Tag Archives: prom

Dating Differences

Don’t get too excited by the title up there, this is nothing to do with a single father going on dates and more to do with a single father raising two girls.

Still . . . nothing makes my head swim quite like being Dad to two girls – one of them now the age I was when I first started seriously dating myself.  Even then . . . I don’t mind telling you at this point that I was painfully poor at it.  Still, it never stopped me from trying.  In fact, I had more than a few dates that were woefully laughable today.

I could go back into high school, I suppose, but my attempts in those years were at best painfully pathetic.  It’s probably best not to re-live those youthful attempts both for my own and those unfortunate few that went on the occasional date with me.  It’s best not to embarrass any of us further.

College wasn’t a lot better.  I went out with one girl who had just started modeling.  When she realized I couldn’t help her career as a local TV person she disappeared.  Another was Afghan and devoutly Muslim.  When she stated there was no way she’d ever end up with someone who wasn’t Muslim or willing to convert I knew there weren’t any other dates coming.  One girl, whom I sincerely liked, went with me to see George Carlin.  When he went off on a tangent about how much he hated anorexia – nay, said, to quote: “some rich bitch decides she doesn’t want to eat her cheeseburger?!  F**k anorexia!!”  I had no idea at the time that my date had been anorexic.  (In fairness to George, the old line used to be . . . if you weren’t offended at least twice at a George Carlin show, you weren’t paying attention.)

That’s just a few memorable ones.  Those don’t include the ones that had no spark whatsoever.  So you can see . . . my dating experiences were varied, strange, even odd.  All of them colored with my stammering, nervous, sweating and scared beginnings.  Even the date with Andrea, who would become my wife, was filled with strange, confused, beginnings.

But having two girls . . . my point here . . . that’s put a whole new perspective on things.  I honestly don’t know if the way my girls see things; hell, the way all girls here seem to see things is the way girls saw things when I was a kid.  I grew up seeing things much as my father did.  You went out with someone you liked.  You asked a girl out, or to the Homecoming dance or to the Prom because you liked that person, not just because you needed a date for those occasions.

But apparently I was mistaken.

For the last four years, all through the high school years my oldest had been through, the schools have pushed and prodded and encouraged a “you have to have a date” mentality for the school dances.  When each dance would approach, the desire to go or attend with a date was less a desire and more of an off-putting event.  But as the dances would approach and every…single…friend would attain a date, I would come home to the depressed, hormonal, upset daughter that just kills me.

I talked with other parents, other girls of my daughter’s age (that she doesn’t know) even, and they all say that this is the way things are.   Have I been hiding under a rock for God’s sake?  At least now it’s the way things are.  You just go . . . get a date, almost any date, as long as they’re seemingly tolerable.

I never quite understood nor could come to grips with this concept.  As I said, I just wanted to go with someone I liked.  If that wasn’t going to happen . . . so be it.  I went alone.

But I also have a far different take on things now.  I was always the guy looking from the outside.  Seeing it from a girl’s perspective is new.  Before I’d have said that it was easier to just go alone or realized that the girl I wanted to date didn’t want to go.  But now I see these things as my daughters both see them.  Being alone yourself, when your friends all have dates . . . and you see guys who went alone, without even just asking you to go on a date themselves.  That’s got to be painful, even difficult.

As a Dad, it’s hard not to try and fix this, but some things are just part of life.  I also think, though my daughter doesn’t likely think this is the case, that being a smart, funny, quirky (yeah, I said it, even though women around me told me it’s the kiss of death) girl is hard for a guy.  Being a girl who’s likely an even match or – in many cases – smarter than the guy is even harder because they don’t like that.

But at the end of the day, I never thought about the fact that there were girls out there – nice girls, pretty girls, smart girls – who just wanted a date.  I didn’t think about the fact that going with a friend who is a lot of fun gives you a date and her a date and makes for a good night anyway.  I’m not sure which is the better mentality to be honest.

The hardest thing to come to terms with is the fact that I have to listen to the situations unfold and not be able to do anything about it.  Nothing.  Not one single thing.  I could try but then I’m the fodder of most 1980’s sitcoms.

But as hard as it is . . . I know that my daughters have amazing years ahead of them.  They get to meet people. fall in love, maybe have (another) breakups, but they will have the opportunities I didn’t.  My daughters have more confidence, as do my sons, and will get to go through life better than their father managed in those years.

At the end of the day, can you really ask for more?

