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Long Way from Home

Long Way from Home from Brotherly Love by the Vaughan Brothers

Crepe Myrtles, the trees Andrea favored

I had a rather unique problem tonight, one that I didn’t think would be any big deal, not for me at least.  It wasn’t even something I’d thought about since we moved out of our home and into the rental where we’ve lived for the last many months.

Abbi, my oldest, had ordered something from Amazon.com and had it shipped.  She was scratching her head at the kitchen table asking me if I’d picked up the mail or if there was a package.  When the box wasn’t there I looked up at her with a sudden cognition realizing exactly what she had done.  You see, Abbi hadn’t ordered anything online, particularly from Amazon, since last year – and I don’t mean last year, December 2011, but last year, January or February of last year.  When she’d ordered her box, she had never bothered to change the settings of her account and simply pushed the “order” button and said ship it off without realizing they were sending the box to our old house.  The tracking information said it was delivered at noon and it obviously was at the old house.

I saw her struggling with it.  Once before, in a bit of routine memory, she had accidentally turned into the road leading to our old house on the way home from school.  She couldn’t turn around, it’s a small 2-lane almost country road that led to our old neighborhood, so she turned into the cul-de-sac where we had lived.  The house was empty, the back yard being landscaped and everything just torn up.  Which is what it did to her, tore her up.  She was a bit overwhelmed.  She had to park the car and compose herself then continue home.

I didn’t think I’d have the same problem, I really didn’t.  I had moved us out of the house, done the walk-through and everything when we left, did the “broom clean” bit and even did the round about looking at the yard and everything to make sure we had gotten it all.  I left knowing full well that this wasn’t the home of our dreams.  This wasn’t my middle child’s view at all.

The day I announced we were moving Hannah went into a panic.
“This is our house, Daddy!  Mom wanted to live here!”

But she didn’t.  That was the only irony that kept me going.  Andrea didn’t want to live here.  Sure, she’d found the home, even slyly, using her very feminine wily ways of conversation to get me to buy into the fact we needed to buy into the housing market that was giving me heart palpitations because of the massive disparity in costs from the market in Texas, where we’d lived prior.  I said before, Andrea had ways of making me say and do things I would never have done before.  It was good in some ways, but in others, like buying a home right before the market tanked, that’s bad.  I don’t say this to make it sound like Andrea always got her way or tried to make me a virtual slave to her ideas and ideals.  Far from it.  In fact, there were moments where we nearly didn’t make it because I caved in too much and had to come to terms with the fact that I needed to help her since she helped me so much.

The ways it helped, of course, are evident.  I met a friend for lunch today and when I talked about my kids and going through teenage shyness and self deprecation I told her how I was shy, paralyzingly so, in my teenage years.  It was horrible, and I even regret it but couldn’t help it then.  I was so scared of rejection, so lacking in self-confidence I nearly couldn’t function.  In a group of friends I might be fine.  When I had a crush on a girl I so desperately wanted to ask out, I would – and this isn’t an exaggeration – dial the first 6 numbers and physically couldn’t get to the 7th.  I would hover over the number.  I had an old push-button phone that would dial out the number like a rotary phone and even if I got to the number, I’d hang up before the last number went through.  The few times I went out I was so amazed I’d gotten to the date I couldn’t think what to do.  I was quiet, shy, and just stupid.  Let’s face it.  Wish I’d been less of a dweeb, but it took Andrea to see that it wasn’t really me.  It took her not just befriending me, but loving me, showing me I was worthwhile.  It’s funny, just withing a couple months, when we’d just started dating, I must have made a pretty drastic change.  People I’d spoken with in my college classes normally wouldn’t have given me a glance – not because they were mean, I gave them no reason – were asking me to out for drinks.  Girls were saying hello.  I was actually being flirted with, even enjoyed it, but knew . . . I had found the person who really knew me and she was waiting for me.

My friend said they couldn’t picture that.  They saw me as so outgoing and confident, the complete antithesis of what I was describing.
“That’s Andrea,” was all I could say.  “She looked at me and saw something.  God knows what, but she saw it, pulled me out of there.  I have to wonder what her friends thought, because I know some of them had to be wondering what was going through her head.”  I’ve said it before, but I’m so much better for having fallen in love with her.  I just wish I’d told her that more often.

But where she made me better, she made me worse, too.  We bought our home, thought we’d argued and negotiated well. The price was far lower than market, by a lot.  But then the market didn’t just “adjust”, it tanked.  I liked the house, it was nice, it was big, and it was somewhat comfortable.  It had two ovens which was amazing.  But by the same token, the space between the kitchen island and the fridge was barely enough to fit one person, let alone two through.  The pantry was deep but narrow.  The light fixtures weren’t normal screw-in lights, but plug-in one-brand flourescent only.  The furnace filter was off-sized and had to be custom ordered.  The house was always drafty and the back yard was literally a mountain of a hill that couldn’t grow ANYTHING.  I tried, used a jackhammer on the rocks, tried to plant jasmine in the soil, planted carpet roses and hiked up the back yard.  But we never had the money to finish it.  The house cost so much we couldn’t afford to do anything else.  The enjoyment you’re supposed to get from having a home just wasn’t the same.  It echoed massively.  The place was loud.

We moved because we had to.  Financially, sure.  We didn’t have a second income.  I can’t use the social security for such a large mortgage payment.  I can’t do it without a second income, and it was just too much to handle alone. More importantly, though, my daughter and I couldn’t look around without seeing Andrea.  She was on the couch in the living room.  She was at the table, a mug of coffee in her hands.  Her form in the front room, where the Christmas tree was every year opening presents.  Abbi said everywhere she turned she saw Andrea and she just couldn’t take it any more.

