Tag Archives: past

A Dog, a Monkey, a Bear and a Horse

There are a few things that make their way into people’s lives, particularly little kids’ lives, that we may not truly understand as outsiders, looking in on just a small window of other’s daily goings-on.  In this particular instance, I’m talking about some of the stuffed animals that we have in our home.

I don’t say this with any amount of disdain or complaint.  We have a number of them, in fact Noah has the entire foot of his bed covered in a menagerie of stuffed creatures.  I have a tub full of them I couldn’t bring myself to dispose of when we moved because they were some piece of my kids’ childhood I didn’t have the heart to dump in the trash unceremoniously.

But there are a few things that attach themselves to my kids and only they know why they glom onto them so tightly, and that’s okay.

Abbi in Omaha
Abbi in Omaha

For my oldest daughter, the creature was a horse named Sophia.  She never could tell me why she named the horse Sophia.  The mare had survived moving from Omaha, where we got the horse, to Texas.  A friend from kindergarten, who lived not far from us, daughter of two doctors, gave the horse to Abbi.  I never knew why, but Abbi loved that horse.  My theory was it was a piece of Omaha, a piece of that former town, where her first years, the formative days where she spent every Monday just with her Daddy and ate ice-cream in Omaha’s Old Market.  It was a tie, not to the person who gave her the horse, though they were friends, but to the memory of the place.  It moved to Texas with us.  Abbi slept with her every single night.  When she got sick with a stomach bug and Sophia got dirty in a night filled with worrisome vomit and fever . . . Andrea, my late wife, washed Sophia.  The mane became matted, clumped and stiff.  She was beaten up, worn, and tattered . . . and Abbi still wouldn’t sleep with anything else.  Obviously, at 18, she doesn’t sleep with her any more, but I happen to know that tucked away in a safe place in her room sits Sophia, just in case.  A tie to another time and place.

Abbi and Hannah...with AndreaMy middle daughter has a different animal.  Hers is a regular Teddy Bear.  Hannah was always a tomboy and her imagination wasn’t focused on names at that point.  She got the bear at a build-a-friend kind of place where we took Abbi for her birthday.  The thing that I think ties the bear so closely to Hannah is that her sister, Abbi, wasn’t forced but asked that Hannah be part of the birthday celebration.  She wanted Hannah to have a bear and make one and have a good time.  Getting the bear, I believe, was a difficult part for both girls because we’d already decided by that point we were moving West, to California.  For Hannah, like her sister, this is as much a tie to good days as it is to a time before she became the middle child and was the youngest.  She loves that bear, and like Abbi, doesn’t sleep with “Soccer Bear” (told you it wasn’t that imaginative) she still has him.  Like Sophia, he’s been beat up, dirtied, washed, and still survives.

Noah's Sock Monkey...a previous repair.
Noah’s Sock Monkey…a previous repair.

Noah has a sock monkey.  It’s not named anything but that, but it’s a sock monkey.  I contacted the Rockford Sock Company, who still makes those brown thick socks, and found they make the monkeys, too.  I passed this along to Santa Clause, mainly because he wanted it sooo much.  The spark was a movie: Mister Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.  It is, frankly, a very sad movie with a happy thought attached to it, but throughout a little sock monkey wants nothing more than to give a hug to one of the main characters.  When Noah got his monkey, he loved it like no other present that year.  My wife was astounded.  I was reassured that I wasn’t too bad at finding presents.  I failed for my wife every year but my kids seemed to be doing well.  The monkey has had a leg pull a stitch…then the other.  Today, it’s a tie to the last year or so Noah had his Mom.  I don’t think that’s why he loves it so, but it stays with him.  There are only a couple creatures he keeps at the head of the bed, sleeping with him: his sock monkey and the knitted owl that his sister made for him, named Nelson.  Those remain cherished for him.