Zipper trouble

Abbi in a different dress – prom from this last school year

It’s not what you think.  (Well, I’m not sure what you’re really thinking, but it’s not even what you’re thinking.)

So I got home the other night and my oldest daughter was trying on a dress that she pulled out of her closet.  It’s a beautiful dress, one that she wore some time ago, but not many people have seen it.  She was trying it on because the dress she wanted for Homecoming wasn’t in her size.  She tried on this particular dress even though she wanted to wear it for her prom.

As she was there, in the living room, in front of the mirror, though, I heard her grumbling at her sister, Hannah . . .

“You’re not doing it right, Hannah, you have to zip it and . . . ”
I pushed Hannah out of the way and managed to zip Abbi’s dress up in half a second.  She looked gorgeous, by the way.  She was disappointed, though, because she wanted to wear it for prom.  So I promised – considering I’ve managed to budget OK in the last few weeks – to get her a dress on Sunday.

It made her night.  She turned around and said simply, “can you . . . ” pushing her zipper toward me.
“Of course.”  Then . . . the next part just kinda slipped out.  “…not like I haven’t had a lot of experience doing this.”

Now . . . I didn’t mean it the way it sounds.  Without sounding too gratuitous, yes, I’d *ahem* removed a few of Andrea’s  dresses.  More often than not, though, it was “I’m dying in this dress…will you unzip me?” That was inevitably followed by the pad of her feet moving to the closet to remove said party dress.  The following moments were usually with her in sweat pants and a big Creighton University sweatshirt.  Not really the sexiest of scenarios.  (Though I have to admit, it was nice having her relaxed and lying in my arms.  I do miss that.)

Still . . . it’s not how my daughter took it.
“Ewww.  Thanks, have that vision in my head all night now.  Thanks, Dad.  Ugh.”

That’s what I got.  “Ugh.”

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I see myself in the mirror – and even though I’ve managed to lose another 10 pounds, I can’t really look long without being a bit angry with myself for getting here.  Hoping that changes in the next couple months so I’m at least able to wear some of my clothes from a few years ago.

Still, it opens up a major question.  In weeks past, when I’ve had any time alone with any woman, my daughters have had some nitpicky issues with it.  They don’t want to see their Dad with anyone else, I’m fairly sure of that.  It’s not that they expressed the worry, but I know my kids.  I can hear it in their voices and see it in their body language.  It’s funny, too, because none of the moments I’ve had alone have been romantic ones.  They’ve been for work or just meeting for a beer with friends.  Nothing close to putting myself out there.  It really cracks me up they’re that worried for nothing.

But I don’t really use that as a litmus test.  9 years.  I’ve figured it out.  9 years is how much time I have with kids in my house.  That’s not a lot of time, when you consider I still look at Abbi and think of that little girl from 9 years ago.  In some ways the last year and a has felt like ten years.  They will start their lives and I’ll have to make some difficult choices about my own.  In some ways I see time speeding up and I’m losing a grip on the moment as well.  Time has found a way to right itself in our lives, whether we were ready for it or not.

So when I hear my daughter say “ewww” when I simply mention the ability to unzip a fancy dress it actually makes me smile.  These little moments don’t disturb or bother me any more.  They show me that we’re farther ahead than we thought right now.

Though the disgusted “ugh!” I could have lived without.

The First Biggest Event

On Our Concert Weeend

Without You by Manoucheri from the LP The Blind Leading the Blind

The first year was a year of firsts.  After Andrea, my beautiful, amazing wife passed away, every typical family holiday and event was a difficult first. The first hour without her; the first day; first week, month . . . Then came the holidays.  We had birthdays.  Every single thing that was normally taken for granted was something that we braced for and then endured.

But none of those days or events were the sort of monumental, milestone memories that you have.  I mean, sure, every birthday is memorable.  You take photos, videotape them, all the things made even easier by the use of cameras on our cell phones.  I haven’t forgotten or ignored those events, I have videos and photos of all of them.  I’ve written and shared them here – as much a diary of our days since losing her as they are a healing and helping exercise.

But this weekend was the kind of eventful and memorable set of days that mark a milestone in any life, not just in the lives of those who have lost, like we have.  It started with just me and my oldest daughter.

