The oddball-ness of my personality may very well be what makes me seemingly un-date-able for many of the female persuasion in my sphere of influence. I firmly believe and think I can go on the road once the kids are grown and be a musician for the rest of my life. It’s no less feasible than being a field producer for 60 Minutes or a network news reporter or anything else.

I’m an odball.  I’m growing a house full of odballs.

But then again, we’re having fun and living life. So who’s really the odball here?

Boxes…Everywhere Boxes

Boxes…Everywhere Boxes

Boxes.

You may never have realized the importance of boxes until, quite frankly, you become the parent in charge of said boxes or, like me, you are a single parent.

I had never quite realized how many boxes, tubs, containers and storage items my own mother kept around the house until I became that sole person, Dad, in the home. It’s not hoarding, though you might consider that the case if you looked into my own closet. It might just bear a slight resemblance to the old picture of a UK shoestore up there.

I don’t have a ton of shoes, certainly nowhere near as many as, say, my wife or my mother did.  Bear in mind, though, guys tend to have a pair of black dress shoes, brown ones, tennis shoes and maybe some work boots. That’s about it.

Yet I went to the store a number of weeks ago and bought brand new Adidas shoes.

shoes

 

Bright red Adidas, as a matter of fact.

Yet when I was in my closet this morning I realized, just purely out of a habit I’d acquired from the last few years, that the Adidas box, along with a box for dress shoes was sitting on my closet shelf. This wasn’t because I had some affinity for boxes or thought, now weeks removed from the purchase date, that I might need to return them. No, I have these boxes up on the shelf for one specific purpose: school projects.

Noah Barleywater Project
Noah Barleywater Project

These are the kinds of things, when you have two parents and Mom is generally the one to be home when the kids get home from school, that Dad doesn’t contend with. Plus, Mom usually has shoe boxes in abundance. (I know that’s a stereotype, but c’mon…it’s really kind of true, right?) So when I bought shoes for my oldest daughter, my middle daughter, myself, even the boys as their feet grow to adult proportions, I kept the boxes.

It’s self-preservation.

Self-preservation, you see, because you don’t hear about school projects until the last-minute. Particularly with boys. So when they come to you the Friday night before the project is due obsessing about the fact they need a shoe box . . . well, you have one. Or two, as is the case for my needs.

But boxes abound for other reasons. My oldest was only home a month before heading back to work on a grant for college. A large number of items left behind need to be sent to her back at school. This is where leftover boxes from moving, guitar purchases, Amazon.com or other areas come in handy.

But I also picked up a habit from my own mother. Storage containers (not big storage unit kind of things, like Container Store tubs) are great for kids’ items. I have file cabinets full of artwork and grades and report cards, things that I think are the history of my family. My mother had one of those tubs for each of us . . . of course mine ended up unceremoniously dropped on my doorstep last visit, but it was a fun walk down memory lane. Some of it . . . well, let’s face it, was painful to remember. Some made no sense whatsoever.

There’s also a box upstairs that I kept but I never open.

Inside a small purple box still labeled “Decorator Items” from the move from my last home, is a box full of materials dated anywhere from March 26th through the middle of April, 2011. Every sympathy card, dozens of homemade cards from the kids’ school, notes, paperwork, everything from the week my wife passed away is in there.

I didn’t bury it, there’s no hiding from those events, the days still burn in the recesses of our brains. Yet there’s no need to post a shrine to the days, either. I remember the last items I placed in there. Just days after the funeral I had to pick up the last of my wife’s personal effects at the hospital. Sitting on the top are three get-well cards that, even today when I think about them, are heart-wrenching.

I don’t open that box. I haven’t in four years.

Yet that box is really the start of our story. It may be the actual spark for the beginning of our story. It’s where we put the past, keeping it safe, not buried, not invisible. We see it, we may open it and reminisce when the mood strikes us, but it’s there.

It’s necessary, just like all those shoe boxes that sit on the top of my closet.

Only this box has never been empty.

When They Grow Up

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When They Grow Up

Despite the title and the picture seemingly contradicting themselves, that woman up there is actually all grown up.

Not totally, mind you, but far more than I would ever have thought.  Far more than her father, at that very same age, would have been as well.  In fact, I was knee-deep in the throngs of a crazy whirlwind relationship at that point.  It would be part of my life through most of hers.