So I took up the mantle of getting her package from the old house.  I thought it would be fine.  I wasn’t sure if there were people there or not.  I wasn’t sure what I’d say, but it wasn’t like I wanted to tour the home, I just wanted Abbi’s box.  But the closer I got to the neighborhood I started to feel like that kid again.  My heart started to beat so hard it was skipping, the tachycardia I had as a teen becoming evident again, making it hard to breathe.  I turned onto the road and started up the giant hill, the mile of asphalt leading to the small neighborhood.  I realized there might still be friends in the houses, maybe out and about.  I went from the strong, confident journalist to the teenager who was dizzy from the hormones and emotion of trying to ask out that girl all over again.  I told myself I didn’t know why I was feeling this way, knowing full well I knew exactly what I was feeling.  I hadn’t been back here since we’d packed up the trucks and moved.  I had no idea who was in there now, never really met them.

I pulled up and the Christmas lights were still up on the house.  A giant dumpster was out front, a Christmas tree in it, rocks and landscaping garbage in it.  I walked up and saw Abbi’s box on the porch even though the people were obviously home.  Through the windows I’d seen new paint, different colors even on the walls.  I grabbed the box and turned around and noticed something wasn’t right.

The lawn right by the front of the house, the small sections of grass that went on either side of the sidewalk normally bordered the two garages of the home – one a small one-car and the other the normal garage.  In the middle, when we left, were two trees, pieces we’d loved when we moved in because they were Andrea’s favorite.  They were crepe myrtles. The trees were tall, still young, and they flowered every Spring in beautiful colors and made her smile.  As I turned around, the front grass had been covered with mulch, tons of little tufts, desert kind of plants filling the whole area.  The trees were gone.  The things she’d loves so much had been ripped out, sitting in that dumpster, unceremoniously disposed.

I couldn’t take it.  That was the last bit.  I was glad I hadn’t had to talk to the people inside, but I couldn’t believe it.  I was angry, though I had no right to be, it isn’t my house.  I was sad, so much so that it just broke my heart.  I know it shouldn’t, Andrea didn’t like the house, she didn’t want to live there forever, or even much longer when we were together.  But now, the piece she liked, the bit that made me smile every time I marched up the walk to the door when I got home, was gone.  Not just gone, but ripped up, torn out and tossed aside.

I wasn’t bawling, not screaming or beside myself.  But it affected me.  I took the box, my eyes watering and sniffing a little as I walked up to the car and couldn’t bring myself to look back at it.  It’s not that the house had changed it’s that I just couldn’t face it.  I realized I was just starting to fall apart.  Simultaneously I was turning into the teenaged wallflower and angry, simpering man.  I realized that I’d weighed myself down this whole time.  I could tell you more about my shoes and the sidewalk than the world around me because I look down and trudge along like a man weighed down by a cord of wood.  After putting the box on the passenger side I looked up.  I inhaled a deep breath, opened my eyes, and realized I’d been staring at the ground wherever I went for the last nine months.  So I looked up and noticed up there, nearly at eye level, was the moon, nearly full, orange, and beautiful.  The woman’s profile staring back at me in the right lower corner and the stars around it.  The crisp air made the night clear and I saw the stars, brilliant and twinkling at me.

It made me think of her, of how her eyes sparkled like those stars when she smiled and of how the first time we visited my folks and it scared her because there was no light, just the stars.  I looked around me, seemingly for the first time in months, and realized even the neighborhood was dead.  Our home sat there, the lights and Christmas decorations still gaudily glinting there.  The house across the street empty, dead.  The neighbors selling, another house, vacant.  Andrea wasn’t here anymore, but she really never was.  I’d prayed this would make me more hopeful, but in the end it just resigned me to the truth.

All of it had changed.  We left and left it all behind.  The house wasn’t the house any more.  It felt like the place was just standing there while we moved.  Like Andrea, we’d left it behind, like so many crepe myrtles in a dumpster.

I try to hold on to my son’s analogy, that she’s there, in my heart, the biggest portion.  But I have been looking back so much to try and keep standing, to shoulder it all that I haven’t just . . . looked.  It’s really hard, nearly harder now than we even thought the holidays would be.  I think I realized, as I drove away, that it was because we want so badly to hold onto what is back there, but the more we move, the farther it falls behind us.  It made me feel even worse to finally realize it, and I had to pull out, into a Target parking lot, wandering the store aimlessly, because I didn’t want my daughter to feel like I’d been so affected by a simple package retrieval.

After a short while I composed myself, headed home and went to our new house.  I had to get the boys ready for bed, the midnight snacks going.  I had to get moving to the daily routine, knowing full well that with each little action, I was pulling us farther away from the world I’d just revisited.

And I took some solace knowing that even though it was left behind, Andrea’s body lies under two new trees, the same kind, those beautiful crepe myrtles, and at least there I can visit and know she might see them, wherever she is, and smile.

Down in the Flood

Down In the Flood by Derek Trucks from the LP “Already Free”

Our home after the move - start of the first waves . . .

I never used to be one that bought into constant analogies and metaphors for daily life.  I just went on with my daily activities, stressed out much of the time, and not really understanding what I was going through.

But now, the idea of being caught in a flood really catches my eye and is without question one of the most apt descriptions of how I think we’re going right now.  In the beginning, you see, we were just starting, the water trickling in, the dampness sort of permeating small, unrealized areas of our lives and we thought it was OK.  We could easily mop it up or bail it out later.  We had bigger things to contend with.  The dam had to be built or repaired in other places.

I’m not just giving you metaphors here.  I have examples.  Where daily things like laundry, dinner, picking up the kids, how to deal with school, all those things were decent sized problems, particularly for someone who wasn’t used to doing them every day, there’s the fact that I had to move our entire house just a couple months after losing Andrea.  I had to get a different job because my boss didn’t want me working with them any more.  I had to seem like I was a really strong and capable Dad able to take care of my children and seem like where they were a wreck I was OK, strong and able to handle things so they could feel safe.

But I had to give up a home that would work because I was losing more than 1/3 of my salary.  My children were a mess because, under the deal we’d made, we had to be out of our home in a very finite amount of time.  With no home to move into, my father offered to let us live with them, in Nebraska, as long as we needed.  We could pay for food with Social Security and unemployment.  I could write.  I could get us through the 2 remaining years of high school for my oldest, Abbi, and then decide what to do.  It was so tempting, to the point I was nearly resigned to do it.

