Tag Archives: new year

Another Year

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Another Year

I noticed just today, as I got an alert that there was a bunch of traffic on this site . . . that I haven’t written here in awhile.

Let me explain, for those who might subscribe, or want to read, or the less likely few who might wonder “why?”

There’s a pretty simple explanation.

I haven’t really needed to write.

This isn’t some epiphany, I haven’t had a resurgence of religious fervor or fallen down a well or freaked out or anything.  I’ve simply not needed to do it.

I started writing here, I’ve said before, because it was honestly helpful.  Think of it as an online journal, a way to express the really good, really bad, and in-between when I needed to get all that feeling and reality out of my head so I could move forward with my day.

Most of the things I’ve written, some of it more than four years ago, came from the darkest part of my life up to this point.  I was grieving.  I would run at 1,000 mph with the kids, cooking, cleaning, laundering . . . and then they would go to bed.

…and all was silence.

The only thing left were the voices inside my head, the worries, the memories, the grief, and the panic.  They all swirled around.  When the kids wouldn’t listen; when there were bad grades; when I had to face punishments and there was no one left to back me, just me.

8:30pm through midnight were the worst hours of my life and the times I wrote, every weekday, about what went on in my household.

But as I said, a strange thing has happened.  Maybe not strange, wonderful perhaps.  Joyous? Loving?

This coming year, 2016, will mark a year where there has been more happiness than disappointment.  Not as many screw-ups and nowhere near the panic or disappointment that were there.  Tears that are shed come mostly from laughing so hard.  When letters, cards, pictures or other things of my late wife appear they’re happy memories, not bad ones.

So 2016 comes and we have made plans, have been moving, thinking, and creating.  College beckons for one kid, graduating college is on the horizon for the following year too.  My boys are reaching out and doing more than they ever had before and doing it separately.  Student Council, Academic Clubs, guitar, reading, writing, basketball . . . all my kids are doing amazing things, things that I didn’t anticipate.

Things we hadn’t done before.

The year is a new one, and it’s a blank canvas.  It’s an empty page awaiting the first grey and silver smudge from the pencil as it hits the paper.  It’s waiting for us to tell the story . . . and it will get told.

But it doesn’t always get told for all to see.

As much as I wrote it was never everything that happened in our home, that would be impossible, impractical, and self-aggrandizing.

No . . . this last year has seen something extraordinary.  It saw us all becoming the people and family we are today.  It saw us being influenced by the past but not living within the past.

A new year holds so much promise . . . we just have to live up to that.

After the last year?  We might just be able to do it, too.

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What Did You Do This Year?

I’m sitting up on New Year’s Eve . . . writing this post as I look back at the last year.

I certainly admit that I’ve decried 2013 as a year filled with grief and loss, but I’ve made mention before that there were a lot of peaks to the valleys and they were quite high peaks.  Some of them were tremendous achievements and some were melancholy along with the pride that goes with them.

I’m not going to give you every single event that happened, but there were a lot of really great things so lest 2013 end with a sour taste in your mouth from me, let’s take a look at everything that happened here:

As a family we did a lot, and I do mean a lot.  There was a video we shot for March 26th, the anniversary of their mother’s passing.  We didn’t do it as a remembrance of her as much as a celebration of what we’ve done in two years.  This was the video:

2013-03-24 12.38.28But that same month we made a trip to Disneyland.  It was amazing . . . and terrifying.  My poor son, Noah, is scared to death of roller coasters, something we didn’t realize until we were 1/4 of the way into the ride on Space Mountain.  I can’t honestly tell you much about the ride . . . but I do have the scars from his fingernails dug into my arm.

2013-03-25 17.34.36

We went to the beach . . . Long Beach, to be precise.  The kids, though the water was cold, had a blast.  Buried in the sand, running in the surf . . . it was fun, more fun than they expected.  They weren’t particularly excited to go but once there they didn’t want to leave.

Abbi before graduation
Abbi before graduation
Hannah at her graduation
Hannah at her graduation

Two girls . . . two graduations.  Same day.  Even the greatest of parental pairs would have gotten more grey hairs over this and I had to do it alone.  It’s not bragging, by the way, it’s just reality.  Hannah, the middle, graduated 8th grade in the late morning.  The ceremony and the after-party would rival a Stanford graduation, it seems.  I don’t know when 8th grade became the end-all-be-all of graduations but God help the kids that graduated here because their parents now have to make high-school a bigger party than this.  Regardless, I was immensely proud of the achievement.  My oldest made the decision . . . and it was very, very hard for her . . . to go into drama, which her mother did not think was worthwhile.  She loved how good Abbi was at it but hated the fact that she wanted to do it.  Until this year she was really thinking of going into Pharmacy, even though she didn’t like it, because Andrea wanted her to do that.  I am proud of her ability to move past that.  Hannah had so many problems adjusting to life without her Mom and was on the verge of flunking out.  She passed with a B average.

2013-08-10 14.42.35

We made a trip to see the giant redwoods at Big Tree National Park in Calaveras County.  If you’ve never been, you should go.  There’s something pretty amazing about it all and the fact that in the high altitude we were all in good enough shape to march up into the high trail and see it all made me proud.

