Tag Archives: Mystery Machine

We’re only immortal for a limited time . . .

When we are young, wandering the face of the earth, wondering what our dreams might be worth, learning that we’re only immortal for a limited time.”

Yes, I know, it takes some guts to start a post with a quote from the band Rush.  There’s a reason for it, beyond the oddly philosophical bent to the lyric.

My oldest daughter had a brief moment of clarity, a space between the angst and hormonal intensity of a typical sixteen-year-old’s reality.  We were sitting at our kitchen table together, the last two holdouts of our family dinner, an exercise that seems to be growing exponentially shorter by the day.

The whole point to dinner at the table is so that I can talk to them all and know what’s been going on.  I know what little girl takes delight in emotionally torturing Noah, seemingly for little reason.  I know what part of the field trip they just took impressed Sam the most.  I know the long-term plan Hannah has for getting her friends musically educated so they can have a band and play Green Day and Pink Floyd songs together.  I also know what boys are cute and what party Abbi is invited to that boosts her morale and confidence.

I also rotate music choices.  Here’s where we diverge from the path we traveled as a full family.  Andrea hated my stereo system.  She thought it was clunky, old, big, noisy and outdated.  I love it.  Where Andrea loved the convenience of the newer, bookshelf stereo or just throwing a CD in the DVD player, the lack of audio quality bugged the hell out of me.  So one of the first things I did was to set up the stereo, in a shelving set in the corner, speakers on the floor, part of the decor, in a very retro-looking setup I’ve seen on a dozen romantic comedies or so, where the male love interest somehow has an old, expensive turntable and a full LP collection that nobody I ever knew owned.  Even when LP’s were all you had.

Yes, I’m strangely retro now.  Funny thing is, it wasn’t by choice.  It’s cool now to be collecting vinyl and listening to your stereo.  I think we’ve confirmed that I’m not cool.  I just never stopped listening to my vinyl.  Guess I shouldn’t reveal that and just act like I’m cool. (Yeah, I know, if you have to act cool, you aren’t)

There’s a point here, bear with me.  We rotate the music choices.  Each night, a different person in the family gets to pick a record.  (CD’s too, if they want, but I prefer the vinyl.)  This night, we had some new record playing, that expensive audiophile 180g vinyl that Odd Job from Goldfinger could use to cut off your head.  It was a bit melancholy, and Abbi mentioned something I’ve been thinking . . . even posted here . . . for some time.

“It’s been a lot harder this last few weeks, Dad.  I don’t know why that is.  It’s just been harder.”  She hadn’t expected that.  She wasn’t sure why but I was.  I’ve said it before, Fall is our time.  Andrea and I just loved everything that came with it.  Her birthday is also the 30th of October.  How do you face an occasion you never got right without the person you disappointed for so many years?

As we reviewed how we’d trudge through the rest of the month Abbi went to her room, likely to commiserate with friends.  I noticed that the old cassette player had a tape in it, one I’d put there when we moved and forgotten.  It was an old “mix tape”.  For those unfamiliar, a “mix tape” was a way to show you cared for someone without getting hurt too badly if they said the feelings weren’t mutual.  You took the time and effort to find songs and artists that you thought the person would like, timing out two sides to a cassette, positioning the songs so that there’s no dead air at the end of a side, perfectly placed so the last notes fade, the leader tape streams over the heads of the deck, and the clunk of the mechanism stopping signals the listener to rotate the tape and see what awaits them on the other side.

This tape was one I had made for Andrea when we first started dating.  I know it was for a trip she was making, I think to visit our mutual friend Annie, on the East Coast.  It was all music we’d listened to at work.  but there were hints of things we’d played while wiling away the evenings in those intense, romantic first weeks.  It also had the song quoted above, seemingly out of place other than it was from that era.

But it fits for two reasons.  First, I had taken Andrea on our first official “date” (I’ll go over why it’s in quotation marks on another post) to see Rush.  She could have cared less, I know now.  It was cold, with black ice all over the pavement.  We walked together toward the Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Andrea in a bright red, full-length red coat that had a big scooping hood that draped off the back, framing her shoulders as it hung below them.  She slipped slightly, grabbing my elbow as my arm went around her waist.  It could  have been filmed, that moment, where she leaned there, in my arms, the briefest of eternal pauses as she steadied herself in my arms.  And then she smiled, laughing in her eyes, telling me “it wouldn’t surprise me if you did this on purpose, just so you could see the California girl fall on her ass!”  It’s one of those moments you are sure was in a John Hughes film, the California girl meets the Midwestern boy.  It’s either that or a Bob Seger song, not sure which.