You have to understand, in those first weeks, the point where my writing was stiff, stilted and jerky on the page, I was lost.  I was down in the flood, missing my best friend.  The person who helped me make decisions was gone.  I was alone, fumbling around waist-deep in the water not knowing what I was feeling.  Ultimately, I decided that, under all the changes we’d had to face, including moving my daughter out of her school and going to the public school, the last horrible thing that would break my kids would be moving them from the home they know right now.  Living in Nebraska, in the calm, safe, security of a home that was mine, that was my life alone, was tempting and would have been wonderful for me.  But it really wasn’t about me.  Not any more.  It was about those four kids and moving four kids from California to the Midwest, putting them in a school where their class might be 30-40 kids at most, was setting them up for ridicule and scrutiny they really didn’t need.

So I was resigned to stay.  I got so lucky, I was offered a job that paid me better, was friendly toward my family where the previous one wasn’t, and let me be a journalist, not a virtual traffic cop placing and rearranging other people’s stories to fit someone’s schizophrenic idea of a story calendar.  My father, still living with us, said “it’s about time.  You’ve been so due for even the tiniest break I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t want to ask what else could happen!”

Once we started trying to find a house the market was insane.  One house I went to said he would open the house for fifteen minutes and I could fill out an application.  Little did I realize it wasn’t just my 15 minutes, but me and 20-30 other couples, all of whom started negotiating higher rent with the owner because they were desperate, just like me, to get into a home.  I was lucky that a property manager who I had been dealing with prior to getting pushed out of my job remembered me and had set up with the owner that we could move in, if we wanted the house, with no advertisement on the home.  If we wanted it, the owner was fine with us already.  The water pouring over the dike was so heavy by that point I was literally feeling like I was drowning.

Once we moved there was stuff everywhere.  We had to move from a place we called home, with tons of stuff, a lot of it Andrea’s, and go through the materials before we were even ready.  Again, the major wash of water overshadowing the routine.

The major change now, though, is that I’ve hit a wall.  Where 8-9 months ago the water was washing, like a tsunami dragging us out to sea, now it’s been a sneaky, rising flood that has come up from underneath us.

You have to understand, I’m not really stressed out, not like I was.  I don’t hate my job, in fact I love it, quite a bit.  So the daily dread of getting in the car and driving to work wasn’t there.  A year ago I was racked with worry.  Financially we were unstable.  Andrea’s knees were shot and the bones were literally grinding against each other when she walked.  I was so hurt watching her struggle to even walk from the car into Target for the day.  Liver problems and medical issues had caused her to gain a bunch of weight that made it hard for her to sleep in our bed.  The light of her smile had dimmed.  The depression she was feeling had taken, literally, the color from all the sound and vision of her world, it was all muted tones of grey.  She told me as much.  But where you might think, “he’s happy she’s not suffering any more” you’re wrong.  You see, she’d turned the corner.  In the last few months, nearly a year, she’d gotten so happy.  She was smiling more, dancing again, singing off-key and giggling like the Andrea of old.  Just when we were poised to get her better it all went away.

So the stresses are gone.  Sure, I should be happy, but I’m not.  You never realize how much water has overtaken you until you look and see that your body is wet.  Now, I am seeing the daily laundry overtaking me.  I can’t fold it all, can’t iron my shirts, fold towels, even get it all in the washing machine.  The boys have ripped holes in nearly every single pair of pants.  Hannah has gone to excessive eating again, to the point I have to force her to get outside and walk around with me so we both get a decent amount of exercise.  My poor Abbi is in a school she didn’t want and we both know she has to attend, but she doesn’t know how to let go of her past.  Noah doesn’t want to do things separately so he knows what is going on every day.  Sam, he just doesn’t want me out of his sight.

And I work as hard as I can to stay together.  I work until my body tells me it’s had enough and needs to stop and then I sit up in my bed and watch TV until I can’t sit any more.  Like yesterday, we’re walking just off-kilter, seeing the world from the periphery.  I’m treading water.  The massive panic went away and I realized it masked the rising flood waters below us.

That, and I miss my best friend now.  It’s been a long road these months to come to the realization that I had to take the mantle of authority.  Now, I realize nearly too late that I make the decisions.  Right, wrong, good, bad, I make them.  We’re down in the flood and it’s my own fault, but the solutions are there.  I’ve got the kids doing more.  I task out what’s most important and let the leaks lie while I fix the cracks.  I’m slowly getting my head above water.

But it still doesn’t fix the one big thing yet, that I’m missing my best friend now.

Falling Slowly

Falling Slowly (Live) by The Swell Season  One of the most beautiful songs ever written/performed – by the REAL artists, not the crappy Fox American Idol version . . . 

Abbi and my son Noah, in a happier moment

It’s funny, the holidays came and went and by that I mean not just the holiday itself but all the buildup, the decorating, the seasonal songs, the feeling in the air, all of it, and we seemed to get through.  But it’s exactly as I’ve told everyone before, it’s not the major events, the massive holidays or birthdays and major events that are hard on us.  It’s the little things, the stupid, silly routines we’ve forgotten about that make us turn around to say “hey, Andrea did you see . . . ” only to falter realizing she’s not there that make you sit and fall apart for awhile.

It’s also true that we’re not really getting “better” as many people want to quantify it.  In fact, now that we’re through the holidays, it’s kind of like  things have gotten a little bit worse, something I wasn’t really prepared for, I have to admit.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the first month or so after she passed away.  Things then were a haze of torment, depression, exhaustion and dehydration.  That first week, even up to the point of going to the mortuary and all of it I spent on the couch.  I sat in a daze, unable to sleep, unable to really move or do much.  I sat up most of the night, in the odd stillness of the late night/early morning and couldn’t process what I was going through.  I go through emotions, pushing to resolve to succeed with my kids so they would feel safe then falling forward with my head in my hands wanting to just roll into a ball.  I tried to read.  I watched the entire series “The Wire” (not a season or a few episodes, I watched the ENTIRE series) via download.

