Tag Archives: Susan Tedeschi

Simple Things

Family Photo

Simple Things by Tedeschi Trucks, from the LP Revelator

There’s a song by Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks that hit home to me this week.
Simple Things is off their album called Revelator.  (If you haven’t heard it, is worth a listen it’s pretty damn amazing)

But I bring this up because as I try to write each night I try to find inspiration in the things around me.  This is a chronicle of what our lives have been since March 26th of 2011.  I couldn’t bring myself to write anything then until October with the specter of Andrea’s birthday hanging in the balance.  Now, nearly a year after my first post, (tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of this blog) I find myself with the opposite problem.

The song echoes what I’ve been thinking in the last few weeks:

When you look into the mirror
Are you proud of what you see?
Do you take it all for granted
Do you have all that you need?

The refrain goes to the fact “I’ve been taking more than I’ve been giving.”

That’s been true.  I wrote here every night but weekend nights and felt very alone.  Part of that loneliness was grief, sure.  Much of it was . . . protection.  There’s a tendency after a loss to try and prevent yourself from getting hurt again.  I don’t say this just from personal experience, it’s been true of others I’ve known.  I took a very sure approach with the kids.  If they’re sad or hurt, they need only come to me.  The times I haven’t paid attention to see they’re feeling bad without telling me are the times things have gone haywire and I’ve paid a price for it.

I realized that I spoke with friends and dominated conversation.  I isolated myself and then felt alone.  Then when speaking with friends, I talked only about where we stood.  Life, for so many, goes along and they have issues and accidents and trends and problems that are just as important to them.  I may not have everything I want . . .but need?  We’re doing really well.  I try now to tell people that we’re doing okay.  It’s not a lie.  I’m not trying to convince myself.  I realized I had far more interest in how others were doing and should just . . . listen.

For so long I wanted to act the damaged, hurt, lonely guy that is so put upon.  I know it.  I am embarrassed of it and even ashamed a bit.  Part of me put on that act because I was guilty.

Guilty of the fact that I’d managed to get out from under the grief.
Guilty of the fact that we’re doing better than when Andrea was here. (in many ways)
Guilty of the fact that I was enjoying a lot of things we’d never have done if Andrea was here.
Guilty that I’d made new friends, done new things.
Guilty . . . that I was moving forward.
Guilty for letting the world know she left us and that I was a little angry about it.

You have to understand, she stopped.  Her face, her body, her spirit, they’re all eternal now.  I don’t mean that in a Catholic or religious way, I mean the only way she lives now is in our hearts and minds.  She’s eternally that curly-haired blonde that resides in my memories.  For Abbi she’s the woman in the glasses that took her to the pumpkin patch and did her hair in pig tails and bought cute overalls.  For Hannah she’s the woman who she sidled next to on the couch and watched Barney and sang off key.  For the boys…she’s the woman who loved them and I think left too early.

So I’m guilty of moving forward, and knowing that the only way to do that is leaving her there, looking beautiful and not seeing the flaws.  Not seeing the arguments.

It’s the only way we could do this.  People are often asking us, Hannah in particular, how we do it.  It wasn’t a secret.  We loved Andrea, and we love Andrea, but we can’t treat her like some malicious spirit hovering over our lives like a cloud.  Abbi is going to college next fall.  Hannah’s moving to high school.  I can’t keep people at arm’s length because I was married and lost my wife.  I can’t hide behind guilt.

We did what the song says.
Looking for life without sorrow
Love without pain.

She’s never gone, Andrea.  In the beginning that was the problem.  Now it’s part of what brought us here.  I look forward to the next steps.  It’s been almost a year and our story has changed.  A lot.

But like when I started this, it’s all different.  Abbi leaves next year and it will be different again.  Maybe they’re just chapters.

They’re the simple things that make it all worth living.  I had to remind myself to be open to those things and the people I see around me.  It may be that I’ve changed.

Or maybe, like a year ago, Our Story Begins . . . again.

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Until You Remember . . .

The acceptance letter, though I'm not sure how we ended up with it.
Until You Remember from Revelator by the Tedeschi Trucks Band

I used to be a man in control.  It was my job, my life, my memories . . . and most of all, my emotions.  I mean, I had my hard times.  Marriage isn’t always easy, I knew that.  Nothing as amazing and worthwhile as Andrea, my late wife, was easy.  My marriage was amazing, fun, playful, stressful, difficult, all of it.  When I would see photos, the pictures of our honeymoon, dating, marriage, all of it were memories that we would occasionally talk about and go through and at the time we’d be really happy.  It made me miss the amazing, great times, and I’d reminisce with her.

