Tag Archives: marriage

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.

 

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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.

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.

I Been Up…I Been Down

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I Been Up…I Been Down

Weekends are a weird dichotomy in my home. They are the one time I sleep past 5:30 or 6:00 am.  Yet I don’t get really past 8am because…essentially…they are catch-up days, too.

The last few weeks have seen an abundance of weekend events and things too, though. We had homecoming one weekend.  Then I had a gig with a band – musicians I’m thrilled allow me to make some noise on the stage with them.

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But then today saw me showing my exasperation with the three remaining miniature Manoucheris in my household. One had been sick with a cold, which he has since passed along to me. I started another change in eating habits because I’ve been told I’m eating too little and I won’t lose weight unless I balance my diet better. It’s true, I’m sure, but I feel more than a bit bloated from eating more than I normally do each day.

Then came today.

My daughter was in her usual position – asleep until nearly noon.

I didn’t.

After twins arguing constantly . . . and the kitchen a complete mess . . . and several weeks of getting behind on cleaning the house I had reached nerves that had gotten more than a little raw. Add losing energy from a cold and it gets worse.

So when I had to load a plethora of dishes that one of the boys missed for the dishwasher while in the middle of prepping to vacuum I had my own temper tantrum.

“You know . . . I got up this morning, made you breakfast, mowed the lawn, did two loads of laundry and then cleaned up the front room,” I calmly asserted.
“I cannot do everything,” I informed them. “If I did I’d sleep sometime around 2032.”

It made a small dent.

When my daughter woke up I told her “good afternoon” and she rolled her eyes.
“You know, I’ve cleaned your clothes, at least some of them. You could take the rest upstairs.”

Then my son put his creativity in place and made one of the cutest Halloween decorations ever using recycled Kuerig K-cups. Ghost lights.

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The pleasure was short-lived, though, when I went to wash sheets and the bottom sheet of one of their beds tore down the middle. They simply don’t make them like they used to I suppose. This created a hour-long search for old twin sheets until I can replace the custom space-themed sheets on his bed. Life of having a late wife who was part decorator, I guess.

Then came the 7:30pm hyperactivity, which seems to hit with every kid around the ages of 10-12. This is solved fairly simply with chores. Lots and lots of chores.

While making beds the sons begin to ask if I have any stories about their older sister or oldest sister and things they did that got them in trouble. After regaling them with one or two I look down and it dawns on me:
“You don’t need to start telling stories about their problems. You yourself tried to climb up your dresser only to have it fall on you. You were screaming your head off.”
That stopped the conversation dead in its tracks.

It was a long weekend of cleaning, decorating, and other issues that I never thought would come up. But in the end, as they went to bed, tired and satisfied . . . it ended, this weekend, on an up note as I turned on the ghosts and watched them twinkle in the house.

Treasures You Never Knew You Had

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Treasures You Never Knew You Had

My oldest daughter is in the middle of a college project, one that needs old pictures of her as a kid. I’m not against that, I tend to be a bit nostalgic and I like old things. I like history and the history of our family and where they came from and all that is part of who they are.

Most of my pictures are stored in this series of stacked chests that my wife used to use for decoration. My sons had taken to calling them “treasure chests” and I had no idea how correct that might actually be. I simply assumed that this would be another in a series of walks down memory lane.

IMG_5243We certainly found pictures of my daughter as a little girl. Since I was a news photographer at the time it’s not hard to understand why there would be a lot of them. I had a camera around me all the time, both video and still. It wasn’t actually the pictures that got me, it was what was there with them.

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In the box was an application, ID card and several pictures from the Miss Teen of California pageant, 1986. On that card, of course, along with a picture, was the name Andrea Andrews, my wife. Now…I’m sure she may have told me years ago that she’d been in the competition but I certainly didn’t remember it.

“Oh, yeah,” my daughter casually informed me. “She didn’t win, of course,” was her response.
“She should have. She was pretty enough,” was my response.

Under that was a tiny journal, one I’d never opened because I assumed it was simply empty. My wife was a good writer, she liked to write in fact. She didn’t do it like writing in a diary, though, or as I’m doing here . . . blogging my life’s minor events. Yet when I opened it inside was an itinerary and a day-by-day telling of a post-high-school-graduation trip she made to Europe. I knew about the trip, heard stories, even saw pictures. But to see her words written out was pretty amazing. More than that it was surprising.