One of the things that people don’t grasp is the fact that this isn’t a typical wound.  This isn’t like you’ve been shot or stabbed.  Sure, the bleeding may slow, but the wound never closes.  The hope and feeling by most people is that you get through it.  If you’re solid, Midwestern stock, like I claim to be, you just power through.  If you go to therapy you talk out your problems and the TV version of your life shows how everything gets better and eventually your life is rosy pink and you move on.

It’s not how it works, though.  I can’t blame people for thinking this, I don’t think most people are exposed to it very often.  We don’t live in the times of the prairie when Scarlet Fever and Tuberculosis would sweep through and take a number of people, leaving families to struggle on their own.  Modern technology and medicine help us to live longer and survive more, so we aren’t exposed to the life and death struggles our ancestors did.  We also are so much more surprised when we lose someone to something like pneumonia, a curable disease most of the time.

No, as a friend once put it to me, you don’t get better.  You just don’t.  You learn to adjust and you learn to live with it.  It’s your ability to cope that changes, not your physical or mental wounds.  Maybe some learn faster than others.  It’s clear we haven’t gotten it right yet.

I knew this already, sure, but I saw the physical signs over the last couple weeks as they appeared.  Today when we went to church, the kids usually break from the parents and go to a children’s liturgy, partly so they learn the readings easier, partly so they’re not bored stiff in the church and bothering everyone while the priest gives his homily.  Neither of my sons would leave.  They stayed rooted to the pew, steadfast and tears starting to form in their eyes.

“I don’t want to go!”

Their sister, Abbi, tried to make them go, but even Hannah, our middle, wouldn’t budge.  They wouldn’t say why, but I got it.  They seemed OK up until the last couple weeks, but now they want the security.  They don’t want to be away from their family, particularly me.  The boys have asked if I actually have to go to work every day, could I be home when they get back from school?  Do they have to go to Nebraska for the summer?  They’d miss me!

None of these factors came up before this last couple weeks.  But I know why they have, I feel it too.  My daughter tonight had a long discussion with me.  “I feel like I’m just kind of askew,” she says.  Not upright, not quite on the regular path.  From my own perspective, I feel like I’ve been going through the motions, and even then, not very well.  I started off with such a massive surge of energy, the push to get it all right, to do it all.  I got up really early and stayed up really late, which I still do, but I made breakfasts from scratch every day.  I made dinner in the morning so it could be heated up that evening to have dinner at a decent hour.  Now I can’t.  I just can’t keep up the routine.  I burned out too quickly and it kills me.  The laundry for 5 people is massive.  I run the machines daily, at least 1-2 loads, many times more.  Now, instead of getting it all done, I feel like i’m falling, slowly and surely, watching the world blur as I go.

Worse, I feel like the daily requirements make it so I can’t talk to the kids or do anything.  Abbi is not doing as well as she should, I can tell.  As close as she is to me, she had her Mom to help her through all the things you need when you have to talk to your Mom.  Particularly when you are a girl.  Andrea was uncanny with those things, knowing exactly what was going on, what to do.  It was like she was inside her daughters’ heads.  I know it, because there were so many times I felt the same way, when things were wrong and she knew exactly what I was going through.  You have no idea how hard it is to cope when you have that and then it’s snatched away from you.  Abbi lost her Mom and then I had to take what was her normal life, her high school days, and snatch those away.  I couldn’t afford her school anymore, and she didn’t want us to pay for it, but I see it.  She is having so hard a time letting that go, and having such a hard time getting the new school to accept her.  I can’t fix it, I know that, but it hurts both me and her, I think, because I want to try, but unlike her mother, I don’t know what to say.

We went right after Christmas to see the movie “The Adventures of Tin Tin” because Noah wanted desperately to see the movie version of the books he’d read over the summer.  When we go there, the parking lot was packed, insanely filled with people.  I had Abbi take them up, pick up the tickets from the ATM/kiosk, then send in Hannah and the boys to get us seats.  After finding a parking spot, getting my tix from Abbi and then going to get food, I’d come into the theater already through many of the previews. (Including, to my chagrin, one on the Hobbit, which I was dying to see!)  Noah was in tears.  Not the tantrum, angry or sad tears.  These were panicked, scared tears.  As I walked up I could see him stretching, trying to see us walking into the theater.  He stood up, sat down, was looking back and forth through the theater, trying to see with his little form, the gap between the wall and the front of the theater where I’d come in to walk up to the seats.  When I got there he shrank back into his seat, turning his head so I couldn’t see.  Noah had taken his hand the back of his wrist, and rubbed the tears away.  He was a bit embarrassed, which he shouldn’t have been, and a little angry.

“He was really worried, Dad,” Hannah told me.  “He thought you weren’t going to make it.  He thought something had happened.”
“I just thought you’d miss the movie,” Noah spat out, a little angrily, and I almost broke.  The little guy was panicked and he was angry at himself and me for getting that scared.  I sat next to him, moving one of the other kids over a seat so I could sit by him, and put my hand on his head, squeezing a little, gently, to let him know I was there.  He looked up a little, but turned back to the screen.  It wasn’t until something he recognized from the book that he warmed back up.

I don’t have the answers.  I really don’t know what to do half the time.  The days I feel straight and upright are so few it really is, as Abbi put it, like I’m looking at the world from a slant.  The trees growing diagonally, the world moving forward and us moving sideways.  The wound doesn’t heal, we learn to live with it.

It’s obvious this last few days that I still have a lot to learn.  Until then, I’ll fall, slowly, until I can pick myself back up.

How I Wish You Were Here . . .

Andrea and I at a formal event. I wish she was here . . .