Abbi’s life began with music.  When Andrea got pregnant with her I was still a performing musician.  I ran a jam session every week with two great friends in a trio.  Andrea, with Abbi in the womb, would come to the bar and watch us play.  She didn’t drink, no smoking in the area she was in, she would just come and hear us play.  Early in Abbi’s life we went to all kinds of concerts.  At the age of 2 she was a a massive blues festival with Neville Brothers and BB King.  At the age of 4 she pleaded to see the Brian Setzer Orchestra live.  At five we saw BB King and Abbi met him backstage.  He called her “princess” and gave her the pin on his lapel.

So I took Abbi to Oakland’s Oracle Coliseum to see the Black Keys play on Saturday.  While I started my own Twitter hashtag stating #2manyhipsters throughout the evening, I was happy to be having a night out with my daughter.  We watched the show, and my daughter nearly gagged on the horrific smell of some idiot hipster’s own blend of weed there in the coliseum.  We watched the show and then made our way into San Francisco so that we could spend the night at Fisherman’s Wharf in a really nice hotel in the refurbished Del Monte cannery.  The hotel was a four-star place, and though I’ve stayed at these kinds of places before, I hadn’t stopped to think about the fact that Abbi, and even the other three kids, haven’t stayed at a fancy place before, not to this extent, and not while they were old enough to remember.

Abbi felt rich.  She felt taken care of.  I spent far more money than I should have but we had an enjoyable night and we slept well.  The next morning we ate outside and then had ice cream as we walked along the wharf and then on the beach.  I hadn’t realized when I booked the night that it would be a great night, something she’d always remember.  It was the start to an eventful day for her.

As we got back home, I’d set up with a family friend to get her hair done.  I helped her to call the cosmetics place and they did her makeup for her.  After I’d picked up the kids from their Aunt’s house, I took them home and Abbi got home.  She wanted to get into the dress we’d worked so hard to buy, tailor, and frustratingly deal with that we didn’t even really have time to realize what had come.  We’d reached the night of her Junior Prom.  Here it was, that first, biggest event.  It’s not like I’m that kind of sentimental, Hallmark card kind of guy.  But this isnt’ a birthday or a silly little Fourth of July picnic or something.  This is one of the milestones that Moms usually judge their kids by.  In a moment of panic we looked for fashion tape to try and attach the dress to her upper chest so that it wouldn’t fall and we realized that in the move the same said tape had disappeared somehow.  After an unsuccessful trip to Target we sat there trying to figure out what to do.  Abbi thought about Scotch tape when I realized that we had larger band-aids in the medicine cabinet.

I did surgery on the band-aids there on the kitchen table.  I cut the sticky, cloth-backed section off and left only the adhesive plastic bandage that was close enough to the color of her skin that it would apply.  We got the dress to stay, the shoes on her feet, and out the door about 15 minutes behind schedule.

Abbi and I on prom night…as she readied to head out

She looked gorgeous.

I wasn’t worried, the same girl who said she’d never get into drugs or weed or anything because – much like her Mom – the smell would gag her and kill her senses before the drugs did, was now the most amazingly gorgeous girl I had seen since her Mom.  She was happy, smiling, excited the dress fit . . . and she was grown up.  I didn’t ever think about where things went from here.  I didn’t know how we were going to get here.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it?  It was supposed to be “we” getting here.  Us.  I don’t have that.  The weekend was very hard for me on a couple fronts.  Without realizing it, I’d forgotten the fact that this weekend, on the wharf, was not much unlike the time I’d spent with Andrea here.  I was with my daughter but the ghost of my past kept haunting me.  The sand and the chill in the air reminded me that I’d pushed Andrea to walk on the beach, just because I wanted her to be a little chilled so she’d sidle up next to me and try to get warm.  The Ghiradelli plant there so that I’d buy chocolate that she’d refuse . . . and then take bites of what I’d bought.  The fancy hotel, something I’d splurged and spent all my money on to try and impress her only to realize that she didn’t care or notice the room.  We spent the entire time out on the sand and holding each other.

Now I watched my daughter drive off to the prom and realized that, even though I’m surrounded by people and family who wanted to see pictures and share in the event, it’s still just me.  I have reached the milestone that “we” were supposed to reach.  When I saw this day coming in the horrifically distant future years ago I saw it happening and being able to sit down with Andrea and talk about how we’d gotten here.  Now I talk and it’s a monologue, not a conversation.  I know this is supposed to be hard.  It’s not supposed to get easier watching your kids grow up and get lives of their own.