I have to be honest, though, they all made me smile. It was a pleasant thing to see her words, find out new things. We’d been married 18 years, that’s no small number. She died too young, 40, and I grew to think I knew most everything about her. I knew that when she was hungry you needed to feed her quickly. If she grew really quiet after telling you how hungry she was you were in for an angry tirade the Tasmanian Devil himself would run from. I knew that she wasn’t nostalgic, she was always looking ahead, which made us kind of a good pair at the time.

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Then at the bottom of one of the treasure chests was this tiny mailbox.

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I remembered it. We’d carried it – one of only a few things left over from the years when we’d met and still lived somewhat separate lives.

“That’s a sorority thing,” my daughter said matter-of-fact. “They still do that sort of thing, little boxes and stuff to keep memories in.”
“I know,” I replied, “but your Mom never kept anything in this.”

But as I moved the mailbox I heard something inside, which ruffled my brow a bit. As I opened it little dried pieces of something started to trickle out and a silver sparkle caught the light inside.

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“It’s a corsage,” my oldest daughter exclaimed.
“That’s not just any corsage,” I told her. “I gave that to her.”

In 1989, just a few years after that pageant I hadn’t known about, Andrea and I started dating. For me it was wonderful because, well, she was wonderful. I was always reminiscing about those days but I never thought she did.

I remember ordering the flowers. Andrea had been to a myriad of sorority dances and formals and watched friends and roommates with their dates. This one, her senior year, she finally had one of her own and not some schmuck just looking for a date but an honest-to-god boyfriend.

The florist had asked what color her dress was. When I asked she told me “I want it to be a surprise,” so I decided to go with the old standby. I chose roses…red roses because, even in that short period of time, I was already in love with her. It seemed appropriate.

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It turned out, of course, that red roses were probably okay but the silver ribbon might very well have clashed a little with the pastel pink dress she wore. Being a strapless dress and with no place to pin the corsage she carried it to the hotel room we shared with her roommates and their respective boyfriends.

There, some two decades later, neatly preserved in a mailbox was this little token. Not very expensive, not even really worth much. It was obviously worth a lot to her, this person who kept little and treasured less.

I looked up and realized the kids were all looking at me, my mouth slightly agape, unable to talk.
“I had no idea she’d even kept this,” I told them. I tried to say something more but the words just caught in my throat and I just looked at the flowers, turning it around in my hands.

I asked my son to get me a plastic bag. The “baby’s breath” was starting to fall off the flower so I placed it gingerly inside the bag and returned the flower to the mailbox. She put it in there, it should stay there.

I put the boxes back in their place and marveled at how the more I knew about my wife, now gone these four-odd years, the more I seemed to learn about her.

It’s not often you get a surprise. Then again…it’s nice to be swept off your feet every once in awhile, too, just like she obviously was the night I gave her those flowers.

The Moment She Realized

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The Moment She Realized

It started tonight with Whitesnake.

Wait, wait . . . stay with me! I know, it’s a hair band from the 1980’s and the embarrassed icon of all that is excess and every boy my age in that era was able to sing (badly) along with David Coverdale.

Having tucked my sons into bed and cleaned up from the night’s culinary creation I sat down for the mere half hour or so of television I had available to me only to find that, with more than 500 channels, there was just nothing on TV. It was in scrolling through the guide on this weary evening that one channel had Whitesnake Live.

I chuckled as I said it aloud: “Whitesnake live!”

My daughter looked up with a smile that I realized, having raised her this past 16 years, was trying to be sly but was, in fact, completely faked.

“You don’t know who Whitesnake is.”
“Uhh…nnnno?”

I belted the next line out.

“...and here I go again on my ooo-oh-own….
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known!”

She had that look of cognition that was filled with both enlightenment and horror.

“Oh! That’s Whitesnake?!”

Before she could say “geez, Dad, why would you even know that song?” I looked at her and said:
“Yeah, they were a bit cheesy then…and accused of trying waaay to hard to copy Led Zeppelin but every boy loved them for the songs, the cars, and the girls in their videos.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Say what you want,” I sarcastically told her, “but David Coverdale, their singer . . . he had some pipes, my girl.”

She looked skeptical.

So I played her a different song. In the 1990’s, when the world was itching for Zep to get back together, there seemed no hope. Then out of the blue, after Jimmy Page had made disparaging remarks about Whitesnake he joined up with David Coverdale. It was as close, at that time, as we’d ever get to something Zep-like.