Wish You Were Here (With Stéphanie Grapelli) by Pink Floyd

Being married to me, I have to admit, was no picnic.  I am sure Andrea had her moments of absolute and sheer frustration where she just wanted to punch the walls.  I let her steer me to what clothes to wear or how to wear my hair, but even I, in spite of the occasional polka-dot purple shirt or silk top would put my foot down on a lot of things.  I wouldn’t listen to country music even though Andrea had gotten the bug from her best friend.

More than anything, though, I listened to music.  Constantly, everywhere and without pause there was music in our household.  If I wasn’t listening to music I would play guitar.  If I wasn’t playing guitar I was singing.  When I cook I sing, out-loud and the most random songs from Christmas carols in July to Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen” to novelty songs like “Crabs Walk Sideways, Lobsters Walk Straight.  It was constant but even Andrea had her limits and would snap at me sometimes to which I’d only get quieter, not stop.

But in the car, or out with kids, particularly if there was a song that Andrea loved, she’d be there, off-key, singing at the top of her lungs.  Sam, her buddy, would go “Mooom!  Geez, stop, you sound awful!” while smiling ear to ear.  I would totally buy in, pushing her along, singing with her, trying to go off-key too and sing.  Eventually she’d pull back and listen to me sing with the kids and smile.

No song did this more than Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”.  I have to admit, that of all the albums I own, this is probably my second favorite.  I favor “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” by Derek and the Dominos, but Floyd’s album of loss, friendship broken and the love and depression of their friend Syd Barrett is my very close second, and though it’s probably a sin to Floyd fanatics, I consider this my favorite album of theirs.

So much so, in fact, that after getting some gift cards I decided to buy the “Immersion Box Set” of the album.  I got it this morning and I sit here tonight thinking I could get through it because of my long history with it.  After all, my brother gave this to me as a kid, my first Floyd record ever, and I was entranced with the wine-glass intro and buildup of the album’s opus, “Shine On you Crazy Diamond.”  But I sit here, on my bed at midnight, looking for things to write and hear an outtake of the title track and it just felt like my heart started to rip apart.

It’s strange, it’s not even something Andrea heard, but it’s a version never released with a violin instead of guitar solo and the sort of plaintive cry of the violin just shot Andrea into my head and I started to cry.

I always related to the song.  Andrea and I couldn’t have been more polar opposite, and I have to figure many of the people around her wondered what the hell she was thinking when she started going out with me.  She was blonde, tall and voluptuous.  I had jet black hair and was skinny to the point of lanky.  Near a 90-pound-weakling.  (Alright, 160 then, but hey, it fits the analogy)  She was classy and tanned and fun while I was wearing outfits 5-years behind the norm and had a Bieber do before he was born.

But we clicked.  And even then, dating, while I listened constantly to music and had my acoustic guitar and would play “Wish You Were Here” in the apartment where I lived while Andrea visited or got ready for her day.  She came out one day, recognizing what I was playing and giggled loudly “I LOVE this song . . . We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl . . . year after year!”

I never thought I’d ever get torn by this song.  It brought such happy, warm memories of her.  I thought about her sitting next to me in the car belting out the lyrics.

But the version I have playing right now is so stark, so . . . pretty, that’s the word, I suppose, and almost sad . . . that I find myself crying because of it.

So you think you can tell.
Heaven from Hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail
A smile from a veil
Do you think you can tell

Before  you criticize or try to comfort, yes, I know you could find hurt or meaning in anything if you search hard enough, but it’s brutal in its honesty.  I do – I wish you were here.  We were such opposing forces that we were two lost souls swimming around.  We had so many trials and tribulations and money troubles we were running through the same stresses year after year, over and over again.  Andrea had the same fears she’d had as a child and even I couldn’t make pull her through them to the other side.

I know I’m blatant in my musical references.  You’ll notice, if you haven’t already, that I place a song on every post hoping to spread some of the love I have for it around, but this is one of the first since hearing “Wonderful Tonight”, the song we adopted as our wedding song, on the radio at the funeral home.

I hear that song, the violin in place of the guitar, and I can see her next to me, but also realize there’s just no chance to hear her loving, excited voice with this song.

I miss you my love, my sweet Angel.  I wish you were here.

How I wish . . . How I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we found?
The same old fears.

Wish you were here.

Let’s Work Together . . .

Workin’ for a Livin’ by Huey Lewis and the News

One of our Dinner Excursions

I know it may sound strange, but my kids actually seem to enjoy spending the time together as a family.  I know I should immediately knock on wood because now that I’ve said that it’s going to change, there will be the argument, the shouting match, the slammed doors, teenage mutant ninja hormones or what have you, but it’s been OK so far.

When I got home from work last night I was getting ready to put dinner together.  I’d bought a rotisserie chicken, nothing fancy, but we’d made some wild rice and corn and made a nice little meal of it.  I hadn’t really thought much more than just putting it out and eating.  No sooner had I turned around but Noah, one of the twins, had cleaned off the kitchen table and was wiping it down with a sponge.

“Grandma showed me how to do this,” he said, huffing and puffing as he reached across to clean off the table.

I marveled at him.  He had put away the stuff sitting out, gently placed his sister’s new Christmas presents onto the bookshelf behind the couch and was already setting out the plates and silverware for the night.

“I like eating at the table, Dad, can we do it tonight please?”

We’d spent the last couple nights, being soup or pizza due to my being sick on the floor in the living room to avoid cleaning the table, and quite frankly, so I could teach a lesson to the kids that they can’t have dinner in the kitchen when you can’t GET to the kitchen because of all the dirty dishes.  Where their sister failed her chores, the rest picked up the slack.

It’s an amazing thing, this last couple months.  We should have had a horrible time.  It should have paralyzed us, hurt us, even brought us to our knees knowing that we were going through Christmas and New Year’s without Andrea.  She was such a huge part of our lives how could we move on without her?  How could we do this?  But it’s back to the adage I’ve said before and the kids are picking up on it.  We’re stronger together than when we’re apart.  No matter what happens, if we don’t have any money, if we’re having to move, if we need to fix the car . . . if we lost our wife and mother.  We can tackle it if we are together.  Where one falls, the other four pick us up.