So why do I call her all grown-up?

Last week I did one of the most stressful, scary things I’ve ever done since the passing of my wife.  I left my four children alone.

That’s right.  All alone, in the house, together my children were left in the care of their sister, now an adult. I had no doubts that she would be able to do it.  In fact, it was her father that was more concerned than she was.

It’s not that I didn’t make preparations.  I gave her money so that she could take them out for food.  She can cook, my daughter.  However, she doesn’t cook because, seemingly, it’s a task that she thoroughly hates.  Bake?  When the mood suits her.

So eat out was the plan.

It’s an amazing thing, this, because she is seeing an in-depth look at what life is like as a parent of two pre-teens and one full-fledged teen.  Moodiness, grumpyness and all-out cabin fever hyperactivity of her twin brothers.  That is what she faced.

Liberty Bell

So while I was wandering the streets of Philadelphia, taking pictures by the Liberty Bell, I was the annoying parent calling 3 to 4 times a day checking in on them.

The first time I called . . . the first day I was in Philly, my daughter answered the phone with “Hi, Dad, the house didn’t burn down, nobody’s injured, the kids are fine and we’ve all had dinner.”  She cooked.  Mac and Cheese . . . organic, of course.  God forbid those chemicals get into their systems.

So while I stood there worried not about whether they threw a party or went crazy or killed each other but worried that they are scared being alone without their only parent . . . they just laughed at goofy pictures of their Dad and sent me silly things about how crazy they were.  It was comforting.

Yes…it was comforting.

I wasn’t worried about the fact they are growing up.  Honestly, I wasn’t.

I am proud.

I am proud about the fact that my oldest daughter, without flinching, no complaint, said she would watch them without fail.  I am proud of the fact that they expected nothing but were thrilled with the things I brought home to them.

My kids were brilliant.

It makes me proud that they were brilliant.

No parties, no preppies, no boyfriends or girlfriends, no mess . . . well, okay, the house was a mess, but less of a mess than I expected it to be.

No . . . my kids are growing up.  That’s actually a good thing.

Looks like I’m growing up a little in the process, too.

The Reasoning of a Storyteller

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The Reasoning of a Storyteller

The first time I sat down to write out the events of my day to this site and out there for the world to see I was a bit apprehensive.  I wasn’t unsure if I should do this, I wasn’t sure it would actually work.

I bring this up because someone asked me recently why I do this?  What compels me to put thoughts to the keyboard and page today, though, is a completely different answer than it was three or more years ago.

When I first started the reasoning wasn’t for helping others, I was completely selfish in my venture. It was cheap therapy. Some people keep a diary, others write in a journal…this was my 21st century version of that, with the possibility of help from others if they were in the same boat.  I came to the point every evening that the house was quiet, lonely, and vacant except for me and my thoughts.  When this happened I was left to my thoughts, my grief, and my craziness at the time.

If you had asked me then it was a way to give myself therapy and to scream to the heavens that “this…this is what happens when you lose someone!”  Some of those pieces are fairly angry, some heartbreaking, some lovely, and some just . . . are.

Today, though, the process is far different.

Today, I write more in terms of being a parent, of the process, of what we’re doing . . . and from the fantastic things that happen in our lives.  I don’t use it for therapy any more, which also explains why I don’t write every day any more.  I write today more for sharing than for therapeutic issues.

My daughter over the last few days has come to me with the same phrase each time: “we’ve really come a long way, haven’t we Dad?”

All I can say is “yes.”

I know people who have been torn apart by loss and it’s terrible, it’s horrible, and I cannot say they’re wrong or they’re right. Every person is affected by this in different ways.  Some carry on, some marry immediately after (though I’ve never seen that go well) and others stay alone forever because they just don’t see life with someone else.

Then there’s kids who live without a parent.  What happens to them is completely contingent on what the remaining parent does. My failings, grief, emotions and thoughts be damned…I wasn’t going to intentionally fail four kids because I couldn’t handle things. I may fail but it wasn’t going to be due to lack of trying.

Life continues to move forward and you can either watch it blow past you or you can continue. The interesting thing I’ve found is that we haven’t “gotten over” losing my wife, we learned to live with the fact that she’s gone. Her story, it just ended. I wish it was more dramatic sometimes, or that we had more time but wishes just don’t make it so. Meanwhile…life happened. We had amazing things to fathom in front of us. We laughed – a lot! We saw graduations and dances and sang and danced (badly) and acted silly and giddy.