I was walking 2 feet above the ground the rest of the night.  I didn’t know until later she could have cared less about the band, she went because I asked her.  Some Romeo, right?  Ask a girl out and the venue is one where you can’t talk because it’s so loud.  It’s either stupid or it’s genius.

This song, those two albums: Presto and Roll the Bones, were more commercial and probably most accessible to her.  We ran into friends at the auditorium, pulling the romance out of the moment quite a bit.  But I never forgot the night.  I guess she didn’t either, because in years since, her family and friends all recount that night as one she told them about.

Now, I see the whole picture.  Andrea was a flaming burst of energy in those days.  Where I was this sort of gangly, geeky, quiet and calm kid, she was was antimatter released!  She partied hard, drank heavily, but that wasn’t a bad thing.  She made me happier, boosted my confidence and just enveloped me with emotion.  I don’t think I ever saw her in those days without a brilliant smile, her eyes just sparkling.  It was such a counter opposite to how things deteriorated in the last few years.  Not between us, but for her.  The flame wasn’t as bright.  I had seen it coming back, but now it’s extinguished.

The lyric is a strong metaphor.  We spent nearly every possible waking hour together.  As Neal’s lyric says, we were “wandering the face of the earth, wondering what our dreams might be worth…”  Andrea blew through life like she was immortal.  Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, the hell with the consequences, we will do this and come through on the other side.

I won’t say Andrea was like Jimi or Janice.  She wasn’t doomed to die, because we had plans.  We were going to take a little of that lightning back out of the bottle again.  We had never thought this could happen.  It wasn’t on the horizon.  We were getting older, ignoring the lessons of our misspent years, when we thought we were going to live forever.

It’s the one lesson I hope my kids don’t ever learn.

I don’t want them to know that we’re only immortal for a limited time.

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Hippy Golf is a Powerfully Dangerous Thing

It actually started a few weeks back when my oldest daughter caught a bug of some sort.  She was sincerely sick, and being 16 I let her stay home to rest on her own.  It’s not my preference, but what am I to do?

It’s all a case of household economics.  I mentioned before that I left my job.  The reality is, the job I left, on paper, showed me working for the company for more than a decade.  It wasn’t just that I loved the people I worked with, particularly early on when I worked in Texas for them.  But I was embedded, long-term, with a deep relationship with the legal department, who had helped bolster my knowledge of writing a script without getting sued.  I had finally reached the point where I would get 3 weeks vacation, although every vacation request I put in was returned with a fair amount of guilt for being out of the office for more than 24 hours.  Never mind that the boss left town for a week to interview for another job once.  The biggest thing was that sick time.  I can get over everything else.  I certainly feel it was morally reprehensible to force me our just a couple weeks after I placed my wife’s body in the ground.  But the time off, the personal days, holidays, all of it were things I needed as a single Dad.

So with a new job, no sick time, no vacation time (I’m in the hole, actually) Abbi stayed home.  I excused her absences, calling the school.  Didn’t matter.  Miss 2 days, a whopping 80 points from PE, and you have to make up 8 days.  Why?  How the f*%k should I know?!  It makes little sense.  Do parents out there actually excuse their kids because they just don’t WANT to go to PE class?  What the hell kind of parenting is that?  Even when Andrea was around I wouldn’t have done that!

So make up the hours, she did.  But then, so did I.  First was that lovely 5k my body is still thanking me for.  Now, Frolf.  That’s right, in a move that could only be in California, the makeup hours for PE couldn’t be at the driving range a mere 5 minutes from our house.  Oh, no, we have to play frisbee golf.  Not just frisbee golf, either, but frolf in a place populated by the strangest group of shirtless thugs in tribal tattoos and facial hair “teeing off” behind groups of hippy’s that look like a gaggle of clones from the Mystery Machine, if they all dressed like Shaggy and smelled like Scooby and Scrappy.  This “sport” (and I use THAT term very loosely) was played in a park (again, loose definition) whose fairway was so uneven and neglected that you could see the water channels in the hardened mud that was more populated with burrs than anything green.  Into this wonderful world walked myself and the 4 kids.

All through the process, I kept thinking how Andrea would never have gone for this.  Beyond the anger with having to make up 8 classes for the 2 Abbi missed, to subject us to the most insane of activities in a group of questionable characters would have pushed her catatonic.  Never mind that toward the end her knees were in such horrible shape that walking up and down dusty hills with no cushioning in her knees would have tortured her.