To take my mind off things I first took my other three kids to the movies, “Pirates!” by the Wallace and Gromit folks.  Then we all went to the Avengers today.  All in an attempt to keep this.

The things I hold dear and grip are the memories I’m getting just as much.  Sure, surrounded by annoying hipsters I wanted nothing more than to grab a razor and a shotgun and start threatening lethal grooming, but that was overshadowed by the fact that my little girl – that 5-year-old who was so enamored with the King of the Blues that night 12 years ago, still wanted to share this with me.

This is the first biggest event, though I hadn’t realized it until it had hit full force.  Now I wish I’d given it its due.

But I have the memories, and so does she . . . so do the other three.  That makes all the difference in the world.

The Consternation of Boobs . . .

The prom dress . . . you didn’t think I’d show my daughter’s dress, did you?

You Just Can’t Stop It by the Doobie Brothers from What Were Once Vices are Now Habits

Yeah, I know, it’s a salacious sounding title, but it’s not what you think, get your minds out of the gutter.

Anyone who has read more than a couple posts on this blog knows that there’s been more than a few issues with getting to this weekend: the prom.  Not the least of the issues was the dress itself: Santa Clause and I went through hell just trying to get the damn chiffon and jewel encrusted thing to our house.  After it arrived, we reached our first issue: the fact that none of the women I’d spoken with told me how the dress was affected by my lovely daughters endowment.  The first dress, the one that was hanging on the fireplace Christmas morning, didn’t zip up because of her bosom.

Then we got a second dress, sitting in a box, and exciting my daughter.  It arrived, looked amazing, then she told me it was too big . . . fortunately only just.

Then came the discussion of cleavage.

See, as much flexibility as I’ve managed to muster here, I’m still a Dad.  If it were totally up to me, she’d be in a dress that covered almost all her skin and had her head sticking out like Harry Potter wearing an invisibility cloak.  (Yeah, I’ve read the books.  Sue me, I had to read them all to my kids so leave the geek comments on your own computer, please.)  But I’ve had to be far more flexible and Mom-like since being her only parent.

So after all the discussion of body suits and what will hold her in place so the dress doesn’t fall to far and keeps her from looking bad we bought one at Target and she tried it on.  The tailor who took it in told her the dress was beautiful, but she called me unsure.  The dress, you see, still fell farther down than she wanted and it made her look far more . . . well . . . out there than she or I wanted.

So here we were tonight cutting stockings apart to see if that would work.   It didn’t, the middle of her dress exposing the nylon and looking just weird.  We looked at the body suit and to my consternation, they’ve added padding – padding in a cup that was large, by the way.  My daughter developed a lot and she inherited her mother and great-grandmother’s attributes so it’s not like she has a small chest.  So why in the hell would they make this thing with padding to make them look bigger?!  

In the end we found a strapless bra that she’s used before and realized that it worked so much better.  Some fashion tape, a few adjustments, my helping her zip it up, all of it will hopefully adjust it.

“You’re not just saying it looks good to make me feel better, are you?” asked my daughter.
“No, I want this to work as much as you do, but I don’t want you looking . . . available, either.”

That’s the end of the conversation.

But there was a part of the evening that really stood out to me.  (No, don’t go there, get your awful minds out of the gutter.  Just because we’re talking about boobs doesn’t mean everything’s about boobs!)  In the search for what would work I was tossing out ideas and Abbi just kept shooting them down.
“No, that makes it worse.”
“No, that’s going to do the same thing.”
“No, it would hurt.”

I finally said, apologetically, “I’ve never had to deal with this before, so I’m making it up as I go along.  I only can do what I have seen or heard or think might work.”
“It’s OK, I figure it out as I go.  Mom had to do it, too, so I will.”

And that’s the thing.  Abbi and I both are dealing with and learning things as we go.  Yes, I have family, friends, loved ones, all those people can help us I suppose.  But when I thought it would help in buying the dress it was a miserable failure.  That one statement by Abbi showed me exactly what we’ve known and practiced but never really talked about: we’re figuring it out on our own.

And that’s OK.

Abbi’s right, her Mom did have to figure it all out by herself.  Andrea was taller, sure, than Abbi, but proportionally about the same.  Andrea’s Mom, however, was so uncomfortable with any kind of thoughts, ideas or discussion of sex, boobs, private parts, love, childbirth, that Andrea was completely alone.  I knew but until now never realized just how hard it was for her and how much she went through in trying to become the woman she was.  Andrea was a beautiful woman and as a girl wanted to be that beautiful woman.  Not the popular, evil, cheerleader who used people to get ahead, no Andrea was just fun and pretty and loved to go out and dress up.  As much as her Mom wanted her to have a good life and survive in the real world she never prepared her for it.

