Tag Archives: moving on

Defending the Indefensible

My children have grown to be enormous fans of a Syfy (worst network name ever, by the way) Network program called Eureka.  It’s an odd little show that has grown on me throughout the several seasons we’ve watched.  The family grew to like it so much that in order to catch up we actually downloaded all the previous seasons and watched them before meeting up with the show a couple seasons back.  The kids were so completely excited to watch tonight’s final season premier that they convinced me to allow them to break one of my few rules – and we ate in the living room and watched the show, recorded on the DVR.

The show has had an increasingly frustrating plot line where two of the main characters dance around the fact they are falling in love only to have obstacles thrown in their way.  My daughters, in particular, fall for the romantic comedy of the show and grow increasingly angry with the fact that the characters get together only to be thrown apart again.  Tonight was no exception.  The difference in this night, though, was the fact that the program threw half the characters into a set of circumstances that had them disappear.  To the female lead it seemed only moments.  The others lost four years.

In that time the male character fell in love with another and it was maddening to the kids, so much so that they began to get angry with the characters on the screen, Jack Carter and Jo Lupo.  The two characters ended up together when they both thought the loves of their lives had died.  My oldest thought it disgusting.  My middle found it disheartening.  They grew more astounded when they found me defending the very thing they found indefensible.  I was defending the fact that the two people who thought they’d lost the loves of their lives ended up together.  My daughters looked at me appalled by the fact I could defend the actions.

Perhaps you think it’s silly I bring up the plot of a crazy Sci-fi show as an example here in this blog, but in a crazy way I felt like I could understand what they two of them were going through.  The character on the show defends himself to the woman he once loved saying that the other woman “brought him back.”  It is the gap in our understanding of what the other has lost.  The kids lost their Mom, and I cannot begin to understand what that is like except through the limitations I see of my own parenting.  I wish I could say that made me keenly aware of what they’re going through, but I can do little more than anticipate what I think they need and listen keenly when they need me.

But by the same token, they are all too young.  None of these four can understand what it is to have lost someone who joins your life so completely that you cannot see where your heart ends and theirs begins.  The character, Jack, tells his first love that he was lost, so far, that this woman was the only thing that pulled him from the madness of the grief.  My children could not understand the pull that sadness like this has.  I didn’t have another love to pull me through, I don’t know that I could ever have accepted it if it had been given.  Where the character on the show had a friend that became more . . . I had more.  I had my family and a good number of friends that helped me to walk out of the darkness.  What’s hard is that I don’t even think I’m fully in the light yet.  This kind of grief, this loss, is like standing in a foreign room with no light, nothing but pure darkness, and trying to feel your way around for the door.  Each successive room is a bit lighter, but each room bears only a bit more light.

My way out, the anchor to stop my slipping completely into the the bottom of the pit, was no single person.  I had a crew of people that started with my children, moved to my parents and then moved to the friends that wanted little more than to help me succeed.  Where Jack Carter, the main character on the show Eureka had a person to pull him out, it took an entire group of people to keep me from embracing the darkness, so deep was my grief.  I don’t think many people understand this.  My daughter, for sure, won’t watch movies or shows that make her sad.  I have found, in some of the worst times in the last year, I sought out those very things.

This isn’t simply sadness or pain, it’s rapturous despair.  In a world today where we focus on ourselves, where marriage is a throwaway item, where a Kardashian can think a marriage less than three months is a good publicity generator, understanding that meeting the person that’s most important – the woman or man that completes you when you didn’t know you were incomplete, or gives you the confidence to do things you never knew you could do – is foreign.  I did find that only to have it ripped away.  I didn’t want to feel better.  Even a year later, some days I still don’t.  The darkness and the veil are so tempting in that stat of mind, particularly right after Andrea died, I don’t think a single person could have pulled me out of its grasp.

For that reason, I defended the characters, Jack and Jo.  Yet where the television can re-write the ending, I cannot.  The moment I take a step forward it’s like she pulls me two steps back.  Every time I feel us getting to a good point, she comes back, a random check coming into our mailbox helped by her career choices.  I file the kids’ artwork in a cabinet only to find a box full of photos that reminds me of years past.  Pictures of her face send my mind and soul reeling back when I want them to keep moving forward.  I miss and love her so completely, but she gets to be at peace.  She gets to rest in the eternal while we all have to forge ahead weighed down my the memory of her impinging on our futures.  I simultaneously miss her and am angry at her for leaving me with this.  Then I feel guilty for having been angered for something over which she had no control.  As I said, the past has a way of pulling us away from where we need to go.

So when my children see one of their favorite characters with another woman, someone who treats him well in spite of the want and need of the audience for it not to be so, I understand and empathize.  I see the two conflicting characters kiss and think to myself, how can I not understand their need?  To me, it’s even a little sweet, an adjective I rarely use.

Like so many other things, the plot line was a ruse, something my children saw as vindication for their feelings.  But I looked at the story that aired and thought, even though it’s not what everyone wants, someone has to defend the indefensible.

I’m Not Drowning . . .

The new family - I'm a bit skinnier now - a bit.

It happened this weekend.  The transition, that is.

