Tag Archives: loss

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.

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.

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.

It Needs to be Done

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It Needs to be Done

Every once in awhile I get asked the question:

“What do you do if you get sick?”

There really isn’t an answer to that question. Not at all.

This weekend was a perfect example of that.

I have a back problem, a chronic one. It’s not something I complain regularly about (okay, not much) but it’s always there. From years of carrying tons of gear around and doing it the wrong way – yes . . . I was stupid in my youth . . . my spine compressed in the last few vertebrae. My back, you see, has the discs get closer and closer together as they go down.

I don’t know what I did. Sometimes it’s something stupid, like getting up off the couch and you feel it strain. The entire weekend I’ve been in agony.

So what do you do when that happens?

You parent like always.

In agony.

It’s not something you have a choice about. There were four days’ worth of laundry to wash, fold, and put away.  I made the kids put the clothes away.  There were dinners to be made. Sure, they could try and cook one but we’d have Mac and Cheese or sandwiches each night. They need (and so do I) something a bit healthier than that.

The house was disgustingly dirty. I’d had a lot of late hours last week and didn’t have time to oversee all the cleaning and chores and as a result they were, let’s just say, neglected. Add to that the normal weekend cleaning that we need to do and suddenly things are a hairy.

Then do that with shooting pain down your leg every time you bend.

I didn’t do this as a martyr. My kids didn’t sit and play videogames while I cried “woe is me, my children don’t care!” No . . . they worked. But even with four of us working the house doesn’t get clean easily. While one did the kitchen another did the sinks, I did toilets (because, god forbid they clean up their own pee and what have you). One dusted everything and then I vacuumed.

I made brownies, which is pretty simple. Once I was upright, I was fine. It’s getting upright that’s an issue.

The same thing happens if I get a cold or the flu or strep or any other disease.

The difference now, compared to if some other issue was to have happened, is my kids worried about me.

“Do you need to go to the doctor,” my son asked?
“No, this just happens. If it gets worse I’ll go.”
When I lie down to ease the pressure on my back they put blankets on me. When I got up they asked if I needed to take medicine.

My kids, you see, lost one parent. They don’t really want to lose another, not right now. I get that . . . and they won’t, not if I can help it.

So yes . . . I work through all the illnesses and the injuries. The thing is . . . now, I just don’t do it alone.

The Different Paces

Andrea and Abbi . . . during the Pharmacy School era

The Different Paces

I hadn’t expected the day to be quite so hard.

That’s a harsh, abrupt statement, but it’s true.  Mother’s Day, for us, isn’t normally quite so hard, at least I didn’t think so. Today, though, was a reminder just how wrong you can be.  You can think things are moving along at one pace and realize…you’re not the one setting the pace for everyone.  We all move at different speeds.

We all grieve and recover at different speeds, too.

Since Andrea, my wife, passed away four years ago I have visited her at the cemetery.  This isn’t for everyone, I know it, and I don’t pretend it should be. I know people in my own family and some in the kids’ extended family that refuse to ever go to the cemetery, it just has too many terrible memories for them.

But I go.

It’s been the habit over holidays, birthdays, and the most particular one, my anniversary…which is also the anniversary of her passing.  It’s not an easy day, even this far into the story.

Today was no different.  It’s Mother’s Day.  I can’t tell you what motivates me, maybe it’s just the love that will always be there, perhaps it’s routine or maybe it’s just respect.  Maybe it’s something driven into me from years of studying history and respect for those who came before us but I always bring her flowers.

My daughter asked me, “are you going to visit Mom today?”  I wasn’t going to lie.
“Yes,” I told her. “It would probably be a good idea.”

There was a protracted silence.

“Can I go with you if you do?”
Her brother chimed in immediately after, though a bit more quietly: “can I go too?”

The day had a lot ahead of it. We had trips to the hardware store and my son had some money burning a hold in his pocket so we were at a videogame store, too.  But we stopped and got flowers for Andrea.

The kids had never asked to go with me before and I wasn’t going to force them to go. I just didn’t think it was right. For them, in particular, their mom isn’t there in the ground. She is inside them. When they smile, when they sing – badly, in particular – when they dance in crazy fashion…their Mom is there. They said it would be okay so I assumed it would be okay.

Cemetery 2

The boys split up the red roses, their Mom’s favorite – or maybe just the ones I always gave her, not sure which.  My daughter put the mix in there, with some sterling silver ones…the same flower I wore during our wedding.  I snapped a couple photos thinking I’d post here because they were so brave and so amazing to want to do this.