Sam . . . has something that I never thought would become his favorite.  When we were in Texas, my job had me leaving town, a lot.  California was the same.  On one of those trips I vowed to the boys, in particular, that I’d bring something back for them.  For Sam, it was a little grey stuffed dog.  He named it, for whatever reason, Shuno.  (Shoe-Know) I never even thought he liked the dog that awful much.  But when we went on a trip one day and he didn’t have Shuno . . . Sam melted down.  It must have meant a lot to him (though it annoyed the hell out of me) when I turned around, twenty miles from home, and went back for the dog.  It’s remained with him since.  He doesn’t cuddle it, it’s not a security blanket, at least not in the sense that you’d typically think of it.  But this morning he came down the stairs, Shuno on his head, acting like a model from 1953 trying to walk upright with a book on her head.  When Shuno fell he grabbed the dog and dusted him off.  I looked at Shuno last night . . . he’s matted, dirty, beaten up.  I’ve sewn back two of his legs already.  But Sam won’t get rid of him.  He loves the dog.  I like to think for Sam it means, for him, that when I said I would always come back I do.  Having lost his mother that might be even more scary for him, and Shuno might just mean for him that there are times when it was still that way.  I do come back . . . and he’s refused to let anything happen to him.  The last time Shuno threw a stitch Sam bugged me every fifteen minutes until I broke out my reading glasses, the needle and thread.  While he showered I fixed Shuno.  After he came down he asked if I would fix the dog, which he couldn’t keep with him due to the large seem burst on his leg, and I threw the dog to him.  He’d never looked happier, like I’d solved the mystery of the pyramids single-handed.

My little boy, Sam, when he was a baby.
My little boy, Sam, when he was a baby.

So why is this tale of a dog, a monkey, a bear and a horse anything to write about?  There’s a common thread here: each of those kids has chosen their respective surrogates for comfortable and happy times.  That doesn’t mean that Abbi or Hannah were happiest without their siblings.  Still, they have happy memories.  Abbi – in that tiny little house with the hardwood floors.  Hannah – in Texas with her best friend down the street and a sister who shared a special day with her.  Noah – a memory of how he loves hugging and clings to secure and good things, good times when he had two parents.  Sam – the boy who loved a present I wanted him to love so much and never revealed it until it surprised me.  It’s a reminder for him that there’s some security in his Dad.

I know some parents who worry about kids with their animals, kind of like Linus in the Peanuts cartoons with his blanket.  But remove those symbols and you might just be removing something that ties those kids to warm and comfortable places.  They’re not living in the past.  Maybe they’ve idealized it a little bit . . . but none of it is harming the future, either.  Even today, if they need a reminder of how things were great back in the days they had two parents they have that.  My kids face that we’re all different and have different thoughts about the future.  We all realize that their Mom wasn’t as great or perfect as the ideal pictures hanging on the wall.

But there were great and amazing times that give us comfort.  For them, it’s as simple as a dog, a monkey, a bear and a horse.

Back where it all begins…

A picture of my from High School...(photo cred-Jenny Turner)
A picture of my from High School…(photo cred-Jenny Turner)

Back Where It All Begins by the Allman Brothers Band

I delved deep into my own past over the weekend.

I won’t go into graphic detail, but was asked to write a letter to some students at my former high school.  The reasons and the ideas are not worth repeating, I don’t suppose, except that I had to work very hard to pull the little, minute details needed to write an intelligent and inspirational letter.  Unfortunately, the successive years I’ve endured have purged many of the memories that I hadn’t really thought I’d need again.

But like so many of my thought here, a friend asked me what it was like thinking back to being the age my own daughter is now.  What did I think?

The reality is, it didn’t bother me as much as I guess it should have.

There are a couple reasons for this: first, I can look back on those days now with a legitimate amount of fondness.  At the time I was – to quote a classic rock song – an angry young man.  I felt misunderstood.  I felt I didn’t fit in with the norm.  I wanted to break out, not feel stifled.  Yet through all that I kept close ties to home and my family.  I also could very well have closed off some very good people who very truly made an impact on my life.

I was lucky, though, that I met a woman in college who basically looked at me and said “so what?!”  So what if you feel that way, it’s your life.  And by the way . . . are you really that way, or are you just being closed-minded?  What’s stopping you from being the person you want to be, certainly not other people . . . the only person preventing you from doing that is you.  Get some confidence, for God’s sake.  That’s what it was, too, a lack of confidence…in myself and the abilities I already knew I had.

In my youth...in the years I dated Andrea
In my youth…in the years I dated Andrea

It’s like lifting a curtain from in front of you.  I was married to her for eighteen years until she passed.  She helped me to see that I had a great foundation, something that really shouldn’t weigh my mind like I’d been letting it do.

And by the way, take a look at what those high school years propelled me toward: I became a journalist.  I’ve seen amazing things.  I have met presidents. . . world leaders . . . I saw the Pentagon with the gaping hole left by terrorists; I uncovered a loophole in the FDA’s regulations; I found pieces of the Space Shuttle Columbia that fell to the ground after it crashed; I climbed a waterfall in Jamaica; I repelled down a cliff to get to a story in Arizona; I met BB King; I met Kenny Burrell; I’ve been to Afghanistan and seen wounded soldiers rescued.  I also started my own band, opened for and got stiffed by Foghat; played multiple music festivals; I recorded two CD’s and one of them is still selling copies on iTunes.  All those things are possible because I propelled myself to greater heights.  I wasn’t stifled by my youth, I was encouraged by it.  I just needed to understand that.