2013-06-29 16.34.38-1

We made multiple trips into San Francisco.  We were there the weekend the Prop 8/DOMA Supreme Court decision came down and had an amazing time people-watching.  For the record, 90% of the people half-to-all-naked were not gay, as a matter of fact.  Just really stoned or really drunk, which added to the hilarity.  If I’d known the people I’d have taken pictures for when they try to tell their kids how stable and conservative they’ve been.

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I got gussied up and went to a couple awards ceremonies.  They were for work, went with an amazing friend, and totally worth it even though we were robbed, in my opinion, of a statuette.

2013-08-03 20.28.25  2013-08-04 17.36.08We did a lot of things and treated them like adventures.  Some were, like the drive-in movie that ended up breaking and never seeing the movie.  Going to the baseball games and having a blast eating too much food and staying until the nail-biting end.  (Okay, wasn’t a nail-biter, but it makes for a better story).

This was par for the course for our year. We didn’t sit idle.  I was a bit lethargic at times.  I found times when it was really hard to face some of the things alone, knowing how much my wife, their mother, would have loved so much of it.

At the Sundial Bridge
At the Sundial Bridge
On a family event - feeding parrots
On a family event – feeding parrots

We took my daughter to college and on the way saw a bridge designed by Calatrava and fed birds at a sanctuary.

The prize winners!
The prize winners!

We went to a state fair in another state as well.

Christmas came and went.

Me, Recording in the House
Me, Recording in the House

And we made music.  Lots and lots of music.  Our house is filled with it.

And that’s just a few of the things we did, I’m dangerously close to boring you with the length of this post.

So as 2014 comes, while I hope it’s a damn sight better than 2013, it’s going to be hard to see it live up to the amazing things we saw and did this last year.  That, my friends, makes me very, very happy.

Have a happy new year, and hope your 2014 is amazing.  And it will be, as long as you make it so.

One Long Year, Maybe a Better One Coming?

My family
My family

2013 was a pretty powerful year.

I say that not simply because it was filled with amazing things. It was filled with a lot of terrible things as well. It was powerful in the emotional land mines that we seemed to step on throughout the year as well.

I’ll give you the lows first:

We lost a lot of people this year as a family. Some we expected. Most we did not. It started with my Grandmother, Lanone. She was a major force in my life, but at 92 had a full life. When I spoke with her, having lost her husband last year, she told me she knew I understood how she felt and that was both comforting and difficult to hear.  I spent every day as a kid going to her house for lunch.  It was far better than the school cafeteria (except during lent…when she made Tuna Helper.  Ugh.)  I got to have time every single day, both with my older brother, then alone, with my grandparents.  It was, in hindsight, an amazing thing to have happen.  My own kids don’t get that, though they have their own amazing experiences they get to have with my parents.
This was followed first by losing Andrea’s father, who was totally unexpected.  He was seemingly healthy and the man taking care of Andrea’s mother, who’d developed a degenerative brain disorder that had her losing herself each day.  He was diagnosed with cancer after months of calling the doctor and being told he “just had allergies.”  Those allergies were his lungs getting choked by tumors and they hadn’t done the MRI or other tests to make sure he was suffering like he’d said.  Had they realized he wouldn’t go to the doctor or complain unless he was really sick they might have saved him.  Still, it didn’t happen that way.  He was ill and when they finally found out what was wrong he was terminal.  He died about a month later. Then came Andrea’s mother, whose disorder was hard on both her and her remaining daughter.  The kids simultaneously loved seeing her and had to take time to recover after.  Andrea’s Mom had watched the kids after school when we first moved out West.  While that babysitting arrangement didn’t work out well and wasn’t the amazing experience I had with my own grandparents, it still created great memories for my kids.  That’s what really matters and they were around their daughter before she passed away.  The degenerative brain disorder took her just a few months later.

We lost my great aunt Colleen Miles, just last week.  Her family runs my hometown newspaper. Journalism in the blood, you might say.

The hardest was George Marshall. George was a dear friend and a drummer in our band. He was healthy, in great shape, quiet, and one of my brother’s dearest friends. It hit me hard, hit my brother harder. To lose someone so close, again, was just a lot to bear.  I told George’s story a week or so ago, so I won’t recount it again, but it’s hard to know music will be made but it won’t be on his backbone.

Five really close people gone, and five people my little ones had to contend with losing as well.

2013-08-10 14.58.31-1But there were highs, too.  This year was filled with adventure.  We saw giant sequoias.  Climbed them, too, and took pictures.

At the Sundial Bridge
At the Sundial Bridge

We stood on a Calatrava bridge.  My kids fed birds in an eco-sacturary.

2013-06-15 23.07.38I dressed up and went to an awards ceremony for work.

On a family event - feeding parrots
On a family event – feeding parrots

We went to a state fair in a different state.  We took my oldest to college.  I wrote music, recorded demos, played guitar and watched my middle daughter become an amazing singer-songwriter in her own right.  My sons have become great artists for their age.

The prize winners!
The prize winners!