So when I see Noah cleaning the table, I see Abbi stirring the rice.  I see Sam putting clothes in the hamper.

It’s part of the new year, and the kids are taking it to heart.  If we work together, if I’m not having to clean up the entire kitchen after dinner before I make treats for lunches and put lunches together and get the breakfasts in order for the next day I can get to bed before 1am.  I am happier.  They are able to do more.  If there are fewer chores for me to do, there is more time for ALL of us to do things together, even on a weeknight.  We can play Pictionary on the Wii.  We can listen to old LP’s or new CD’s on the stereo.

We can sit and talk about how funny their Mom was.

Being sick has taught me a few things.  Not the least of which is the fact that no matter how good a shape I think  I’m in, I cannot do everything.  My routine had been get up, cook breakfast, get the backpacks ready, make sure everyone is dressed, head out the door, then go to work.  Work my full day, get home, make dinner, clean up, cook a dessert/lunch treat, do the dishes, run 1-2 loads of laundry, get the showers going, set out the morning’s clothes, midnight snacks, read a chapter, tuck in, get Hannah to bed, go down, make lunches, make breakfast plans, clean up the rest and then . . . do it all over again.

I got very sick because I was stretched very thin.  The kids saw the virtue of my plan for the new year, and for once, in a brilliant magnificence, they agreed.

So we ate at the table, the kids rinsed off their plates, did the dishes (after I cajoled them into it) and we went into the living room and played some video games for a bit.

They finally got it.  They’re taking what they’re given, and working it out on their own.  I couldn’t be more proud!

The Final Sign

My Favorite Picture of Andrea

Tell Me What You Want (And I’ll Give You What You Need) by The Doobie Brothers

There is one final task, one last thing that I’ve put off and stalled far more than the average widow or widower likely ever would. I wish I could say there’s some massive, glorious artistic reason, a bent that drives me to wait until perfection is reached but I’d absolutely be lying to you if I said that.

Andrea died and there were so many things I had to choose, so many things I had to decide that were life changing or even permanent options that we should have made together.  I never thought about where we would spend eternity.  I had to walk through the cemetery with a map of open plots that showed where there were openings and determine where I should put Andrea forever.  I was about to choose one of the first places we found, a simple little spot under a big tree when my Dad told me to wait and look around.  That I might find somewhere that might fit a little better.  I can’t lie, there was part of me that was so tired, so exhausted and depressed that I just wanted it to be over.  Andrea was normally that voice of reason.  She was the one who would look at me and say “Dave, just look around.  I like this one.”  I didn’t have her to help me make the decision so I was lost, literally wandering around a cemetery trying to figure out what would be the best place.

This came after having had to decide on the flowers.  Decide on the casket, but since we had been through so many things and her body was in the shape it was in we only could choose from two different caskets, the costs rising exponentially through the decision making process.  It’s really strange, the things you have to decide upon.  That first day, just about an hour after my wife passed away, the hospital forced upon me a list of decisions I had to make.  A list, not a simple handful, but pages of information, things I had to determine.  A long line of items that just kept piling up and staring back at me, telling me, “yes, Dave, you’ve lost the person you loved more than anyone else in this world, but figure it out, kid, you have to get home and tell your kids the worst thing they’ve ever heard.”

The funniest thing is, in that entire list, between a mortuary, the casket, what kind of service, reception, rosary or not, the thing that kept jumping out at me, the craziest and most inane of things, was the item that said “find clothes for your loved one in the casket.”  I kept staring at that list and only could see that she needed clothes and I didn’t know what to dress her in.  I didn’t know what to do.  There were so many massive, horrific decisions I needed to make and I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was going to have to find something that Andrea would have approved of wearing forever.  It’s funny, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I obsessed over it, to the point that I must have worried everyone, my daughter, Andrea’s best friend too because the two of them took over the duty and went out, together, and Andrea’s best friend bought her an outfit and jewelry to wear for eternity.

Had I not had all these amazing people, from my father, mother and kids to Andrea’s best friend and sister, I would have failed, fallen, and collapsed on my knees with no idea where to turn.  I would have never made it.  It was an amazing testament to the people who loved Andrea and love me, but also an indication to me just how ill prepared I was for everything.

The last decision I have to make is proof that I just cannot face all the difficulties sometimes.  You see, Andrea sits there, in the ground, in a spot that I finally chose after spending that extra time my father prodded me to take.  I’m glad he did.  Sitting there in a spot forever she lies under the shade of one of her favorite trees, a crepe myrtle, another crepe just behind her.  Both trees smaller now, but looking to age well and both shade her from the intense heat of the sun and shower her with flowering beauty forever.  The funny thing is as much as I’d like to say Andrea’s in a great spot and would love where she is, I picked it knowing more that we’d think of her, that the trees would remind us of her choices and her life.  I picked the spot so we’d be happy to come visit her.

Still, as perfect as her spot is, I have up to this point refused to decide on her gravestone.  That’s the final choice I haven’t been able to let myself make.  Over the summer, Hannah found some old stones in the cemetery surveys my mother did for the Nebraska Historical Society that had ideas she and her siblings wanted to put on the stone.  Andrea was my angel, and I told her that.  She was “My Sweet Angel” and I even wrote her a song with that as its title.  I wanted her to have an angel, but something that stood out.  I wanted to have the winged letter “A” that Hannah found on a stone in O’Neill.

I want it to be a stone that’s not a run of the mill choice.

But I still can’t bring myself to buy it and put it on the ground.  It’s not just the cost.  I knew it wouldn’t be cheap, I even researched the places that will cut the grave marker for me.

It’s just . . . final.  It makes it real, finally and permanently real.  That’s the best I can come up with, though it’s not all of it.  I don’t want to do it.  Every time I think about it, every time I look at the stones or talk to the granite company I just start to fall apart.  I don’t want to do it, but I know it’s just so disrespectful not to.

