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Second Thoughts . . .

The kids, this Saturday after lunch
Think Twice by Robben Ford and the Blue Line

I’ve been thinking a lot this weekend about my kids, my life, how we ended up here.  I spent the last week in a haze of cold and flu medications, sleep deprivation (because I kept waking up coughing) and worry about whether the kids are OK.  It’s not something I’d actually thought too much about until just this weekend, I’ve been more concerned with getting through each day.

But now I sit here feeling the itchy, heavy feeling in my lungs as the bug I caught starts to go into my chest and I worry about the balance of things.  I worry about keeping my job, even though they have given me no cause to worry, but I keep it forefront of my mind, both for what happened at my last gig and for the fact that so much rides on my keeping these kids safe and feeling secure.  I should probably have called in sick on Friday, the heavy feeling in my chest so strong I wanted to reach into my throat and start scratching the inside of my chest.  (If you’ve never had bronchitis, pneumonia or other chest infections, you have no idea how irritating the feeling is)

I also wanted to spend my normal weekend routine of staying up very late and getting caught up on laundry, meals, all of it. But instead, I realized I needed to think twice about how I was treating myself.  I normally would do anything – and I do mean anything for those four kids – to make sure we are OK.  But a line from a former News Director slipped into my head.  I had caught pneumonia early in my first year in Sacramento and wouldn’t go home, I had a story running.
“I have to make sure this gets on the air,” I said.
“And it’s getting edited now.  It will air, but you’re no good to me if you’re dead, Dave, go rest up and get better.  I know you’re sick, you’re not trying to get out of work!”

It’s that last line – you’re no good to me dead – that slipped into my brain tonight.  I never think about myself in those terms.  I’m not looking for praise or some medal or trying to be a martyr here, I’m trying to make sure the kids are OK.  But that line sunk into the recesses of my thoughts and I realized a few things.  First, if I’m gone, that’s it.  My kids suffer worse than they did last year.  That’s not fair to them it’s actually horrible.  I shouldn’t put myself at risk for things that can easily be accomplished another day or caught up.  It’s not procrastination it’s smart thinking.  If I’m out of commission they’re sailing without a captain.  There’s no outline to the story and they have to fend for themselves.  That’s not just scary it’s unfair.

So Friday night, Saturday, even tonight I went to bed, leaving that last bit of laundry, a few dishes in the sink, all there in an effort to make sure that I get healthy.  I still need to go to work, but I can balance that without calling in sick.  When I thought I had the flu I had Abbi drive me to the doctor and got the prescription for the anti-viral.  I did all kinds of things I wouldn’t have normally done a year ago.


Because I don’t have a fall back anymore.  I don’t have Andrea to wake up in the morning and take care of the kids.  There’s nobody to make dinner or clean the sheets or clean up the vomit or take their temperature, none of that.  It’s a wake up call that our goal of getting healthier needs to hit faster than I thought because if I’m in better shape my body is as well and the kids are able to count on me to do more, to act faster and be what they need.  Both parents.

The other thing I need to think about is what happens to them if, God help me, something DOES happen to me?  Who takes care of them?  Where do they go?  Before you say I have plenty of time to think about that, look at what I went through just 10 months ago: I lost my wife, they their mother.  That wasn’t in the cards, not part of the plan.  Yet here we are still making adjustments.  I have a lot of thinking to do, something I can’t seem to turn my brain away from.

Still, at least now I’m thinking, even if they’re just my second thoughts.

Baby, you can drive my car . . .

Chevrolet by Robben Ford and the Blue Line

You wouldn’t think buying a car would be that big of a deal. Well . . . yes, I get that it’s a big deal, a lengthy, awful, negotiative process that involves selling a portion of your soul in order to simply get a vehicle that you feel isn’t betraying your masculinity for gas mileage and killing your financially. But I’m not talking about the typical nightmare that is automotive purchasing.

It’s another one of those things that I have to do, but don’t want to do. Not because of the hassle, cost or confusion, though there is that. But it’s another big choice, another massive decision that further adds proof that my life is drastically and forever changed.

I know, I know, get over it, it’s only a car. …except it’s not.