We’ve grown up.  Three years ago this kind of year would have paralyzed us, I’m sure of that.  Today, though, we’re standing tall.  This was, I must say, a test of our mettle.  This was the sweeping wash of grief and change that could have been disastrous.  They could have seen their sister going to college as another woman leaving their daily lives but instead rejoiced in her phone calls and visits home.

It’s been a long year, 2013, and I won’t be unhappy to see it in the rear view from here on.  But the next year, whatever it throws at us, may not be as difficult.

Why?

Because we made it through this one, and I have to say, there have been some amazing things.

It’s a New Year . . . or Is It?

It’s a New Year, at least that’s what the calendar says.  The Mayan armageddon, the rapture on December 21st.  But they’re wrong, the year hasn’t started for us yet.

The change to 2012 has been a strange one for me and my kids.  It’s not because the day was particularly difficult.  Sure, we felt the sort of twinge of emptiness, seeing that there was that one boisterous personality missing from the room, but it’s not like there was much we could do about that.  I didn’t want to be out, partying, reminded of the fact that I didn’t have my love standing next to me when the clock struck midnight.

The kids and I stayed home, starting a fire, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores, waiting until 8:45 to go into the house and watch Kathy Griffin strip and Anderson Cooper look uncomfortable as the clock started to count down.  After it dropped, my oldest, Abbi, and I had small glasses of champagne and quickly turned on the Wii system and played Pictionary with the little ones.  By 10:30 they were in bed and Abbi and I spent the night watching Blazing Saddles instead of watching Jenny McCarthy make out with whatever random guy she met in Times Square this year.

And it was nice.  I mean, sure, it’s not dropping balloons from the ceiling or fireworks outside, but it was calm, it was fun, and the kids didn’t get upset or sad.  They laughed.  They chased each other in the back yard; they got messy with melted marshmallow; they fell and got muddy chasing a soccer ball in the dark.  They did everything but wallow, which I was hoping would happen for the night.

But bear in mind that even though we’ve made it through the opening day of 2012 it doesn’t mean we’re all set and the year begins for us.  Where you probably sat and thought about the 364 more to come we have to count down the days until March 26th.  We’ve made it through most the major holidays and family moments.  Just a couple weeks after Andrea’s funeral I had to plan a birthday party for the boys.  This wouldn’t be a big deal for most people, I’m sure, but Andrea always knew what to buy for presents.  She had amazing plans for parties.  Everything was perfect in her world.  Now, not only had they lost their Mom, but they had only me to figure out what to do, how to put it together, how to celebrate, what presents, all of it.  It was a testament to the boys that they had a good time even without their Mom there.

Hannah and I share a birthday.  When she turned 12, I had to miss it because I’d started a new job and she was in Nebraska with my parents.  Without that summer “camp” in the Midwest, I’d never be able to survive the summers.  We Skype‘d on her birthday, showing her the present I’d made (piecing together the best parts to make one solid, Claptonesque “Blacky” guitar) and saying Happy Birthday.  I made a pilgrimage to Los Angeles by driving the Pacific Coast Highway alone and taking 10 hours – double the normal time – just to see the ocean and try to get some calm.

One of the sites of my LA Pilgrimage

Andrea’s birthday became a family holiday.  I never got it right so I got each child a little present and made a fancy cake and we celebrated the day together.  It was sad and uncomfortable, but we made it through.

Abbi’s birthday was small.  She didn’t want anything big and we gave her a bunch of stuff and had a fancy cake and she seemed happy and sad at the same time.

Christmas was empty without her, but we made it different enough that we didn’t really hate the day, we enjoyed ourselves.

But New Year’s isn’t the signal to the end of the worst year ever.  It’s just another signpost.  We still have to face the next event.  For the kids it’s just a terrible day.  For me, it’s double depressing.  The day Andrea died, the 26th of March, is also the day I married her.  It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that a day you celebrated, the day you should have amazing, loving and soft memories is forever colored grey by the terrible events that swirled around the end of her life.  Over 20 years I knew Andrea, more than half my life, and was married 18 of those.  Now I’m left to watch the world move around me and wonder what I’m supposed to do from here.

The most obvious is to be their Dad.  I know that.  I don’t know how we’re going to handle March – the month, the week, the day of her death.  I know I’m going to ask for time off, to ask that I not be here when we reach the day.  One of my best friends had lost her sister years ago.  When the day would arrive she didn’t really want to share what made the day so hard, she just wasn’t at work.  She wasn’t around.  I didn’t pry, I knew that when she wanted to let me or others know what she was going through she would, and eventually we became close enough that she knew she could lean on me if she started to stumble.  When Andrea died, she was one of the earliest calls I made.  In fact, I thought of her, of how she dealt with the horrible emotions such a strange anniversary brings.

I don’t know what the day will bring.  All I can say is that until we make it through March 26th, 2012 doesn’t start for us.  Not really.  It’s the worst chapter of our story so far, I know it already.  We just haven’t written how it’s going to go yet.  I ache for the day to pass yet worry that we’re getting farther and farther from her as we get past these points in our lives.

It’s a New Year, it’s 2012.  The naysayers say that it’s the end of the world but they were wrong.  For us, it already ended.  We already started picking up the pieces and rebuilding.