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I played the first cut off the record Coverdale/Page, Shake My Tree, for my daughter. She was transfixed.

“I’m weirdly into this song! It’s not metal, but kinda, and it’s very Zeppelin, but . . . not . . . oh my God, I like it!”

It was here my memory started to finally kick in.

“It was interesting when this record came out because it’s a moment of realization for your mother,” I told my daughter.

The kids all knew that their mother didn’t want to be married to a touring musician, and that’s okay…I wasn’t really one anyway. It was part of why it wasn’t hard to relegate the guitars to the back room. But my wife also, in the beginning, saw music as a phase, a thing that had little hold on me or little talent holding onto me.

That was, you see, until Coverdale/Page came out.

I put the album on and we listened to that first song, Shake My Tree, and when it was over I picked up the guitar I’d just gotten – from her, by the way – a Gibson Firebird. My wife was in the kitchen of our apartment. I started playing the opening riff, that maddeningly fast, sort of off-kilter line and my wife rounded the corner.

“Are you really listening to that first song over again…”

And she stopped dead in her tracks.

“How many times have you listened to that song,” she asked me, her mouth slightly agape.
“Once, just when you heard it here with me.”
“Aaand…you just started playing it.”
“Yeah…”
“After hearing it once.”

I honestly didn’t understand her confusion. It was a little hard to hit that off-kilter note here and there but once you had the muscle memory, I didn’t think much of it. It didn’t dawn on me – and I swear it’s not ego talking – that it was anything significant. It was just learning the song.

Andrea walked over, absent-mindedly put her hand on the back of my head, and said “I just never realized you really could play like that . . . that you could just . . . figure it out. That’s . . . ” (pardon all the ellipses, but it is for effect) she trailed off.

She kissed me, full-on, love of my life kissed me.

“I never told you how talented you are. This just drove it home.”

It was a great moment for a musician to know the person he loves now supported something so important in his life. We would have more arguments about music and more conflicts over my playing a night here or making a bunch of money on a Valentine’s Day there…but Coverdale/Page had driven home I was more than just some minor hobbyist noodling around on his guitar.

My daughter, hearing the fun story about her mother, no more than an anecdote, smiled and then looked up to see the guide still sitting on the TV screen.

Regardless…we still did not watch the Whitesnake concert.

 

Questions of My Childhood

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Questions of My Childhood

(See, and you thought the musical references had ended!)

Vacation is a great thing. I haven’t taken two full weeks off in so very long I wasn’t sure at the beginning I’d know how to handle it.

I, of course, got over that very quickly.

Still, there are some unexpected things that happen when you have those quiet, unprepared and unsolicited moments available to your children.  Questions about their own childhoods come up. These aren’t always questions you’re happy to give the answers to, I must say.

My boys, in particular, were still pretty little when their mother, my wife, passed away.

Related: Three Years: From the Beginning

Four years to you and me isn’t much time. I have gone on dates with women who were four or five years younger and older than I am. In the scheme of adulthood time is a lot more fluid.

When you’re 7-years-old and your mother goes to the hospital never to return it’s a lot different. Four years, in that prospect, is a very, very long time. They were just about to turn 8 when they lost their mother.

So when we were on vacation we visited an area that was a big part of my own childhood, the Black Hills. Stories of where we went, how the Crazy Horse Monument is only slightly farther along then when I was their age, and the strange, fun and wonderful things about the area.

So my kids started asking about their own past, their mother, and their own childhoods.

Not all the questions had pleasant answers. I told my kids I wouldn’t lie to them so when my middle child had memories of difficult days, lack of money, lack of stability and an empty pantry they asked why that was.

“We didn’t have any money,” was my reply.
“You mean like now?” It was a legitimate question.
“No…not like now. Now, we’re, well, even. Stable. Then we were so far down we couldn’t see up.”

This met with some quiet reflection.

“So why?”
“We had a house that we probably shouldn’t have bought.”
“Why?”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Did you want the house?”
“Well…sure.”
“Did Mom want the house, or did Mom want the house!”

“Well..”

“Why did Mom always want new cars and new purses and new . . . ”
“She didn’t.”
“But we have all this stuff…”
“Yes…but your Mom didn’t just want new stuff. We have her Grandpa’s old table and chairs, his buffet…”
“But she didn’t keep her original wedding ring.”
“Well, no, she never really liked it…”
“But you gave it to her!”
“Well…yes, but . . . ”

Questions arose about our current home when we came down to it.

