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Jam Sessions and Chocolate

Our Little Jam Session

Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes from the LP 90125

I had made my way home, a little sore from the accident yesterday and trying to get the energy to buck up for the routine today.  I had the kids all home, the kitchen was still a mess, and the laundry almost manageable for the first time in over a week.  (Doesn’t mean they put the laundry away, it just means that it’s clean)

We were all tired, all grumpy, and it was just a hard couple weeks.

Everything about this last week has pulled us backwards, but none of us can quite put a finger on why.  I know when I write here it must seem like I’m in constant pain, emotional turmoil and just wallowing in every detail of the past never thinking of the future.  (Get the song tie-in yet?  Do You?)  You have to understand, I write here in the dark of night, sometimes in the empty living room with the television on, sometimes in my bedroom with the sounds of my daughter snoring in the next room starting to lull me into an exhausted sleep.  It is when the forward motion of the day starts to slow that the pull of the past starts to draw me in.  While there is so much talk about dating again or moving forward or starting over what most people neglect to remember is that I’ve spent more of my life with Andrea than I did without her.  That’s an odd statistic to fathom, knowing that more than half your life you’ve spent with someone else by your side, there, constant companion.  If you have that history, that timeline, why would it be easy to just “move on”?

It isn’t.

The funny thing is, our days aren’t spent wallowing and reminiscing and my drinking whole bottles of wine while looking at our wedding pictures or crying over the pinot noir.  Our days and nights are fairly mundane.  That’s almost what makes it so scary.  We don’t sit and wallow, though there are days I think we should.  I get home after the kids have gotten home, unless Abbi has a rehearsal of some sort, in which case I’m the one home and she gets home to have dinner with the rest of us.  While it seems a strange circumstance that we’ve got a new home, a new routine and a new life, we do it anyway because we have to.  Sitting and bemoaning our situation doesn’t change our situation, it just makes it worse.

There are glimmers.  The kids watched “Once Upon a Time” with me on the TV last night (God love our DVR) and the whole episode centered around pain and a broken heart.  Noah made a comment about me, the other kids looked over at me, the subject sensitive, all of it just danced around a little bit.  None of us really wants to be sad, we want to be OK with things as they are.  We want to enjoy things.  It’s hard, though, not to feel guilty about having fun and enjoying ourselves knowing that she’s not here to enjoy it with us.

But I have two cures for everything in our house: jam sessions and chocolate.

Yes, my friends, those two things hold the key to all happiness.  Don’t get me wrong, the kids all have their individual ideals.  Sam can’t play an instrument, but he sings.  Abbi wants to play, but after decapitating my hollowbodied Dot ES335 some time ago she is loathe to touch any of my guitars.

So imagine my surprise when Hannah asked, after I picked up my guitar with its new pickups (still waiting on that endorsement deal, Lindy Fralin.  Money?  Endorsement?  Hell, new pickups??!!  I’ll take a couple Pure PAF”s for my other Esprit!) why you’d ever tune the guitar differently.  I tuned to a “G” chord, played some slide (Walkin’ Blues, Muddy Waters, great staple); played  “Come and Go Blues” by the Allman Brothers Band.  I tuned to a “drop D” and played  Just a Little Bit by T-Bone Walker and started to strum the harmonics to a song I’d written Andrea when I started dating her.

Soon after, I looked up and Hannah had her guitar and wanted to show me a lick.  Noah had grabbed his and wanted to know if I could “teach him some jazz or blues?” and Sam and Abbi were singing.  I showed a D7 to Hannah and showed her that by moving that same fingering up and muting one string, you could play “Soul Man” by Sam and Dave.  Abbi sang, we played, Noah strummed.  I taught Hannah her first Bar Chord.

The routine was interrupted, but we went on anyway.  I asked Abbi if she remembered a song I’d played years ago, one she loved, and she started hollering out “ain’t nothin’ in the world that a T-Bone Shuffle can’t cure!”  (Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland, T-Bone Shuffle )

Then routine started again.  We went up, read half a chapter, tucked in, and I came downstairs.  I looked in the bare cupboard and realized we needed something different.  The routine was changed, so breakfast, just for a day, would too.

So I looked up a recipe and made chocolate waffles.  The smell wafted through the house and up the stairs.  I cooled them, packed them in the freezer, and readied the plates full so that the kids could have them tomorrow.  Whipped cream, bananas, and chocolate waffles, something I’d never made before and new memories.

So you see, we are making new memories.  It’s not just some random set of circumstances.  We’re not wallowing in self-pity.  We, sometimes, are simply stuck in routine.  So what do we do about it?

There’s nothing that a good jam session and chocolate can’t cure.  That, and once in awhile, a T-Bone shuffle.

The little things make all the difference

Just a Little Bit by T-Bone Walker

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The Christmas play with all 3 little ones in the crowd

I got an email yesterday from someone who made me think a little bit about how much we miss Andrea. The question was whether I knew what I had until it was gone. I, being the middle-of-the-road-neutral journalist basically waffled and said what really is the truth: yes and no.