So now, in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t tried to rush her or get frustrated when it took her so long to do her makeup.  When she did her hair and picked out outfits to wear for the night it really was a measured, refined process.  I feel like I had killed some of that spark after pushing her to speed up all those years of our marriage.  She didn’t even have her Mom to help her figure out what to wear or what bras to buy . . . nothing like that.  Her sister was a tomboy and not built the same, so they didn’t have that connection.  Andrea knew how to put things together and make everything work and solve problems.

So now, Abbi has to do it herself as well.  I am happy she comes to me and we try to solve it together.
“I want to find one of those places like Ulta to do my  makeup on Saturday,” she said.  “I don’t trust anybody else.  The only person who would have done it right was Mom.  I wish she’d showed me how.”

So do I.  But she solved the problem.  Without realizing it, she’s like her Mom . . . in all the best ways today.  I know they use that awful, cheesy line of “it takes a village” to raise a child, but we are the village: the five of us.  We get help from outside sources, but more often than not, we have to make adjustments to the advice we would have done on our own.  I mean, we need that help and that advice, but our first line of defense is always ourselves.

The best proof of that came right as they were all heading up to bed.  My middle daughter, Hannah, wanted to show me her homework: putting together a coat of arms.  She’d looked at everything from both families, tried to find it all and used some school website to get a computerized version of it.  On the bottom was a ribbon of parchment with a Latin saying on it.
“What’s the saying there, Hannah?” was my question.
“Yeah . . . ” she said with a grin and a small blush on her face.  “Abbi helped me with that.  I needed a motto for that and Abbi told me I should use what you tell us all the time.”
“What’s that?”
“We’re stronger together than we are apart.”

I say it a lot, as a matter of fact.  As hard as life is, no matter where we go or how far we end up living from each other, we have each other.  I want them to know they’re never alone.  I want them to know it’s true, and this night, the consternation of boobs giving more grey hairs, we epitomized it.

It’s a great feeling, though, to know my kids don’t just say but live the philosophy.  We are stronger together than we ever are apart.

Not My Cross to Bear . . .

My girls the way I still see them - tiny with their Mom

It’s Not My Cross to Bear by the Allman Brothers Band

As much as I put into writing and kept discussing and chanting the mantra I still stressed and worried about my oldest daughter and her trials and tribulations.  It’s not that one event – in this case the prom – was so worrisome that I had to lose sleep and worry about her.  It’s the prom.  Nobody enjoys it, not really, except maybe the jocks who find a girl that will sleep with them on prom night.  Quite frankly, I’m thrilled that my daughter is old enough and clever enough to know what’s right and wrong.  It’s both sad and scary that I so wanted her to get a date to the prom but worse yet secretly hoped she wouldn’t because of all the pressure that guys bring to the fore in formal events.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t one who pressured anyone.  Partially it was because I’m not that kind of person but mostly it’s because I just wasn’t as confident or mature to even think about it.  Had I obtained that confidence or shown it I might very well have had a much better date – as would my prom date.  But that’s the rub, isn’t it, that I had a date.  My daughter, in her emotional distress and confusion, was convinced that there was no way in hell she would go to the prom since she didn’t have a date and that she’d much prefer to go to see “The Black Keys” rather than the prom.

Then there’s her sister, Hannah, who had a mandate that she have no missed assignments or zeros on her report or she doesn’t get to go to the same said concert.  On top of that, if she fails, all three of them have to move to the public school, going down the street where their sister Abbi goes.  When I saw blank spots on her math chapter check I asked and got a panicked tirade about how things changed and she didn’t know it when we were in Nebraska for the anniversary of my wife’s passing.  She said the teacher changed the assignments and didn’t tell her and that it was all a mistake.  A mistake that’s now more than a month past.
“Why haven’t you asked her about them like I said?”
“Because she scares me!”
“No she doesn’t.”
“Yes she does,” says Hannah, but her eyes betray her.  She’s not scared at all.  She knows she should have taken care of this but didn’t.  I made the deal and I told her I’m sticking by it.
“Today was the day you were supposed to fix this.  You didn’t and by all rights you should stay home and miss the concert.  You get tomorrow.  That’s it.  You’re not scared of your teacher, you’re embarrassed to talk with her.  That’s different, but if you let that embarrassment overtake you you’re not going to get anywhere and all your siblings suffer.  She wants to help you and you disappointed her if you don’t fix it.  That’s why you haven’t talked with her.”