It’s the final sign, the last bastion and hold on the former reality that I have.  Once I place that it’s like it means it’s really happened, that she’s really down there.  I have to see it, written in stone, that she is gone, she left me and I have to carry on without her.  I hear all the time, people say that we’ll be together again.  Is that really fair?  If she’s in paradise, I’m left here without her.  Seeing the amazing wonder that is my children growing, but living in the hell between sleep and waking.  I am left here for years without her and it really bothers me.

Andrea deserves better, I know it, but I can’t let go.  I keep looking and keep holding back.  I know I have to make a decision soon, but I just cannot bring myself to do it.

It’s the final sign.  The last letters on the page that lead to the new story.  It’s like not wanting to really know how the story ends and make the book last longer than it has.  Except this time I’m the writer and I really do know how it ends.

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.

A Reason to Believe . . .

Reason to Believe by Rod Stewart

My Favorite Picture of Noah!

There are times I have no idea what is going through my kids’ heads.  I really don’t.  I wish I did, after all, I’m their Dad, I want to make sure they’re OK, that they’re happy, that they’re not depressed.  I want to make sure they don’t have to go through what I’ve been through, even though there’s no choice in the matter.  They’re going through it anyway.  They go on with their lives in much of the same way I do.  They wake up every morning, they remember to get dressed, eat their breakfast, move on with their day, and do nothing more than that.

But I also see the little things that creep in, the little pieces of heartbreak that hurt me just as much, but make me smile and I feel guilty for liking them so much.

If you’re confused, I think this example will help you.  First, there’s Sam, who I’ve mentioned before is the family’s version of Hector Protector.  Sam always needs to know where we are, at all times, and thinks that if we’re not around things will be really terrible.  When he’s upstairs in his room reading or in his little play area playing Nintendo, he periodically comes to the banister and shouts: “Hey Dad!”
“Yeah, Samwise?”
“love you!”

Abbi is her mother’s daughter.  She worries.  Where I was sick the last few days, all through New Year’s she protected me. She took the kids on a walk or up to the bedroom when I fell asleep from lack of energy .  She yelled at me for making dinner when I didn’t have energy to walk across the street.  She made snide comments when the kids asked “what are you doing Dad?”  “He’s getting himself sicker, that’s what!” was Abbi’s response.

Hannah is just the little love.  She’s not little, nor is she small, she’s 5 foot 5 and growing like a weed but still acts very much the 12-year-old.  She comes over at the most inconvenient times and hugs me, whether I want her to or not.  She’s exasperating, confusing and just plain lazy sometimes but she’s the sweetest child on the planet.

Then there’s Noah.  Noah was the subject of much disciplinary chicanery.  He craves to be the center of attention, but he’s also the philosopher who told me “Moms have the biggest part of our hearts because without Moms there wouldn’t be any more people so Mommy lives in a big part of my heart” on the day his Mommy died.  He can be excruciatingly annoying and amazingly sweet.

But with Noah I started to notice something I hadn’t realized even the months before.  Noah gets up before I do.  It’s not that this was uncommon, he likes to be the early bird, but this is different.  Just yesterday morning I realized that it’s not to be up and doing something.  He’s not like his Mom, hating to be left out.  He wants to make sure I’m there.  I woke up to find him lying on the couch, half awake, lord knows how long he’d been there.  He was waiting for me.

He wants to make sure I am there every morning.  Just in case.

I get it, I really do.  If you wake up in the morning, like I do, you think things are like they’d always been until you realize you’re in a different house and you’re alone again.  He sees his Mom in his dreams.  He prays to her to help him to be better in school.  She, as he so duly noted, lives in the biggest part of her heart.  I can see for the first time that he isn’t getting up in order to annoy me or be the first one up or be the center of attention.  He’s awake because he wants to make sure he sees me, to know I’m there, to get comfort from the fact that, unlike his mother, I see him before I leave and I see him when I get home.  He makes sure he’s there when I come in the door from work as well.

I got the final confirmation of this hypothesis when we went to see the movie “The Adventures of Tin Tin”.  Noah had been dying to see it but we chose the busiest day of the year to go.  I left the kids off, gave Abbi my card and had her wait for me while Hannah and the boys got us seats.  Parking took forever, as did concessions, so I entered the theater 5 minutes into the previews.  I got to the side of the theater where the kids were seated and Noah was in a panic.

“He’s been so worried, Dad!”
“Worried about what,” I asked my oldest daughter.
“He thought you weren’t going to make it.  He was worried you wouldn’t be here.”

It was only a few minutes, but those few minutes shook him to his core.  The look of relief on his face made the veil raise on all his silly little activities and anecdotes.  Mommy held the biggest part of his heart, he didn’t want to make room for me, too.  He wants me here, grounded, ready to hold him up like I have been.  He adored his Mom and it must have torn him up more than I even thought to know she wasn’t coming home.  He’s mad when he cries about her even when I tell him it’s OK, nobody thinks badly of him crying about missing his Mom.

But he doesn’t just miss her.  He’s worried about all of us, just doesn’t know how to show it.

Except he does.  So this morning I scooted his little head onto my lap, leaving the house a few minutes later than usual.  When he woke up, he noticed there was a hot waffle on a plate and syrup at the ready and I was cradling his head.  I gave him a firm foundation for his day.  I gave him reason to believe his Dad will be there.

And I will be, no matter what it takes to keep him feeling that way, because I can’t see that look, that panic in his eyes again.  I may have been late to the picture, but I saw the whole scene played out.  That’s what’s important to him.  And now it’s become important to me.

And I have to admit, I love coming home to see him peeking through the curtains.  I love he has a reason to believe I’ll be there to see it.

I cursed the gloom that set upon us . . .

Karol with Andrea, in the glasses, and Andrea's sister in happy times

The Rain Song by Led Zeppelin from the LP Houses of the Holy

Just when I thought 2011 would leave without doing any more damage it had to growl one last time, just to prove  me wrong.  Late Thursday we got word that Andrea’s aunt Karol had passed away.