This is not painting a poor picture of Andrea.  The men in front of us used the f-word about twice per phrase.  Not that I am easily offended, but I have a pair of 8-year-olds here with me.  Hannah is one of the kindest and most innocent 12-year-olds I have ever known.  To expose them to this was beyond silly.  But we needed the extra 10 points from this to go with the 20 (that’s right, only 20 points for running a freaking 5k to help prevent SEX TRAFFICKING!) from the race she was going to hopefully make up the points she missed.

We had a lot of fun, though.  Once we’d left the thugs and hippy’s ahead and behind us, it was the 5 of us.  Alone in the woods.  It’s an apt metaphor, I suppose.  We are very much alone in the woods right now.

I realize it’s been half a year.  Sometimes, I think people are obsessed with making sure that you know you’re going to be OK.  They want to make sure that you know you’re going to heal and then move on, start dating, even fall in love again.  Why?  Because our society and Hollywood have told us we have to.  That’s my conclusion.  Tom Hanks loses his wife in “Sleepless in Seattle” (Andrea’s favorite Rom-Com, by the way) and they all tell him that.  I like his angry rant, by the way.  “Love yourself, love another, hug yourself, hug your therapist, or work…work will help.  Work will get you through!” (copyright Nora Ephron and her distributors. This is quoted but not a direct quotation, by the way)  When they tell him he’ll date again he says “yeah, it’ll be simple, I’ll just grow another heart.”  No offense, everyone, but I’m still at that point.  Love again?  Move on?  Please. The funny thing is, even after all that, even after all the arguing and fighting, Tom Hanks meets someone else and falls in love.  That easily.  What you never hear about is how “Annie” reacted to having to help parent a kid that she didn’t start raising.  Happily ever after?  Perhaps, but we will never know.  What, did she move in with him?  Did she drop her best friend Rosie O’Donnell?  What about work?  Magic didn’t get Annie a job at the Seattle Post Intelligencer instead of the New York Times, I don’t believe!  Yeah, it’s THAT easy.

Then there’s the reality of our own, singular, now set in our ways single-parent personalities.  I got lucky, folks.  Let’s talk for a minute about how I met Andrea.  We worked together.  I was this lanky (Yeah, I’m a fat-ass now, get over it) geeky kid with a bad pre-Bieber haircut and zero self-confidence.  She was drop-dead gorgeous.  She’d just gotten back from visiting family in Arizona, tanned, sun-bleached blonde hair, with a white blouse, blue jeans with holes in the knees that revealed just a little of the tanned skin beneath.  She wore her sunglasses on the top of her head, and being from the West Coast, the staff jokingly called her “Hollywood” when she wore them up there, forgetting Northern and Southern CA are as different as France and England.

But she found me.  Not the lanky kid who thought he was the next Stevie Ray Vaughan.  She found ME.  Do you know why I’m where I am today?  Because of her.  I didn’t have the confidence to handle things the way they are.  Sure, we fought, we butted heads, she was frustrated that I loved being a musician so much and I was frustrated that she was so worried about our financial status all the time.  But I loved her.  From the moment we started talking to each other.  So after 18 years married and 20 together, how do you shove that aside and make room for someone else?  Plus, to be practical, talk about logistics.  I have 4 kids.  4.  How do you broach that subject with someone?  “Hi, you’re cute, want to meet my four kids?”

No, not now.  Maybe not ever.  I can’t say.  Love is schizophrenic, my friends.  It’s powerful and it’s dangerous.  It can create monuments and it can tear apart societies.  It can force a man to write an entire album about his best friend’s wife!  It hurts so much to know she’s gone, and I want to keep the pain right now.  Every synapse that heals feels like it’s taking a small bit of her memory away from me.  I want to feel better but I want to revel in it.  How do you meet someone or move on when you enjoy the depression and pain?  I’m not an LSD tablet in my Bryllcream away from being Syd Barrett, but there are days that the look in my eyes is like two black holes in the sky, and sadly I like it that way.

So when people tell me I’m doing awesome and that Andrea would be proud, I still can’t bring myself to believe it, even if it might be true.  I can see how this really was a partnership and the hole ripped open when she took a piece of me with her is still pretty raw.  Andrea might have found a way around the running and frolfing, but I never got a chance to ask her about these things while she was here.  Now, she’s gone.

Every day I get an email, a tweet, a text, something from a friend or relative that says Andrea’s helping them.  She’s everywhere.  Everywhere but with the people who need her the most.  I’m glad she’s so tirelessly helping everyone else with their problems, but I’d love to, just once, get a clear indication of what the hell I’m supposed to do from her divine intervention.

Where everyone sees signs of Andrea helping them I see laundry and desserts needing to be made…and Mr. T playing frolf with Shaggy, Scooby and Scrappy.

Yoinks!