“Why didn’t Mom like your old stereo?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did she want you to throw it out?”
“Yes.”
“Why?”
“Your Mom liked new, shiny, impressive things, I suppose. This is old, but it’s cool and it’s in great condition. I use it all the time.”

They asked why I had put the guitars in closets and the stereo in a cupboard and hidden it away.

“You make compromises when you’re married,” I told them. It was clear, though, that they had all thought these were a few compromises too many.

“Music is something we all love,” my son told me. “Why would you hide that?”

I couldn’t explain why the stuff went away, my wife was a very strong and convincing personality. But there was another thing to consider.

“Music helped us get through, it helped us heal, it’s part of what we all do now,” I told them. “Just because I put some stuff away doesn’t mean it was buried, we still had music with your Mom. She just didn’t like to think I might go on the road or leave you guys to tour or something. This made her feel better.”

It didn’t make them feel better.

“But you have them out now.”
“Yes.”
“Would you record and go on tour now?”
“Not if I couldn’t afford to, no.”
“But if you could?”
“Then you’d come with me.”

This satisfied them.

Questions about personality . . . the anger they feel, my son’s insecurities, my daughter’s moodiness, my oldest daughter’s drama tendencies . . . all those are parts of my wife as well. Some are good parts, some aren’t. They couldn’t understand why they had any “bad” parts.

“They aren’t ‘bad’, guys,” was my answer. “They’re parts.”

In the end, I told them, they are . . . themselves. They’re not their Mom. They’re not me. That’s a good thing. If they were clones of us it wouldn’t be good at all.

It’s curiosity. As kids, if you grow up with both your parents around, you tend to have all those questions answered on a daily basis. But when you lose one, you ask questions, sometimes uncomfortable ones.

But it doesn’t mean they want to sully the memory of their mother. It means, now that they’re finally moving into their own little lives . . . they still want to know where they come from.

The good . . . and the bad.

They are the Questions of their Childhood.

A Youthful Home

Jelly

 

A Youthful Home

“I don’t care how old I get as long as I don’t act like an old fart,” said a relative of mine. He said it many times, in fact.

I always knew what he meant, but I finished reading a book recently that reminded me of his statement and it hit home in a very big way. Numbers are, after all, numbers, and not really representative of the more ethereal and esoteric bits of our natures. Numbers are finite (well, except for Pi, I suppose, but let’s not go there) and representative of either value, time, or count. They do not speak of the type of value, the value of time, or the time that counts.

Does that make sense?

Let me put it to you in other words. I recently, after the passing of author Terry Pratchett decided that, while I was aware of his work and enjoyed it I should read the author whose works are infinitely quote-able.  So I picked a random novel and finished it last night.

Reaper Man

Yeah, I know, it sounds a bit ridiculous to choose, as your foray into the world of Terry Pratchett, a story about the Grim Reaper. The thing is, though, he is so funny, so clever, and just so ridiculously perfect in his writing it’s actually the best start. It’s also very poignant.

In it, toward the end, one character remarks that she always thought of herself as a certain age. “Do you ever think people are born a certain age” is what sticks in my head. (This may not be a direct quote, don’t kill me!) “I always thought of myself as more or less eighteen or so,” said the character. “Some are born middle-aged . . . ”

I related to this. I take my kids to the Jelly-Belly factory.  We wear crazy costumes in photo booths. I look at my son and we do bad impressions of James Brown dancing in the aisles of the grocery store when I Feel Good comes on the speakers. People stare and we smile.

I think about going on the road, leaving it all behind when the kids all graduate. I play music, I want to go into the studio, I write, I talk.

Hell . . . I talk like Bullwinkle the Moose to the kids still and quote Monty Python and even re-watch This is Spinal Tap for the millionth time because . . . I’m like that character in the book. Part of me feels more like that 18-year-old than the 18-year-old ever did.

I never feel my age until I look in the mirror.

I may have some snow on the roof, that’s true. I may have aches in the back and my right leg goes numb from the slipped disc I have. I have to run and exercise and bike and that damn bulge in my stomach, no matter what I do, won’t go away.

Yet . . . when Ten Cent Pistol comes on the stereo by The Black Keys I’m singing as loud as the kids.

Which brings me full-circle to that first quote.