People on the outside sometimes wonder . . . how can we thrive and continue? The answer is pretty simple. The world, it turns. Day comes along again, every 24 hours, and we watch the sun come up on that Eastern horizon…even when the sky is obscured by clouds. When the world moves forward you have to choose either to move forward with it or watch it fly by.

We’ve chosen to ride along, on the crust of the planet, living and experiencing it all.

When They Care for You

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When They Care for You

I spent the better part of five days down for the count.

As my oldest daughter is found of telling me at times . . . I don’t get sick very often.  The problem is when I do get sick I get really sick.  Out of commission barely able to move around without getting winded sick.

I honestly didn’t think it was that bad, by the way.  I went into work on Monday, after being out on Friday, and thought it was okay.  I became quickly aware, however, that it was a mistake, particularly when I was having a hard time breathing.

This comes after a house full of kids spread whatever virus it was around like peanut butter.

I often say it – when you have kids your home is a petri dish.  It started with one son, went to my middle daughter, then me, then my other son. I had told him in the middle of Monday to let me know how he was doing by calling me.

The problem was he called and I was sitting in an exam room at the doctor.  I made the mistake of informing him that I was actually at the doctor, too.  That got all three kids worried.

Their Mom, you see, had come down with a respiratory infection and that is what sent her to the hospital and ultimately did her in.  It’s also why, when in years past I would have tried to tough this out for longer, I was sitting in the doctor’s office.  I didn’t tell them that they were doing an EKG because they were worried it was more than an infection, that would have been bad enough.

When I got home they had put out blankets and pillows on the couch.  They had taken a bowl of Skittles upstairs and were going to play videogames so that I could sleep downstairs.  As long as it took.  When I got up they were there, making sure I didn’t need anything.  My daughter asked if I wanted tea.  My son asked if I wanted to watch something on TV.

I have to be honest, after being the caretaker for so long, it was a bit annoying.  I didn’t want to be pandered I wanted to sleep.  I was never, ever, going to tell them that, though.  I knew that it was simultaneously scary for them . . . and it was so sweet I couldn’t be angry.

I slept for a couple hours, let the antibiotics start to take effect, and they came downstairs and sat quietly.  The quietest they have been in a long while.

I understand why they’re scared, it’s not just their Mom.  It’s not just that I’m sick.  I’m their Dad and they care.  No less than when I’m worried about them.

Still…there’s worry and then there’s worry.  After I got up from resting and some color had returned . . . they asked, almost in unison:

“So what’s for dinner, Dad?”

A Case of Mistaken Sympathy

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A Case of Mistaken Sympathy

Thriving.  That’s the verb my friend Rene Syler used some months ago when she looked at pictures, stories, and articles I’d written about my household.

I’ve never pretended that the blog here was more than a simple snapshot in time. It can paint an entire picture of what the whole day, week, or other time period reflects.  It can also be a simple moment, the briefest of blinks in the grand scheme of our lives.  For the most part, these posts, particularly now, are the latter.  Earlier, with struggle, loss, puzzlement and distraction they were a theme.  There was an abundance of prosaic writing lacking in any coloring of joy.

Then it happened.

There wasn’t a precise moment.  There wasn’t a switch that flicked and suddenly we realized that just enough time had passed and the wounds had healed.

Let me be clear, loss is loss.  You cannot get the person back and I postulate that there isn’t a “getting over” the person who is gone.  You simply learn to live with the fact that they are no longer there.  It’s not easy, no, but it happens.

Little things come up that remind you of them.  A smell in your workplace, a series of text messages (like yesterday’s post) but I write of those for what they are: glimpses.  A few years ago that smell of perfume would have thrown me for a loop.  The text messages, however mundane, would have dragged me to despair.

Today, though, things are different.  I see them as those glimpses, a peek into a past.  Where you place someone up high on that pedestal in the beginning the glimpse of life comes in…real life.  I see the beauty, which in the moment years ago I wouldn’t have seen.  I see the drudgery, which I would have ignored before.  I see . . . that it’s just different now.  Different, in this case, is good.  It’s not good because she’s gone, her travels on our road finished.  It’s good because we’ve made it good.  We’ve made a new life for ourselves.