All this swirling around a singular concert with a band that may or may not be around in their distant future.

I like the band.  They’re good, solid musicians with a penchant for actually playing their own instruments and avoiding auto-tune like the plague.  For those two things alone I respect them.  But my line to my daughter even a month or more ago was the fact that even had a date to the prom.  Times were different, yes.  The location was different, yes.  I was an awful date, yes, all of that.  But I still went.  My line to my daughter was that in 10 or 15 years, when she looks back, will she remember the Black Keys because they were Hendrix or Clapton-like in their staying power, or will she remember that she had a chance to go to her first public school formal event and skipped it?

Now, let’s review what got me here, though.  I have tried over and over again to tell myself that I just have to let my kids solve the major issues on their own.  I can’t get her a prom date, homecoming date, or any date.  Can you imagine what would happen if I tried?!  Good God, it’s hard enough to be  a kid without your parent(s) messing with things.

To be honest, this isn’t really about a dance, anyway.  It’s both of us adjusting to what life is going to be like, and for Abbi it’s nothing but change, month after month and year after year.  I was so inept at the age when Prom was the most important thing in your life.  But had I had that confidence would I really have ended up with Andrea as my wife?  Not that I would have found better, there was no better, but would she have responded.  I found her at the exact moment she needed someone who would treat her the way she deserved to be treated – at least that’s what she said.  She found me at the time I needed to be able to shed the weight of the cross I was bearing and come into my own.  She found out she could have fun with someone who wasn’t just wanting to party all day and enjoyed what she had to say.  We worked together so we knew we could not only stand each other’s company we enjoyed it.  We talked about more than college or drinking or who slept with whom in our circles of friends.

When I met Andrea I still had all that weight I was carrying around.  I’ve posted this before, but she was planning on moving away from Omaha.  She didn’t see anything to keep her there and she wasn’t sure there was a life for her there.  I started dating her at that moment because, let’s face it, the risk was low.  I might get hurt, but the repercussions were minimal since she’d be moving if it didn’t work out.  But the oppressive weight that held me back from everything went away.  I was so worried I’d lose what I had with her if I didn’t take that risk, worry about being embarrassed, that I asked her out – damn the consequences, no reward without risk.

But I shouldered weight my daughter didn’t want or expect me to because her life has had to change and will change so much.  We couldn’t keep her in her private school because I’d lost Andrea and the income she would have brought.  I moved her to a public school after a life filled with private, Catholic education.  She moved into dating and boyfriends with no Mom to hold her and tell her she knows and understands the pressures of being a girl in a world filled with guys with only one thing on their mind.  So when she’s upset she can’t get a date and the guy she hoped would ask, even thought they’re just good friends is with a girl he’s had a crush on, I’m crushed myself, shouldering weight she doesn’t seem too crushed by herself.  I worry about the fact that she has her senior year, will get through it, and then has to decide on college and it all changes, blowing into a whole new world for her all over again.  This girl who had to deal with changing her life, her home, her school and her social circles now has to do it all over again in less than another year.  She’s strong, smart, quirky, and fun and my biggest worry is that she thinks that has to change with the changes in her life.

But then she told me how she’s joining a big group of people and going on her own.  She’ll get to dance with a bunch of guys and she’ll look beautiful in this amazing dress that we’re getting tailored.  Even though I quietly kept my ignorance of the advice to myself, worrying about the fact I couldn’t fix her problems, they got fixed.  She did it on her own, just like my dear friend told me.  I can’t fix it all, and I shouldn’t even if I can.  Sometimes my kids have to fix their own problems. I understand the fear of going to a dance alone, though some of my favorites were when I did.  I danced with people I wouldn’t have been able to with a date.  I faced embarrassment even though my daughter doesn’t want to.  It’s important and she needs to do it or it will overtake her later in life.  But they’re all things they have to face, not me.  I want so much to go in there and just meddle and do it for them.

But I can’t.  They must, and through that, I live on, and I’ll be strong, because It’s just not my cross to bear.

Leave the World a Bit Better…

Lonely Boy by The Black Keys from their LP El Camino

Those Damn Cookies I Had to Make!

