I have to admit it, there has been an overwhelming amount of support and an outpouring of thoughts for me and my four children after we approached and now passed the anniversary day. I give it only that title because, quite frankly, it’s the day I both gained and lost my wife. Not sure how often that happens, but I am fairly certain the odds are pretty astronomical. If I had bought a lottery ticket that day I might have had better odds.
Yesterday was as I’d assumed it would be: lots of anticipation and worry for a day that came and went. There were obvious signs that it was weighing on us. Hannah slapped her brother in the arm hard enough to make a mark and only said “I don’t know why” when I burst into the room in a fit of parental rage. She lost her game boy and sat in her Grandma’s office for awhile until she could stop it. This coming after she’d spent the entire day at the county museum helping one of the women there she’d befriended and become pen pals with.
Abbi, my oldest, spent the day in bursts of isolation, in her room, playing a drawing game and words with friends on her phone. Ever connected through this interweb to the people more than a thousand miles away.
Which brings me to another point. I can only imagine how hard this might have been at home. Surrounded by Andrea’s family, friends, acquaintances, all of them her friends and life. We’ve made a life in California that is ours, sure, but the move to California, to be close to family, job, all of that was so that we could make life easier for all of us to get established and make our lives together. We did that, but my anticipation, which may have been worse than reality, told me we’d get inundated with phone calls, visits, all of it yesterday. Beside that, the people who helped us get through all of our trials and tribulations were my folks, who live several states away. As it is, the day came and went, the kids seemingly OK with it all. They did not dwell on things, they had helped make the video, and in a way I think that was cathartic enough for them.
For me, I had several days with my folks and younger brother. His trio came out and I sat in, making it a quartet, and we played into the late night banging out “Dear Mister Fantasy”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, even obscure jams like “Do What You Like” as well as nearly 3/4 of our first album, “The Blind Leading the Blind”, which they play as a trio. You may work out, go for a run, beat on a punching bag, what have you. Nothing is better for me than this. I played Adam’s guitars, breaking a string on his black Clapton Strat; punching the air with the speaker cabinet ringing out his Les Paul Special; and ended the night with his ’73 Stratocaster. I was sore, my fingers hurt and I was dripping in sweat, and it was the best thing in the world.
Social media helped to spread the word of our loss and the tribute to our beloved Andrea. Where in years past, though, we might have disappeared, it amazes me the draw that those applications, web pages and social interactions draw us. Abbi was connected and pummeled with well wishes and emails. We both looked at Facebook and Twitter and saw the thoughts and wishes of everyone. Unlike being at home, though, we could bask in the glow of the lives Andrea had touched and not wallow in the misery of losing her.
Like being at home, though, once the house went quiet, I was left to my own devices. Each tick of the clock moved to another moment 19 years ago. The morning, where the temperature was much like yesterday, unlikely warmth, and the snow melting. The morning with my wife and her bridesmaids, still in our apartment when they should be at the church, hung over from whatever debauchery they’d managed the night before. The early afternoon, with my brother, best man, leaning over right before Andrea entered the row of pews and whispering “it’s not too late if you want to make a break for it” and grinning behind his mustache. My father, as Andrea got halfway down the aisle, making me smile so much my cheeks hurt leaning in and saying “son, as of this point, you will have no opinion” and giggling.
As the house was empty and everyone in bed, I sat looking at the clock and realizing we’d have been leaving the reception and heading up to the Red Lion hotel and our room, which cost literally the last pennies I had. I sat and realized I was more like the year ago than 19. One year ago, at that very moment, I sat on the couch, alone, unable to sleep, staring at the wall and unable to fathom what comes next. I was awake for 72 straight hours. I couldn’t sleep. I watched every single episode of HBO’s “The Wire”.
I stayed up until this morning, around 2:30am, but that’s all I did. Unlike 365 days before, I knew what was coming. That’s the advantage, I suppose, of marking this day. The fact that it isn’t just a hard day to mark, the day we lost the bright star of our home. It’s also the mark of success for us, if you can believe that. We made it one year. Second by second, minute by minute, then day by day, we got here. We’re still looking at things each day as it comes, but it starts over. We made it through the boys’ birthdays first. My and Hannah’s birthday; The fourth of July, our favorite holiday; Andrea’s birthday, Halloween, Abbi’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas . . . all of it on our own, my decisions guiding us.
We made it . . . sort of. Sure, we had help, but that’s the new part of our lives. We made it because of that help – something I’d have been loathe to ask for a year ago. Now, I know what it is to do this. It won’t make this day any easier when we reach it 364 from now, it still marks the best and worst day of my life. But now I know I’ve gotten through it, I can do it again.