The typical response – and I get it and totally understand, I’ve done it myself – is to express sympathy.  Most don’t understand what it’s like to suffer the loss of someone so young in their lives.

I honestly don’t write of these things in despair or in need of sympathetic intentions.  I thoroughly appreciate them, and they touch my and my kids’ hearts when we get them.  The kids are all in different places in their grief so their needs all vary.  Mine do, too.  However…I see life today and it’s a good one.  Where we were in need of the understanding before we aren’t now.  Nearly four years ago, when people said they thought of Andrea we understood, but also had to inform them – Andrea touched their lives but she wasn’t part of their everyday lives.  For us, simply cooking a meal held memories.  That’s a hard thing to overcome.

Today, though, we get those triggers and they, for the most part, make us smile.  Where the melancholy may come, it comes for a short time and blows away almost as quickly as it came.  Sure, some days are rough.  March 26th is never easy.

But I come back to the verb in the beginning – thriving.  We actually are.  Sure, money’s tight many times.  Sure, I have girls who need their Mom sometimes.

No.  I’m no longer married.

The change in those statements, though, goes something like this: I have girls who need their Mom, but I can tell them about their Mom when they need her.  I can call my Mom, their Aunt, my friends, any number of women who are perfectly willing to help.  My sons might need understanding and concern but I’ve learned to listen as much as strive to fix their situations.  It wasn’t easy, but it happened and we’re able to struggle together.

I also ease those same kids, knowing I’m no longer married, into the idea that their Dad needs some company once in awhile.  Maybe it’s just drinks with a friend.  Maybe it’s a date here and there.  One way or another, it happens and we learn to live with that.

I love the concern and sympathy and accept it with the dignity and love in which it was intended.  I also have learned, in accepting that sympathy, that we’re actually . . . thriving.

Tales of a Beat Up Rocking Chair

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Tales of a Beat Up Rocking Chair

It was bought a couple decades ago, close to five states away.

It’s a product of its time.  The white paint in stark contrast to the natural pine finish is, without a doubt, manufactured and painted in the 1990’s.  It places the chair starkly in the mass of furniture, equipment, bottles, diaper bags and clothes that every first-parent buys.  Once the first has come and grown, you recycle those items for each successive child.

I’d have to say there’s no affinity, no tie or nostalgia for this piece of furniture.  It’s dated.  It’s not even particularly comfortable.  Until an unfortunate spat with an infestation of ants that was nearly lost by the small humans in my household just this year, the chair’s seat was covered by a big, fluffy, bright red pillow with a white and yellow daisy in the middle of it.  Alas, powerful ant killer and dead insects do not a safe combination make.

In 1994 I had wanted an antique, creaky old rocker that would have history and time and comfort seeped into the pores of the wood.  I was vetoed.  The rocking chair, you see, matched the crib.  Never get in the way of a woman decorating her first child’s bedroom.

Every Mom feels a need for a rocking chair.  The motion is natural, of course.  A baby is awake, fights sleep with all its tiny body parts, every one of them moving in complete disarray yet with the same intent…to fight Mom and Dad’s attempt to get them to bed.  I tried this rocking chair on many an occasion.  It hurt my back, hurt my butt, made noise as it ground back and forth on the floor.  It was, without a doubt, one of those pieces of furniture you used . . . because it was there.

The chair became a source of comfort.  It also became a piece of furniture that my wife used far less than I did.

When my oldest daughter was allergic to all food . . . Andrea couldn’t breast feed, the regular formula and even soy formula made the baby violently ill…I sat with her in that chair, every feeding, every night, comforting the baby whose tummy was so sour her frown made you want to cry.  At the age of two months she had to have a scope look at her intestines and stomach.  I comforted her in that chair after she would throw up what little food she could keep down her stomach.  It took a couple weeks to get a formula that worked.  I used it then to rock her to sleep.

The crib and chair continued its existence from child to child.

When my second was born, shortly after coming home, she contracted RSV.  I sat in that chair, every two hours, giving her albuterol treatments followed by a bottle and rocking her to sleep.  When she was nine and had Whooping Cough – her vaccine had waned and others around us didn’t vaccinate at all, helping spread the Pertussis epidemic –  I would rock her to sleep in the same chair.

When the twins were born, I gave their mother a break from feeding them and held them together, in the chair, feeding them bottles at the same time.