But now that control is something I seem to have a harder time holding onto.  Today was a strange day for that reason.  My sons woke up being more than a little obstreperous.  One would poke at the other and then at their sisters.  On top of that I had to clean up the house, something that seems to get to me over and over again.  The week seems to build up the mess, stress, and downright temper and just build up until Saturday and Sunday and start all over again.  Today was the peak of it all, I had to clean up the house room by room.  My middle daughter continues to fight doing her chores and screaming and hollering at me about the fact that I hadn’t let her go to this Friday’s concert.

Part of the needs of the day included eliminating a bunch of paperwork from years past.  I’d been more than a bit upset, and this was no small amount of anger.  My back hurt, my legs were sore, I was sweating something fierce, and I was wanting nothing more than to tear the kids a new one every time they started at each other – none of them realizing that I had to do my weekend work and their chores as well.  Before I started looking through the papers I had already started yelling at the kids.  Hannah was asking me constantly to go outside or make S’mores or start a fire in our fire pit.  I wasn’t very happy about the fact that they wanted nothing better than to go out or do more things on the weekend with me and I’ve got to vacuum, wash clothes, do the dishes Hannah didn’t, all of it.

I ended up having to tell her and her 3 siblings that we’d get to do so many more things on the weekends if they would all do their assigned chores.  As it is is now, I do what I can until near falling down from exhaustion during the week and then we get to the weekend and I’m having to catch up to zero, not get ahead of the things that should have been fixed before the week was over.  I even told the kids that: we’d do far more things every weekend if I wasn’t just running around doing their chores and my own at the same time.

Then in the middle of all of it, I started shredding all the old tax returns that were more than ten years old in some instances.  In the middle of it was a file I hadn’t realized we had.  In it was a ton of stuff from Andrea’s high school and college years.  A picture of her getting her diploma from high school.  In the middle of all of it was a letter of acceptance from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.  It’s just a silly letter, I know it.  But I find this piece of paper in the middle of talking with my daughter about where she’s going to college and where she wants to live, what she wants to do with her life, all of it.  I look at the letter and realize that she was a heartbeat away from going to UCLA for her freshman year – or worse, just before our dating to American University on the East Coast.  This stupid letter, something I nearly shredded with all the student loan paperwork and everything, etc.  This letter was the major stroke in her life that brought her to me.  I know that’s a lot of emotion and memory to place on a sheet of paper, but it’s not really something I can help.

I’ve describe the memories to other people as a wave – a washing over of just a confusing conglomeration of emotions that hits me and I feel and do things I never thought I’d feel.  I smile while feeling the roughest of emotions that burn in the pit of my chest.  I hurt and love her at the same time.  It’s not the best of things to have when you’re already burning with anger and frustration over my kids.  The result is my being depressed and angry at the same time.  My kids ask if I’m going to build a fire and make treats – something I didn’t ever say I would do – and I start to go off on them, maybe more than they even deserve.  It’s not nice, it’s definitely not pleasant, and I wish I could say it’s the first time I’ve done it but I’d be wrong.

That damn piece of paper – I know it was the piece of paper that completely changed all our lives.  But what if it hadn’t happened?  What if we’d not met would she still be here?  The world would still be bright.  The beautiful, fun woman would still be out there somewhere, maybe, and I could have sought her out and found her, maybe all over again, maybe for the first time.  I know I can’t change that and it could easily have been exactly the same.  This could have been a fixed point in time, something unable to change, a thing that’s destined to happen, that cannot be forced to change.  So many things are good as a result of it: I have the kids, the biggest thing; I have a great job that I would never have had if I hadn’t gotten the confidence to do this from her.

I realized this weekend, too, that I have to just buck up and do all this.  It’s not raising the kids that’s stressful or bothersome to me.  For me, raising the kids is the easy part.  No, the behavior problems aren’t easy or fun.  The fights are frustrating.  The laziness kills me.  But at the end of the day, my Mom cleaned up and pushed us harder and harder to clean up and do our chores.  I can’t just let it happen.  I have to do it and make them do it with me.  I have to offer up consequences and follow through on them.

I see the paper and I think if she remembered it in her time.  I wonder if she thought that a simple letter from an admissions department set up the rest of her life – a life that was far too short.

I wonder if she remembered what brought us to here.  I was sad about where things were . . . until things like that letter come up . . . until I remember that she was mine.  It’s not something I can change, and I’m not sure if I could if I wanted to.