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But just seconds after I snapped this I noticed it. You might, too, the look on the middle boy’s face.

This is the point right before the dam broke.

I go here, I contend with the loss and I foist the routine each day and I’ve come to terms with this for the most part.  I don’t have the moments where the loss still overwhelms me to that point.  Sure, there are moments.  When a woman at work leaves a trail of perfume that is the same scent Andrea wore, I’m thrown for a loop.  When something comes from left field, like a line from a movie or a food or a picture you never remembered…that hits you.

But the kids were not here.

My son couldn’t take it any more.  It is proof, yet again, that I may be observant but not observant enough.  I saw the glass form on the bottom of his eyelid and then the gates burst forth. His sister grabbed him, more, I think, because she wanted to cry, too, and she didn’t want it to seem like she was.  Comforting her brother was a good excuse.

I kissed the top of his head, commenting that I got more of a mouthful of his sister’s hair than his scalp and he laughed.

This is still fresh for them.  For weeks society has told them to love and cherish and remember to tell their Mom that they love her on Mother’s Day.  I think that was part of wanting to come to the cemetery…it just was hollow to know that they could say it…and while all their classmates and friends got tears of love and joy and soft hugs…they felt nothing but the breeze on their cheek up on the hill, underneath a crepe Myrtle tree.

I was reminded that while I dealt with many of these issues, mine are different issues. I don’t have a wife, sure…they don’t have a Mom.

We left…I took them home, we ate lunch…and I did the only thing that works: the routine. Stability. We ate, cleaned, folded laundry, and then went to the park after dinner.  We tackled each other, played football, and then I had them up and in bed.

I read a chapter from their current book and hugged them a little tighter tonight.

We don’t ignore the day. They called their grandma and their aunt and celebrated like everyone else. I don’t regret going up to her grave, either.

But I regret that I hadn’t noticed they need more time, if they are ever ready to come up there.  Days like this are when they miss her the most…it’s my job to know that. I didn’t handle that job so well today.

But tomorrow…tomorrow we go at it again.

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.

Worrying about the Worryer

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Worrying about the Worryer

Every brood has a child that, at one time or another, becomes the handful.  They want to be the center of attention or be in on the action or just want to be noticed.

When you have a family of five, where four of you are children, the voice becomes that much harder to project.  That’s even more the case when your Dad is the only parent and he’s got the daily details to deal with.  Then you tend to push and shout and be obnoxious in an effort to get attention.

This weekend it was my son.

It wasn’t that he was being noisy or obnoxious or anything.  It’s that I could totally relate to what he was going through and it hurt.

My son is a worry-wart.  Let’s just get that out of the way.  I know of which he speaks, by the way.  When I was little I was shy – painfully shy.  Some of that was just being a know-it-all, at times.  I had no idea that I was being annoying.  When I found something fascinating, I wanted to share it – I assumed the rest of the people around me would find that fascinating, too.  It was a cold realization that you don’t always meet people with the same interests.  I was young, naive, and it hurt.  I grew very shy as a result.

I know you’re wondering, by the way, why choose being in the media then?  You have to talk and meet people.  I overcame most of that shyness.  When I met my wife, Andrea, by the way, I still had a lot  of that.  I was in my late teens and early twenties, and she had none of it.  Took me by the hand and that was it.

Any apprehension that might have remained before 2011, when my wife passed away, vanished.

My son had a birthday party to attend.  For a week he was thoroughly excited.  Then came the day of the party – going to a basketball game – and he was almost in tears.  I didn’t back off, I knew he’d enjoy himself…but he has the unfortunate happenstance of getting the worst parts of both parents.  He’s shy – painfully so – and has that habit of thinking everyone will like his interests.  He also has the tendency to over-worry to the point of near panic.  That was his Mom.

I dropped him off, stayed longer than I should have to that he was comfortable…and then he got to go to a basketball game for a party.

Then I sat and worried.  I worried and worried as I sat for dinner with their sister.  I worried that the phone would ring and he was sulking or said something wrong.

Then he proved me wrong.

After nine I got the text they were on the way back and as he walked in he excitedly informed he how the game came down to the last shot…as the buzzer went off…and the Kings won!

On the way home he was smiling, happy, and had a great time.

I hoped he got the idea…and the lesson that I did at that moment: sometimes you can worry too much.  The rare occasion that something bad happens isn’t the worst.

The worst is the damage you do to yourself when you worry too much.

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.