I think if you read the entries up to this point, I make very clear that I wouldn’t be where I am without Andrea. I know, without question, that I was so very fortunate to have had this amazing, wonderful woman in my life. When I met her she was this brilliant, blazing woman who was so attractive and so amazing and she ended up with me. Without a doubt in my mind, I got the better end of that deal. In a sea of men who were more attractive, more confident, stronger and nicer she still waded through them all and picked me. She plucked me out of my own mediocrity and helped me to see that there was so much more out there and I could be part of it.

But the little things . . . the pieces of her that permeate the cells of our daily lives . . . those are the things I miss. Did I realize at the time that her choices of decorations and design of our home and the clothes that she helped me pick out were things that made my life better? Absolutely. Did I thank her for them? Probably not near enough, but there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t let her know that I was a better man for having met her. I may regret a lot of things, but I know that I wasn’t going to let her think I wasn’t grateful for where I am now.

But I also know there are things that she just took care of. There are things that are simply beyond the comprehension of a guy to know.

Last night was the kids’ Christmas play. On a good day I’m behind the 8-ball, during Christmas it’s like I have scratched on every shot. I don’t have all the presents wrapped. I don’t have the house cleaned up. The laundry is piling up. The boys and Hannah went through huge growth spurts and their clothes simply don’t fit. I had to run to Target and buy clothes for all of them. For the boys that’s not a problem. A white dress shirt, pair of pants, maybe some socks and shoes, but I’ve never been good with the girls. Not really.

I got the wrong sized pants for Hannah. I bought two shirts because I wasn’t sure which would look good on her. The boys I had shower, got them dressed, did their hair, they looked great.

But I have no idea how I would have managed last night without my oldest daughter. My wife always had the kids looking brilliant. Hannah would have looked like a doll out of a Christmas pageant. She would have had a beautiful dress that matched the colors the play needed and she would have had curly, amazing hair and accomplished it even while the girl screamed that she didn’t want to look so girly.

Last night I was totally at a loss. I had the boys to get ready and only Hannah’s shirt worked. Abbi drove her to Target, got pants and had her try them on, got home, helped her get dressed (and wear the clothes right as in girls’ waists are much higher than a boy’s so stop low-riding your pants!) and then braided her hair and flat ironed it so that she looked beautiful. Much like her mother, we had less than 30 minutes to get to the program so she wore what she had in her room and headed out the door. She even managed to convince Hannah to wear a little mascara so her eyelashes would stand out.

These are the things – the everyday little things that I have no idea how to do and likely never will – that I never thought about and probably never would have. She found the right clothes. She found the right presents. She just helped make sure we succeeded. Last night, but for the effort of the whole group, we would have failed, miserably. As I’ve been fond of saying before: we’re stronger together than we ever were apart. I look at Abbi doing her sister’s hair, the smile on both their faces, talking about how Mom used to pull the tangles out of their hair, or how last year she helped do this thing or that thing and I was both proud and sad.

The program was a Christmas program. It was short, the Nativity story acted out by junior-high kids who were alternately thrilled and mortified to be up there, and sung by every grade from Kindergarten up.

It was brilliant.

You’d think seeing my kids singing on the altar of the church would have been what made me emotional, thinking about how there’s one large piece of the puzzle missing. But it was actually the kindergartners and the 1st graders that did it. Understand, when we moved here, Abbi was little and Hannah was in kindergarten. In that very church, in those very pews, we watched those kids every year, hearing those same Christmas carols. When the little ones would come out Andrea would get all a-flutter and slap my leg, screaming “they’re so damn cute!” and squeeze my hand. Every year. Without fail I would roll my eyes but secretly love it. This year they came out and it wasn’t there. The crowd went “ahhhh”, and Abbi said how cute they were. A mom next to me held her husband’s hand, and I knew that these kids were here being positively brilliant and I didn’t have her here to share it with.

That’s what I miss. It’s not that “I want someone to share it with,” it’s that I want HER to share it. It was a little thing, but it’s gone. I got through Hannah, then Noah & Sam’s classes, and was melancholy. But the little ones came out, their tiny voices filling the air, and I remembered all those amazing nights, when my kids were those little voices and it made me truly happy to be a Dad. Truly happy to be married. Tonight, I only get one of those things.

So all I asked was for her to give a little bit. She gave far more. She gave me big, amazing things, life, confidence, spirit and a voice.

So back to the question. Did I realize what she gave to me, or is it “you don’t miss the water until the well runs dry”? It’s both. I was so aware, particularly in the beginning, that Andrea was brilliant and that she made everything amazing. But I miss the little things I just never gave a thought to as well – the hair, the clothes, the decorations. We did all of these things together. Did I thank her for all those tiny little things? No, not nearly enough. But we were a team. A brilliant team. She came up with ideas and I helped to implement them. We talked about everything. When she bought those clothes she told me about them. When Abbi wanted a dress for homecoming and Andrea wouldn’t budge because it was too expensive . . . I caved in and bought it anyway. We had give and take. We worked off each others’ strengths.

Better still, she gave me love. She gave me so many little things that I miss more and more every day. I didn’t want much, I just wanted a little bit. And she gave me so much more.