But back to my initial thoughts . . . so what is my thought about having been that age and my daughter at that age now?  I’m proud.  I can look back at those years and actually see that those years propelled me to where I am.  Sure, I’m the only parent in my household now, but I am strong, solid, and knowledgeable enough to handle that.  My daughter doesn’t have that chip on her shoulder, she’s a smart, funny, quirky and talented kid.  She knows it.  We all – the five of us in this house – faced adversity.  Now we walk another road.

But I can look at what I did and see my daughter doing better.  Isn’t that the path we all want?  She’s going off – with my encouragement – to do her passion in life.  Each of my kids have different talents, but I make sure they are confident in those talents.  I was encouraged but for whatever reason I never thought I had the strength to handle it all.

I faced a tragedy.  So did my kids.  But we are not defined by tragedy.  We build on our lives looking back at that experience.  I lost my wife . . . but I have gotten closer to others in the successive 20 months since.  I’ve walked my own road and done things differently that I did the last 18.  That’s okay.

I look at my kids and see them making their own paths as well.  It’s interesting to see my own past and think about what I might have thought my life was going to be.

No, my life’s not what I thought it would be at this point.  But in many, many ways . . . it’s been much better.

During the buildup to the Iraq War
During the buildup to the Iraq War


Shadow of the past

This isn’t going to be a depressed or sad entry, I swear, but the idea of the past having its shadow hanging over us is something that seemed appropriate.

I get occasional pieces of advice and emails and notes that are meant to be helpful, and I truly take those in the spirit in which they are intended.  I don’t mean to make it sound like I don’t like or am disappointed in the advice, but I’ll be the first to admit there isn’t a lot of information or advice out there for – well, for people like me.  A very good friend who lost her husband touches base with me occasionally and her advice – as she’s a good 2 years ahead of me and raising her kids and dating a great guy and the like – has been invaluable.

Here’s something I have noticed, and I think she’s felt the same…losing a spouse as opposed to ending a marriage or ending a relationship isn’t the same thing.  Yes, the phrase still fits – my marriage has ended.  The difference here, I have to say, is that there was no decision to end that marriage.  Let’s put aside the possibilities of abusive or violent relationships, those factors really don’t apply to my situation.  But the biggest difference is the fact that where divorce or breakups happen, there is still the option of seeing your ex again.  That’s not an option for me.  My wife didn’t want to end our marriage and neither did I.  So the negative connotations just aren’t there.

So the latest pieces sent to me had to do with “moving on,” so to speak.  Some were just coping with losing a spouse – which most of that information was for where I stood more than a  year ago.  Now I’m getting stuff about how I’m supposed to handle things and how the move forward in my life is supposed to go.

But the interesting thing about most the “help” that has come my way is the fact that the majority of it was from internet bulletin boards and articles written by someone who’s in a relationship with a widower, not the widower (or widow) him(her)self.  I was more than a bit disturbed by the number that had headlines like “getting a widower to love you” or “girlfriend of widower” or “wife of widower” and how to handle the ever-present “shadow of the late wife.”

Some of the articles listed guys who had a shrine to their wife, and a sealed off room for only her family to visit.  For the record…I don’t have a shrine or a secret room.

Some talked about clothes and items kept pristine and neat in the house so she’s still there.  Most of Andrea’s clothes had to go when we had to move.  It wasn’t easy, but the clothes didn’t make her Andrea.  They didn’t smell like her, her presence wasn’t in there.  The ones I kept were expensive, professional clothes that I thought our daughter might be able to wear in the future.  Classic pieces.  Sweatshirts my oldest wears because they make her feel comfortable.  They’re not enshrined anywhere.  The only thing I did keep was the wedding gown because it’s preserved and…well, it’s her wedding gown.  It’s not on display, it’s on a shelf in the closet.

The more disturbing thing to me was the number of – and I’m sorry if this offends, but it’s true – but the number of women who were simply put out because the late wife was present, mentioned or even in pictures throughout the guy’s home.  Here’s where I have concerns: Andrea is present in a ton of photos in our home.  It wasn’t done, though, as a shrine.  (many of the comments talked about people counting the number of pictures…then the number that had the late wife in them.  I thought that was a bit creepy.  I don’t even know how many pictures I have hanging up.)  There’s one solo picture of my wife in my house and it’s mine.  I have one of her – just one – at my desk.  There are a bunch, though, where it’s her and the kids.  Family photos and portraits.  I choose to believe there are just as many without her up on the walls.  I’ve added photos of the kids and I to the litany of black and white and color snapshots but that’s each time we get new ones.