The chair moved from Nebraska to Texas to California.  Eventually, the crib was given away to a family member who needed it.

The chair remains, and a funny thing happened.

That antique chair I wanted, filled with history and memory…it just appeared one day.

Tonight I sat in the white chair, placed next to the boys’ bunk beds, so I could read a chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  I noticed the chipped paint, dirty arms and beat up finish.  I found myself, out of sheer habit, rocking back and forth like one of them was in my arms, so small I could hold them in the corner of my elbow again.

The chair has history and comfort, even though in the beginning we thought it was thoroughly uncomfortable.  I looked up and saw the lights of two sets of eyes, looking through the rungs of the bunk beds and I slowly began to rock back and forth, like so many times before.

“Mayhem at the Ministry…”

There Blows No Wind

There Blows No Wind…

The line is from a Persian poem, written many years before Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet but dealing with the same themes of forbidden love and loss.

While the theme here isn’t forbidden love, there’s a good deal of loss, even four years on.

The poem, depending on the translation, goes like this:

I am yours
However distant you may be
There blows no wind but wafts your scent to me
There sings no bird but calls your name to me
Each memory that has left its trace with me
Lingers forever as a part of me

I’m a writer, sure, but poetry hasn’t been my forte.  (I know, musician but no poetry…don’t start with me)

The strangest things trigger memories.  They sit, strong, vivid, painfully obvious when loss first comes.  I don’t care if that’s your wife, father, mother, brother, sister, daughter, son…you get the picture.  The littlest things are memories.  You are surrounded by the person you lost because your surroundings are their surroundings, at least they were.

Years on the strength of the memories isn’t as great.  Still, they can come, and at this stage in the game they can come at the most random times from the most random of reasons.

In television and magazine terms, today, they call it a “trigger warning” when the publisher or broadcaster thinks people might have a severe emotional reaction to something they’re about to publish.  That is well and good when you know it’s going to trigger something.

But how do you prepare for a smell?

Andrea and Abbi . . . during the Pharmacy School era

The last couple weeks someone in my building at work has either a perfume or a lotion that – I think – must be exactly the same as one my late wife, Andrea, wore.

It’s subtle, by the way.  Some people bathe in perfume or lotion and you can smell them coming from miles away.  This isn’t that at all, in fact it’s light and just a wisp, carried in the air for the smallest of lingerings.  It may pass by most people with no thought whatsoever.

I hadn’t noticed what it was in the first couple exposures, if I’m being honest.  What I realized was that I was a bit melancholy, nostalgic, thinking of my late wife more than I normally did most days.  I couldn’t put my finger on why.

This afternoon, though, I was through a hallway and the scent was stronger, making me realize why I felt this way.  It was like hitting a wall . . . not a wall of smell but like the hallway disappeared and I was standing in a kitchen that barely afforded room for one person to move and she would move behind me so we’d be stuck, between sink and refrigerator and Andrea would have to put her arms around me, hugging, to skirt by.  It was the Thanksgiving where so many people came to our small home that we couldn’t actually get around the table…we had to go outside, into the back yard, and through the back door to get to the kitchen.

It was whimsy and youth and farcical and it was as if those days weren’t really as far away as I had placed them in my memory. As I passed through the hallway and back to my desk the smell lingered.  I can’t be sure if it was really there or if it had dissipated while my brain still processed the millions of nodes that danced in the delight of the smell.

The funny thing is, the smell was a delight.  I ached to stay in that moment, the memories rushing through like rewinding an old videotape.  It’s confusing too, though, because I miss her but I wouldn’t go back, either.  It’s a series of great memories and the smell becomes tactile.  I feel her hand on the back of my head and the hairs on my neck stand on end.  I want it and fight it at the same time.  Eventually I take a deep breath . . . and it’s gone.

It could very well belong to some twenty-something intern, which would be odd for me, considering I have a twenty-year-old daughter now.  Part of me thinks it would be best not to know who wears it, I couldn’t look her in the eye.  I miss my wife, but I don’t want to go back there, either.  The upside here is it doesn’t take me to the end.  Today, nearly four years later, I relish the good memories and the mere fact of its existence doesn’t make me realize how she’s gone.  She’s been gone for awhile now.

In the end, it’s a scent, but it’s a memory…a good memory.

It lingers forever as a part of me.