Just about everything we’ve done over the last 8 1/2 months has had the influence, feel and presence of my wife swirling around it.  When I make breakfast for the kids, I take out the kid plates, these day-glo plastic rhomboids made by Ikea.  Andrea picked those out.  They seemed easier and less breakable for the boys in particular.  When we moved here and bought them at the massive Swedish testament to vanilla modernity across the river in West Sacramento.

I tuck in the kids and they all have sheets, bedspreads, dressers, beds . . . all of it picked out (with my “approval” meaning sure, I’m asking you what you think, but it’s the bed we’re going to buy anyway, it just makes you feel better) by Andrea.

Hell, my clothing, haircut, all of it are influenced by her amazing spark of creativity and style.  It’s not that I don’t want it, I loved it, every minute of it.  But the problem is, these pieces are the only things left.  When the plastic starts to thin, the clothing frays, the bedspreads and sheets stain . . . what then?

Well, we move on.  I didn’t want to, and it’s so hard to do it because she’s been the driving force behind my transition in to normalcy.  I was an angry, gangly, annoyingly stubborn kid with a horrible haircut, no sense of style and less than zero self-confidence.  It isn’t a shallow thing to say that this amazing woman changed that – changed me.  With her gone, where do I go from here?  Will I change with the times the way I should, or will I sit here, pining over the loss, will I stagnate and remain the same?

It’s easy to understand how I could do this.  There is something that’s hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t suffered this kind of loss.  I still feel her presence, the physical, tangible, tactile feeling.  There’s the thought she’s in the bed next to me in the twilight of sleep.  There’s the gut reaction to turn and tell her something amazing happened or to vent when the bad did.  But she’s not there, and it’s horrible to realize it because for a fleeting moment you relive the months leading up to that moment all over again.

And you like it.

Yes, you heard me right, I hate the pain and I revel in it as well.  The part people don’t realize is that you are so tied to this amazing person, you love her so much, that you live in and relish the pain that comes with missing her because that’s the only thing you have left.  There’s a part of me, however crazy, that feels like the less the pain hits, the less of her that stays behind.  I want her there.  I am a better man for having met her, so will I keep being that man now that she’s gone?

It would be so easy to fall into place.  I’ve already started.  I’ve been listening to old LP’s, living in the memories of our early dating and marriage.  I pine for the woman who drew me in.  I reminisce on the seductive nature of the woman who just hypnotized me with her smiling eyes.  I have watched John Hughes movies.  I subjected myself to Sleepless in Seattle because it was her favorite movie.  I listen to crappy ’80s/’90s stations because they remind me of her and of that time and I hurt, I tear up and I love it.  I’m inclined to just let the flood hit, drown in the memories.

It would be so easy to stay there.

But there are four little people who don’t.  That’s what pulls me out of the past and pushes me forward.  Andrea strove for perfection, in all things.  If she got less than an “A” in a class, even in Pharmacy School, which she attended after our oldest was born, she was motivated by that perfection.  She rubbed off on me to a degree, but there’s something she just didn’t realize, something that caused arguments; something that I have come to both realize and embrace.

It’s the imperfections that make it perfect.

Our house is now a mish-mash of Christmas decorations.  The perfect stockings on the fireplace, the combination of homemade ones on the banister.  We have two trees, most of the decorations homemade.  I put up my stereo even though Andrea hated it because it was old and clunky and was “obvious” in how it sat in the living room.  I have guitars hanging up and sitting out because they are part of me.  There’s the perfection, too, the decorations, the paintings, the artwork, the sconces, all of it an amazing tribute to this beautiful woman.

Then this weekend we did it.  Something she’d never have bought, something with no connection.  I was buying Christmas presents and needed a piece for our decorations at the hardware store.  They had a little metal fire pit, like a Chimera, for sale and I bought one.  We needed something to just have fun and there’s something about a fire, be it in the fireplace or the back yard.

I lit the fire, we put chairs around, got out the marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers.  I got the skewers from inside the house and we made S’Mores.  They were messy, crazy, hot, silly . . . and it was just us.  Andrea wouldn’t have wanted that fire.  She would have done the food, but not the fire pit.  It wasn’t her.

The thing is, to survive, to help these kids move on, we have to make our own memories, not live in the past ones.  Not keep doing the same old routine or the same traditions.  They’re gone.  Don’t take this too far.  I’m not erasing her, she’s far too special and far too amazing, and every day, I have reason to feel the hurt and let it wash over me in enjoyment.  The kids need to know it’s OK to have an amazing and happy time without her, though.  Not everything has to touch on her.

So we’ve re-done the decorations.  We added more lights, though she’d have hated that.  I’ve bought the Christmas presents by myself.  We’ll open the presents on Christmas Eve instead of Day, because that’s how MY family did, and now that’ show OUR family will do it.

It’s high time I broke out the pen and started writing the story for real.  We’ve had enough flashback, enough recap of our last writing.  It’s just that the hardest part is putting the pen to the page and writing because it makes it real.  She’s actually gone.

But when I look and my daughter posts on her Facebook page for all to see: “Roasting marshmallows in the backyard, making s’mores and going to bed smelling like a chimney…life is good,” I realized we’ve started writing without even knowing it.

I guess, in the end, it can’t happen because today I’m not drowning.

01 I’m Not Drowning by Steve Winwood from the LP Nine Lives