My family, today, taken by Amy Renz’s Hunny Bee Photography

The stuff sent me is from a perspective of someone who hasn’t lost and hasn’t thought about the past and the kids.  It’s assuming the reader is dating – which I’m not right now.  Comments are even more disturbing – telling the woman the late husband has to remove the photos.  She’s his girl now.  She’s his life, shouldn’t talk about her, shouldn’t come up . . . none of it.

Look, I write about Andrea here and there in this blog…maybe more than here and there at times.  But I cannot simply turn off that part of our lives.  That’s what I just don’t understand.  I’ve known tons of men and women who have had a breakup and even a year and a half later are ragging on the ex.  That’s apparently acceptable.

I have female friends – a number of them.  Some are friends that Andrea and I had together.  Some are her friends.  When Andrea’s name comes up I talk about her with fondness and joke about the not-so-fond moments.  But at no point am I pulled into the pit of despair when her name comes up.  I am quite aware that it’s unfair to compare friends, relatives, the kids or even someone I might be close with to Andrea.  They’re nowhere near the same people, nor should they be.  Would I seek out someone just like her again?  I doubt that, I’m not the same person, nor was she.

But here’s where the advice columnists and the commenters and the information superhighway and I differ.  I know, compared to a lot of the people described in some of these articles, that I seem a bit more stable.  I don’t have “shrines” or “monuments” to Andrea.  I’m well aware how imperfect she was.  There were things she did drove me batty – and the kids all have one or more of those same tendencies.  But don’t ask me to not have her in context to points in my life.  Half my life – literally – was spent in the company of this woman.  As each day goes by that influence diminishes a little more, but to erase that would be to erase the great things she did for me.

I’ve said this before – I was always the person I am now . . . but I wasn’t able to let him out, I’d walled him in some dark space of my own making.  Andrea saw that person and just never allowed me to stay in those places.  I came into the light and have been there since.  But it’s also true that in a lot of ways she didn’t understand me . . . and it took a lot of time for her to try to understand me.  We had strong days in the last year of her life, but we had many, many awful ones halfway through it as well.  I cannot remove those influences, to do so would eliminate a part of who I am.

It would also hurt the kids, like we’re trying to get rid of their mother.

So know this, folks, advice is just one person’s opinion.  I’m not giving it here, not really.  But for me, my life, my kids . . . I know that she’s a perspective…a harkening back to a different time in our lives.  As much as her life influenced us, her loss cannot help but influence us as well.

The past has its shadow, for sure.  However. . . every little bit of light brightens memories of it as well.  I’m not influenced on a daily basis by the eighteen years of marriage, but I have been shaped by it.  But our life is our life, not hers.  I can make decisions and have thoughts on my own without her.  I can also think about how she helped us as well and both situations are good.  I can’t erase my past or her life and its imprint on our history.  Some may say that’s bad, but I think that’s a good thing.

I don’t ignore my history but I just don’t live in the past.

The Tug of the Past

Been Gone Too Long – Hourglass

I was on my way out of work today and I smelled lilacs.  It’s not a common smell anymore, at least not as much as I remember as a kid.  The flowers only bloom at one time of the year and usually they take a lot of effort and work to actually get the flowers from the lilac bushes cut properly so that they sit in water and look nice.  I know this because it was a yearly ritual for my family.  Try as I might, the smell of those flowers tugged at my heart and just pulled me back to the past.

Having read this blog before, you probably think I’ve got some amazing part of my love story that will take you on a journey to my life with the amazing woman I married 19 years ago.  But you’d be wrong.  The smell actually pulled me back to my childhood.  You see, my older brother and I both had the duty of helping my family to get the lilacs that my family put in our house.  I really hadn’t anticipated getting the blast from the past when it hit.

When I was growing up I spent every weekday at my Grandma’s house for lunch.  My mother didn’t think the cost or the nutrition at the school lunch room was worth a damn, and she was right.  As a result, I got to spend a half-hour every day with my grandparents, as my grandfather joined us for lunch every day as well.  When my Dad’s father – my grandfather Farajollah came to visit – visiting only twice in my lifetime – he used the Persian pronunciation of my name – Da-ood.  My Grandma found that both endearing and humorous.  She would hybridize it, call me Davood instead of David.  As a result, my Grandma used it to greet me every time I came in the door.