I was in a mad dash scramble tonight from the moment I entered the door. It also came after a day when one interview cancelled and I was running around crazy, so my mood had not been particularly pleasant. I hadn’t even taken my coat off and standing above me, looking through the banister, was Sam hollering “can we go to the school’s International Passport night? We get a free dress pass tomorrow if we do!”

If I hadn’t needed to eliminate a load of wash for the evening I wouldn’t have even considered it. On top of scrambling to fry a bunch of burgers and cook fries for dinner, I had to head to the grocery store to get the ingredients for a recipe of Persian cookies that I’d volunteered to make for “International Meal” at Hannah’s class tomorrow. I stood there, wool P-coat still around my shoulders, looking into the kitchen, out the front door, and still hadn’t put my briefcase down from the work day. You know what happened next, I was doomed.

But the stress didn’t end. First, Hannah informs me that there are more than 30 kids in her class alone, therefore I have to make 3 dozen cookies. I’m running around realizing I don’t have hamburger buns. The kids are all shouting that they want to go because it starts at 6:30 and I haven’t even half finished with the dinner yet . . . and I suddenly realize the “lesson” I’ve been trying to teach Hannah about not doing her chores has backfired. Not only is there no room at the table, the entire kitchen is a mess. The more I clean the angrier I get, and I was already angry.

Little did I know that the dreaded and well-known Manoucheri curse was going to rear its ugly head soon.

We all went to the evening, running into parents I hadn’t seen and walking through the chaos of the gymnasium filled with maps, games, foods, all of it from around the world. It was a little bit of pride that took me when the kids had to put dots on where they were born and we had two separate states, neither of them California, and the people around looked like we’d just landed here in our shuttle craft from the Martian mother ship. (not the parent running the booth or the teachers, but there is a contingent and pervasive mentality that if you’re here in California why would you ever want to leave?) But seeing the map, the little dots on Keller/Ft. Worth, Texas and then Omaha, Nebraska, I didn’t just think about the fact they were born there, there’s a flash of memories that rush through your brain. You get overwhelmed with memories.

Noah is still processing the latest string of emotions that hit all of us, I think. He didn’t want to go to the International Night because he was worried he’d get lost in the mass of people and not be able to find me, a fear that he’s gotten in just the last couple months. A fear that I can only help him to face, but he’ll have to tackle it at some point and I can only help him get the tools, I can’t face it for him.
“Will you stay with me when we go to the tables?” he asked more pleading than anything else.
“Of course, Monkey, I’ll be right next to you. Don’t worry.”

It wasn’t painful, it was fairly easy and we saw friends who make us smile. I loaded everyone up, now hopped up on lemonade and sugar cookies and went to Safeway. I went in to get cookie ingredients and Noah got out and came along with me, leaving the other 3 kids in the car. He reached up, put his hand in mine, and quietly said “I love you, Daddy.”

It melted some of the stress.
“Love you too, Monkey. Very much.”

It was the drive home that was hard. Abbi nearly lost it. Yesterday I bought tickets to see the band “The Black Keys” during a presale for registered users of the band’s website, and since I’d gotten their latest album on presale for Abbi for her birthday they gave me a password to order tickets early. I’d gotten three, one for me and the girls, who love the band. On the way home, her friend had informed her, after her very short period of bliss, that the concert was on the same night as the Prom. The Prom which Santa had gotten a very expensive, very nice designer dress that was an insane amount of stress and difficulty for both me and the re-suited fat man!

“Maybe I’ll just skip the prom. Nobody’s going to ask me anyway, and I want to see the Black Keys!” was her response. I looked at her and had to say something.
“You know, I can’t say for certain that the Black Keys will be around in 20 years, but I can say that if you skip the prom, you’ll have to deal with that forever.”

Her response is one I’ve heard and told myself countless times. “I won’t get asked” or “I’m always second in everyone’s mind” or “I’m a good friend but they never think of me as a date” all things I don’t agree with, but what can I say? I was the same way. All I could say was how, even in my youth, when I was shy, quiet, lacking self-confidence, I asked a girl to the prom. I never took a date to Homecoming, Sweetheart, none of the other dances. I always went, but I never took a date. The Prom . . . prom was different.