You’ll notice I used her name, something I usually don’t do when commenting here because I try to keep things private for everyone, but this is one exception I was willing to make.  The reason being the impact this woman had on Andrea was immense.

When I first met my wife, even as a young woman who just started going out with me, she mentioned her aunt Karol.  I realize every family has their favorite aunt or uncle, where the parents love classical music, there’s the rock and roll aunt who exposes you to the stuff you want to know about.  Sure, there was some of that with Karol, but really, she had far more immense an impact on Andrea than being the “fun Aunt.”

The moment I met Karol, I could see where Andrea got so much life.  Where many relatives are cautious and quiet, possibly wanting to be less accepting, Karol met me with a big, warm hug and a smile the likes I hadn’t seen since I met Andrea.  It made no difference that Karol wasn’t a blood relative.  She had a massive impact on her life.

Karol had been fighting cancer for some time now, but if you had no idea, other than the times she might have to bow out of an event or the slight pale to her skin you would never have known.  She was tall, thin, and full of life.  She had a smile that filled her face in the best possible way.  Like Andrea, when she smiled, her eyes sparkled, the happiness infectious to anyone in her vicinity.  Andrea talked constantly about trips with her family that included Karol and her sister Kathy, camping, spending time in National Parks, traveling the state.  Where Andrea’s father loved Jazz and her mother loved ’50s pop, Karol exposed her to folk, rock, Jimmy Buffett and the Doors.  When Andrea met me and fell in love she told Karol.  When we were engaged, Karol was there when I came to California she welcomed me with open arms and a hug that warmed even the coldest soul.

So much of what Andrea was I could see in the influences around her, and her aunts, the women who adopted her and her sister were so full of intense abandon that I couldn’t help but see the love and affection that Andrea shared.  Where some criticized Andrea for faults or problems, Karol showed her nothing but love.  The happiness and the smile the biggest influence.  Whenever we were about to meet up with her Andrea got a giant smile and was full of excitement.

We knew Karol was fighting the disease, but it doesn’t ease the fact that we lost another amazing, beautiful woman.  The world is a lot worse off for having lost her.  I wish I could say I knew her far better than I did, but having her in my life, even by proxy through Andrea, was worthwhile.  Only once in my time did I see Karol without a smile, and that was at Andrea’s funeral.  Even then, in a time that was so intensely sad, even as sick as she probably was, Karol gave me a hug that warmed my heart.  As cheesy as it sounds, it is a little comfort to think, whatever happens after this world, Andrea might have been there, waiting for her Aunt Karol, and for once telling her that everything would be OK.

I thought I’d already felt the coldness of my winter.

For this weekend, when the new year is to begin, Karol and her family, my sister-in-law, all of them will be in my thoughts and prayers.  In the hopes that the new year will be better.  It doesn’t have to try very hard.

Sick Again . . .

Sick Again by Led Zeppelin

Yes, I know, but I never waste an opportunity to use a Zeppelin song as a reference.  I’m quite amazed but yesterday and today are the first times I’ve been really sick.  I mean sick to the point where I cannot even get out of bed without burning all the energy that’s not fighting the sickness.

Getting this sick makes me aware of a few things that I guess I knew but wasn’t paying attention to all these months.

First, of course, was the fact that I realized just how much stuff I do every day and don’t even realize it any more.  I mean, the daily routine that amazingly I seem to be getting used to following.  I know this because having let the routine lapse for these two days alone has let the house turn into an absolute mess.  The kitchen is filled with dishes.  The floor is full of opened Christmas presents that hadn’t been played with during the holiday and the clothes have piled up onto the laundry basket like Mount Everest.

Before you all make the suggestions, yes, I tried to yell at the kids, tell them what needs done.  The problem is they knew I didn’t have the energy or the fortitude to back up my threats.  It was like being adrift on a leper ship.  Two of the boys got sick, neither of them lasting more than a day.  I’m on 2 1/2 days already and only now feeling human.

Second is the fact that Abbi, my oldest, is a godsend.  Yes, I know I’ve been complaining about the lack of chores being done, but I’ve been reliant on her help to make sure that things get done.  She entertained the other 3 kids while I slept.  She got me the medicines I asked for and did a run to the store when I needed it.  I managed to cook a batch of chili for dinner but ended up having her make the rice that we eat with it.  Where the other three kids yelled and argued with each other Abbi worried and told me I was too run down and needed to rest.

The last thing, which I should think is obvious, is that I need to take better care of myself.  Just the other day someone told me I needed to make sure I took some time for myself, though I don’t know when or how that will happen.  But one thing I can take from that is the fact that I need to get in better shape and lost some more weight.  If my body is in better shape my immune system will be in better shape as well.

This last one is probably the hardest thing I have to do.  I have to make the time to exercise or get some time to work out but finding the time isn’t something I can foresee at the moment.  It may wait until Spring, when the clocks go forward and there’s more daylight.  I can jog or walk, but it’s not an easy thing for me.  I prefer to have a destination.  I have a bike that’s worth using, and my son has one from Santa so I may just go on family rides when the seasons change.

These are necessities.  I have so little room for error these days that I have to look forward and see what’s coming.  I cannot afford two days where I’m not even just sub-par.  Otherwise the kids worry, like they did this last couple days.  I have reached a point in life where hiding in bed for two days isn’t possible.  Yet when I try to do the routine I get more worn down.  Only through getting my body in order along with our lives will things end up on better track.

I’ve started, but like so many other things, I can’t afford to let up.  It’s not just my life on the line anymore.  I can’t afford to let those four kids down.

It’s a lot of philosophy from a bout with the flu, I know.  Maybe I’m a little fever-addled but in the end, it’s all for the best.  I can’t afford to let myself slide either.  I can’t afford to be sick again, not a long time.

It’s amazing the things you realize when you least expect them.