You see, my Grandma lived just about a block away from the school.  I’d walk down the road and into the alley that went behind her house.  The back door was the easiest and typical entrance to her house, so I’d go in and before the door was even closed to the house I’d hear my Grandma’s voice, sing-songing the words “hello, Davood!”  She always had a good meal, something hearty and homemade.  At Thanksgiving and Christmas the house smelled of food, the smells wafting outside the house.  She had an outer porch before the inner door to the house.  At Christmas all her tupperware containers would be there filled with treats, from sugar cookies to kolaches to pumpkin pie.  (We had a Czech background on that side of the family)  It wasn’t just a pleasant smell, it was a smell of home.

The Spring would come every year and my Grandma would take my brother and I out to where they used to live – a farm about 6 or 7 miles outside of town.  My Grandma would come with her gardening shears and buckets for water and we’d go to what was a massive row of bushes that were filled with the light purple colored flowers.  We’d cut and cut and the whole car, the house, the entire place would smell of lilacs.  My grandma called us her helpers and she’d tell stories of the farm that used to be there.  We’d then get in the car and deliver those flowers to everyone in the family: her sister; my Mom and Dad; my great-uncle . . .we spent an entire weekend day doing it.

When I got married, I’d visit my Grandma and Grandpa.  My Grandfather was a lot judgmental, a little crotchety, and loved us dearly.  As a result, it was very hard for anyone joining the family to immediately gain his trust or favor.  The first day Andrea walked into the house, saying hello and flashing her smile, my Grandpa walked up to her and gave her a hug.  On the way home that day, Andrea looked at my Mom and said how much she liked my grandparents.  “They’re really nice, very friendly.”  My mother looked at her aghast and said ” you worked some magic there, dear, because my Dad doesn’t even hug me most of the time.”

I bring all this up because losing Andrea wasn’t the first loss we’d suffered in the string of months, even a year.  My Aunt passed away, something that saddened us all.  She and my Uncle were always visiting.  He flies airplanes and his wife was different and sweet and fun.  It crushed my Uncle.  Not long after that, just about a month or two, my Grandfather had a stroke.  In a string of events I won’t detail here, my Aunt took both my grandparents out of the state, something that my grandparents agreed to, but I’m not certain they understood what it would mean.  Their house is not theirs any more.  My grandmother planted roses and tested new hybrids for one of the major flower distributors in the nation.  Now that garden is gone.  My family was isolated from them . . . and within a month or two, again, my grandfather passed away.  I happened to be in Omaha the day he died and I stayed for the funeral.

It was impossible to get time alone with my Grandma that day.  My cousins and Aunt wouldn’t allow it, they hovered and eavesdropped and it grated on me.  My older brother wouldn’t come because he was worried what he might say or do.  I remember getting that moment – a short period in the parish hall of my old school and church, and this amazing, strong, and happy woman was broken.  I walked up to her, and she was sitting in a metal folding chair at a table.  I knelt down in front of her and gave her a big hug.  All she said was “This is so hard, David.  I don’t know what to do.”

I noticed it immediately.  She called me David.  Since I was 8 years old my Grandma called me Da-ood and this day she had fallen.  I came to her again that day but she was never alone.  It wasn’t much later that I understood exactly how she felt.

That’s the hard thing about those damn lilacs today.  I smelled them and I wanted nothing more than to talk with my Grandma.  I wanted to hear her say it again – greeting me the way she always did.  But now she’s living in another state, far away and never allowed a moment’s privacy to talk with the rest of us.  I smelled the flowers and I was that little boy again, looking up through the windshield at the blue line that shielded us from the direct sunlight and smelled the sweet scent of the lilacs permeating the car.  I remember my grandmother’s smile and the visits she had with everyone.

The hardest part is that, as close as I was with my Grandma, she’d understand what we’re going through better than anyone, I think.  I’d kill to be able to visit my home town again and have the ability to come to the house and see my grandma and hear her say “hello” the way she always did.  I took having those daily lunches for granted.  Now the one person who would be able to tell me about how this feels and understand as well as anyone else is gone.  It’s like I’m grieving for the loss of both grandparents because I can’t have a singular conversation with her.  Letters are opened by others in that house.  Phone calls are put on a speaker phone.  I have lost the connection with my Grandmother like she was gone forever, and for all intents and purposes she is.

I hadn’t realized how much more than just our own losses we’d seen in the last year.  The past tugged me backward but today it made me realize just what I had.  It doesn’t change that I’d still like nothing more than to hear my grandma look at me and say “hello, Davood,” again.  But for now I settle with hearing it in my mind, and in the smell of the lilacs.

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