You have to understand why this was such a big deal for me. I’ve recounted before how I couldn’t ask a girl out easily. I had paralyzing fear and shyness. I’d dial 6 numbers and never get to the 7th. I’d ask then panic wondering how I could have gotten myself into the situation. I think they were going out with me because they felt sorry for me. None of these things were true, at least I don’t think, but I thought them nonetheless. But I overcame that, just long enough, to ask a girl I had a crush on to the prom. I rented a tuxedo, talked with friends about what they were doing, and then asked, quite unsuccessfully, my father if I might drive the convertible to the dance. (I knew the answer, but hey, you gotta ask!) I may have been an outsider, so to speak, but even I asked a girl to the prom. Me, the geeky, lanky, shy boy. Abbi’s none of those things. She’s outgoing, happy, funny, and smart. One of the good things, I thought, of going to this public school was that she’d get to have a social life and interaction with boys, much as that bothers me as a Dad. She gets a taste of real life, to live her own John Hughes film.

The boys then asked the question that started the philosophical thinking in my head: “did you know mommy when you asked this girl to the dance, Daddy?” Of course, I didn’t. I lived in Nebraska, Andrea grew up in California, we were literally a world apart. I was in a small town she was in Sacramento, a large town trying to act small.
“What happened at that dance, Daddy?” I couldn’t lie. Sure, I got the courage to ask someone to the dance. Didn’t change that I was still shy, geeky, lanky, and not the most confident of people. Not the shining moment that I would have hoped, but I went. I asked someone, and good or bad memory (it’s not all bad, take it from me) I went.

Then they asked what I’d been thinking: “but Mommy didn’t have a bad time when she went out with you?”
“No, she saw something inside me, something I don’t know I even saw myself, kiddo.”
“So what did she do?”
“She was you Mom, guys. She showed me who I could be. She didn’t let me be shy. She was tall, beautiful, and funny.” Abbi looked my way and saw I’d noticed and she turned away. The boys asked . . . “so is that why you married her, Dad, and not that other girl?”

“I don’t know that marrying anyone else was ever on my mind, kiddo. I loved your Mom, and she loved me…all of me, she didn’t even see the things I worried about, she just blew past them and brought me up next to her. It’s like she’d known me all along, even if I didn’t know the person she saw, she let me be who I’d always wanted to be. She saw who I really was . . . even if I didn’t…”

I could feel my eyes welling up and I was glad it was dark.
” …and I miss her. I miss her a whole lot.”

When I got home the reminiscence didn’t stop. Abbi was still horrified at her luck of losing the concert to the prom. So I solved the problem. I got tickets to the show the night before, with the little I had saved for new pickups for my guitar. I told her to find kids who would want the Sacramento tickets, the presale for Oakland hadn’t ended and we got tickets for there instead.

“Mom always said that you were the best at solving problems,” Abbi told me. Andrea did used to say that. She thought I should have been an ER doctor, or some other high-stress job because she always thought I thrived on the problems and coming up with ways around them. She’d once said that if we’d had to fight on the battlefield that she knows I’d be more like the guy who took the reigns when the Colonel was killed and got his men out of harm’s way. I still feel like I’d reverted to being the kid who barely asked the girl to the Prom.

While I made the cookies for school the next day, running the dishwasher full of old dishes Hannah had neglected, I had the TV on to a random channel. On it, a person brought up a very old saying: “the main thing is to leave this world a little better than when you entered it.” It’s a saying I’ve heard before, one that I always liked, but it really made me think.

There’s the what-ifs . . . how many more amazing things could this beautiful woman have accomplished in her time? What more could I have expected from just being in her sphere of influence? I don’t lie when I say I am the man I am today because of her. Then I started to think about everything.

When we met, I was a technical guy. I did the occasional reporting, but more than anything I was a photographer, nothing more. Now, I’m an investigative journalist. I’ve won awards, I’ve met world leaders, I’ve seen amazing things. I would never have done any of it, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today, if not for the woman who never bothered to look at me as less than I was. She just saw . . . me. I so wish I could have seen what more she would have done, what she would have given the world. The Alzheimers drugs she’d helped research in school. The lives she might have saved catching drug interactions. The materials she might have written in some sort of drug research.

But in the end, she did leave the world better than when she found it. At least my world. I’m here, today, writing and solving the “Manoucheri curse” yet again because she showed me I could.

When I came up to start writing I checked my Facebook page and saw my daughter had posted a message:
“Who has the best Dad in the world?! I do!!!!”
Really, that’s all I needed. She’s more like her Mom than she ever realized.