If you are a family of any size larger than a threesome, you’re nodding your head as you read this. You can’t survive in a Honda Civic. Not even a Chevy Blazer. We live in the car. It’s where we pick up the kids; where the Christmas music plays as we look at Christmas lights; where we lay down my son when he fell out of a bounce house and has to go to the ER, both of us looking like we’ve walked out of tear gas in Beirut, with our shirts full of blood; where we saw movies at the drive-in theater as a treat so they can see how we saw movies as kids in the . . . well a few years ago.

It’s the vehicle I drove at 90mph to the hospital when Andrea started to take a turn for the worse.

Every car we’ve owned since I married her in 1993 has been a joint decision – and by that I mean she had an idea of what she wanted and I had to act like I argued and had an idea but in the end really agreed with her anyway. When our first was born we bought a Nissan Altima, a mid-sized car, the first year it was made, because we needed something more reliable. We’d had Hannah, so we needed something bigger, moving onto a Blazer. When we moved to Texas in that car, we realized that we needed room for soccer games, carpools, birthday parties . . . so we got the car we affectionately call the “sexy Sheboigan”.

Andrea picked her out. I’d actually never thought about something that big, that gas guzzling, that . . . perfect. Like so many other decisions we made together, she’d done all the research, talked about the ups and downs, tried out other versions of the car, even looked through pictures and comparison shopped. She went to the library and read old copies of Consumer Reports, just to check it all out.

Now, after more than a decade of having her, she has 205,000 miles. We lived in her. It sounds crazy, I know, but even the kids see it. Right there, driving down the road, it was the usual situation – Me driving, Andrea sitting there, in the passenger seat, smiling, riding along. The kids remember it the other way – them riding in the back, Andrea driving. Even now, I put my hand on that middle console and if I’m not paying attention I wait for her hand to set on top of mine. It’s a small, but definite pang that hits when I realize that it’s not coming, there’s no touch.

So December comes, after repairing the A/C, the transmission, the differential, the radiator, the bumper, the water pump and the catalytic converter. It’s so tempting to hold onto this miracle of modern-day machinery, but it’s not practical or realistic anymore.

And there it is, reality creeping into the damn picture again.

It’s not as big a change, not like moving into the new house or changing jobs or switching schools – all of which we’ve had to do this year. But I still have to make a choice and it’s obvious I’m doing it alone. Where Andrea just . . . knew, I knew we needed to buy something, just didn’t know what. Sure, I looked around, comparison shopped, hit Edmunds, Kelley, all the consumer sites. I checked reliability, value, depreciation, all of that, but I really did feel like I was blindly waving my arms around in the dark.

Sure, Abbi helped. She’s an amazing kid, and when I went back to the same mfg. I already had, not a Chevy like before, she was fine with it.

But I went in, hoping just to look at the car, and walked out last night with the keys in-hand. On the drive home it dawned on me that I’d made the decision and wasn’t positive I’d made the right one. The choice was good, the car is nice, the mileage low and the cost great. But I had to decide. There was no give and take, no negotiation with Andrea about whether we should get this or the other model. She didn’t get angry when I didn’t come home with the car because they wouldn’t come down on the price only to have the dealership call and cave in and give us the car. It was just a straight purchase.

The kids love the car, it’s new, it’s shiny, it’s like a dog hearing a squirrel.

But I realize what this really is. It’s another sign of moving on. I am happy for us on one hand, we’ve managed to find a way to get what we needed, nothing too much more, and move on. But it also means just that – we’ve moved on. It’s not like the dishes or cleaning or laundry, the daily necessities, it’s a pretty major decision and choice, and I made it. Without her there to help me. It’s not like I’m paralyzed and need the second opinion, I obviously can make the choices and had a lot of input in what we did.

But I didn’t want to. It’s another decision, another sign that she’s slipping away. It’s another day where I’ve ended up sitting here writing and seeing the pieces start to fade.

I am happy we have what we need, and sad that we lose what we want. I drove it around the neighborhood with the kids and put my arm in the middle console and when I got home I realized I didn’t wait for her hand to touch mine.

We gained a little peace of mind, but lost another memory.

The replacement for "sexy"