Wednesday I turn 45. I’m not ashamed to say that. It has, I know, made some women my own age look to someone who looks younger and may have that “athletic and trim” view.

But my kids . . . they are never afraid of being silly or acting crazy or having fun.

I may see time ticking by, my years weighing a little heavier on my shoulders, but I’m not worried.

I’m certainly getting older, that’s for sure.

But I can guarantee you . . . I’ll never be an old fart.

The Memories of a Night Out

The Memories of a Night Out

I did something the other night that has become, literally, the most routine and common occurrence in our household. I wouldn’t normally have thought twice about it.

I took my kids to the movies.

I grew up loving to go to the movies, my brother took me to see Revenge of the Pink Panther at the old Royal Theater in my hometown. I saw Ghostbusters and Back to the Future and even 16 Candles and probably every other John Hughes film in my hometown. I loved them then. I love the movies now.

Tonight, though, I walked with three of my kids into the theater and it was different somehow. We went to see Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland.  There was nothing in the film that startled me. I wasn’t driven to tears by it (well…much). I just started down this emotional road and, like watching a train wreck, I couldn’t stop moving toward it.

Kids at Movies

As the film wasn’t boffo at the box office like Jurassic Park or Inside Out we went to one of the older theaters in the area. It was walking around the corner into the darkness of the theater that I was overcome. Inside the darkened room I realized what was getting to me. The upper balcony, the near dollar-theater feel . . . it was like the old dollar theaters from when I was younger. That reminded me of my late wife. I hadn’t been this awash in melancholy in a very long time.

When I was first married I was broke – far more broke than I am now. It’s not that we complained or worried about it, we were broke, knew it, bemoaned it, but still managed to enjoy ourselves with it. Even after our daughter was born we’d spend the money on a babysitter and then go to the dollar theater to see a movie that had been out so long it was probably already on video. We were cheap dates, only a buck to go to the movies was a bargain.

As the lights darkened in the theater this night, approaching the end of the movie trailers and heading to the start of the Disney Motion Pictures logo I took a deep breath and sighed. Loud.

AndeI always sat to the left of my wife. I don’t know why, it just always was where I sat in the theater. It’s an odd fact that I’d never thought about before but it was all I could think of at this moment. Why on the left? Why not the right?  I don’t know…it felt weird to think about that, even now.

I looked down at my arms and turned them over, top to bottom. My left arm, as far back as my memory goes, has always had a slew of scars that covered it. The remnants of burns I don’t remember from when I was a mere 12-months-old. It remained the same.

My right arm has one scar, about 3/4 of the way up the forearm, fading now in my fourth decade on the planet. The area above it started to get tender and I got goosebumps on my forearm. It wasn’t a ghost, I don’t pretend that the spirit of my wife was in the room with me. Yet her memory was there. I felt how she used to quietly, near subconsciously move her fingers over the skin of my right arm, sliding her fingers down and merging hers between mine and holding. I had this urge to reach over and put my hand on her knee even though I knew it wasn’t there.

Movies were date night for us. We might have dinner at some bad Tex-Mex place (because it was cheap) and no matter how bad the movie we would navigate around the arm rest and find a way to press next to each other. She would hold my hand through most the movie. She would lean her head on my shoulder only to lift it again because the seat just didn’t lend itself to that juxtaposition of her body.

I was distracted for the full two hours. It wasn’t the need for contact. I suppose I could get that if I really wanted. It was her contact that was missing. When the climax of the movie, the tearful most poignant part came and George Clooney shed a tear on the screen I could only take a shuddering breath and sigh out, stifling the same emotion.

I didn’t miss having someone. I honestly missed my wife. In the deep, buried in the membranes of your cells, tied to your DNA kind of way. I missed those silly, broke, insane days when just being together was enough. When going to the movies brought us together, just the two of us.

I was in this cold reverie of nostalgia when I felt a head on my left shoulder – the opposite side from my wife. I looked over and my son, blonde and growing and such a mix of my and his mother’s personalities had laid his head on me. I reached over with my right arm and rubbed his short hair. He looked up, head still on my shoulder, eyes lifting his top eyelids to their peak, and smiled only to return his gaze to the screen.

I heard him sigh and took that same cleansing breath.

As we walked out of the theater, the memories lingering behind as we moved toward the entrance my other son asked “how did you like the movie, Dad?”

I looked at him and simply said “I loved it.”

I loved everything about it.