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Thankfulness

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Thankfulness

We used to do this thing over Thanksgiving that made all the kids groan and me roll my eyes and it was totally something that we did to make their mother happy.  We went around the table and told everyone what we’re thankful for.  It sounds callous, but one of the things we were probably thankful for that first Thanksgiving alone was the fact that we didn’t have to do this any more.

The funny thing about that is we actually have things to say and reasons to be thankful . . . more than the atypical “I’m thankful for my toys and my family and my house and . . . ” that used to come out of our mouths before.

So why didn’t I re-instigate the tradition? Well…part of me realized I just didn’t need to.  My kids, in particular, tell me all the time the things they are thankful to have.

When I make a particularly difficult dinner . . . or a simple dinner . . . the kids all say “thank you, Dad!” and it’s not just the automatic, kid in a classroom “good morning mister Manoucheri” kind of thing.  They say it with actual feeling.  (They could just be good actors, too, but tell me if that’s the case.)  When they get a gift it is really a gift, they know that either we have saved up for that or that there was some money we had and I chose to use it on them.  They don’t see that as a privilege they see it as a plus.

So what are we so thankful about?  The world moves around its axis at roughly 1040 miles per hour.  That is about the speed of life, too, I think.  We could easily forget how we got where we are moving so fast, with technology, cars, work, school, everything around us.  With all that swirling around we should be caught up in the maelstrom that is life, right?

Yet we enjoy things and manage to ride out the rotation.

IMG_5837Maybe you go pick up a Christmas tree with no reason behind it whatsover.  Maybe it’s at a lot and maybe it’s a tradition . . . and we have a tradition going to the same place every year.  But there are great things to see in that.  The owner of IMG_5838the place walked up to us after I stopped and snapped these photos of them cutting down the tree all by themselves.  “You have been here the last few years,” he told me.  “When you get all your business in 60 days you remember the loyal customers!” They take care of us so we do the same.  It costs a little more . . . but we got to play in the snow, have hot chocolate, cut the tree, they tie it all down, and it is an experience for all of us.

We had dinner with family, something we’ve done too little of this year, so we appreciated it all the more on Thanksgiving.  My oldest was home from college and we got to have the evening with her, a now 21-year-old adult enjoying a beer with her old man.  A little surreal, but the enormity of it not lost.

I am thankful for serendipity and meeting people and working and living and enjoying everything from movies at the theater to dinner to a night outside by a fire.

There are a million things to be thankful about.  Sometimes you just have to realize they are there . . . and ignore the speed at which the world is zooming by.

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Yes, We Gave Thanks

My family
My family

It seems almost strange to not post something the evening of Thanksgiving, so here I sit, my head swirling and more than a bit tired, writing.

I know there are a lot of families do the whole thing where they go around the table, inflicting on their small children (and the rest of the family) the requirement that they extol what they’re thankful for.  In reality, you usually hear “for good, and pie and my brother and sisters and . . . ” you get the point.  I know this because my mother-in-law used to do this to us every year and Abbi, Hannah, and even my wife, her daughter, used to sit with that giggling nervous laugh unsure what to say.  It was the same every year.

Don’t get me wrong, for most people this is perfectly normal, it’s a great thing, some even have amazing, philosophical, wondrous things to describe.  I’ve spoken with some people who talk about their lives and what they’ve lost and how they’re so happy and it’s like Shakespeare and Mark Twain got together and wrote an American oratory.

I’m not that guy.

So instead of inflicting that on my kids we just decided to have dinner.

This was the first year where, after losing my wife/their mother and going from a 6-person household (two girls, twin boys) to a 5-person household…my oldest was in college all Fall.  We were suddenly 4 people.  To have Abbi, my oldest daughter, back in the home was just plain happy.
“I thought it would be strange coming home after all these months like it would be uncomfortable,” she said this morning.  “It’s not, it’s just . . . ”
“Home,” I finished.  That’s right, I made the cheesy cliche’d comment.  I won’t apologize.

You have to understand . . . that’s become so much more true for all of us.  It sounds like a Hallmark card or the not-so-subtle lesson from a Lifetime movie, but the reality is wherever we are it’s home.  I woke up really early after a full night last night.  I had already cooked 3 pies . . . I made a family recipe that’s like Chex mix, too.  In the morning I made my mother’s bread dressing and seasoned and put the turkey in the roaster.  By the time Abbi and Hannah, my two girls, had awakened the house smelled like Thanksgiving.

That, you see, was my goal.

When I grew up, whether we ate at my home or my Grandma Lanone’s, the house smelled like Thanksgiving.  There was a mixture of garlic, rosemary, turkey, cinnamon, cloves, pecans, potatoes, sweet potatoes . . . just cooking.  It wasn’t the labor it was the fact that it didn’t feel like labor.  I’m sitting here, tonight, exhausted from cooking literally all day . . . and I don’t care.  Really don’t.

You see, we’re home.  Yes, we’re still, 3 Thanksgivings later, a member short of our 6, but that didn’t factor in.  Sure, Andrea, their Mom, came up during the day.  But the reality was this isn’t a day where the cooking was what is missing.  Andrea was the decorator, the staging person, the social butterfly.  Family wasn’t near – not extended family – so that wasn’t going to be necessary.

No, seeing Abbi so happy to be home, her brother Sam attached to her side all night while we watched the awful movie “The Wolverine” and her other brother, Noah, walking up and hugging her all night made me smile.  Hannah so excited she was talking so fast she was near unintelligible was enough to know how happy she was.  I was just happy to have them all under the same roof again.  Doesn’t matter where it is.

2013-11-29 07.30.19To give you an idea of my family – my own, me, four kids – when you walk into our home the thing that greets you first is our wall of crazy animation.  There’s a Charles Schulz etching that has Schroeder playing the piano while Snoopy listens – animation and music, obviously; there’s a print by an artist recommended by one of my dearest of friends by “The Black Eyed Guy” of a book called the Owl Whooo Knew; then there’s an original animation cell – one of the actual ones used to make 1/24th of a second of a cartoon on the wall.

That mishmash of stuff is our family.  Multiple interests, multiple thoughts, craziness running around in an organized chaos.

But at the end of the day, all of them are under one roof, together.  That makes it home.  That’s really what we should be Thankful for.

And I truly am.

I thought turkeys could fly . . .

As a fair warning, I’m not going to be writing anything on Thursday or Friday nights.  I have pies, stuffing and Thanksgiving to deal with so I need to focus on my kids and family.  I hope you understand.

That said, and since the season’s about to begin, I’m going to tell you a true Thanksgiving story.  Many of you won’t believe it, some might.  I need to preface this with the fact that our story pre-dates a now famous (infamous?) episode of the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati.  In that episode, in a surprise publicity stunt, the station’s general manager decided to drop live turkeys out of the back of a helicopter to disastrous results.  “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly . . . ”

I don’t know if the episode’s writer – dubbed Turkeys Away – Hugh Wilson has family in or knew people in my hometown, but the similarities to this story are eerie.  Bear in mind, I don’t remember the year but I have vague recollections of the events.  Added to that is the hilarious tale that my father tells, but only when asked of it.  It’s not a Thanksgiving tradition or anything.

When I was a kid giveaways and publicity stunts were normal things.  It wasn’t an everyday occurrence, not by any stretch of the imagination, but if you wanted to crowd of people to come to your store or restaurant or what have you a giveaway was the norm.  It never ceases to amaze me that if you cut the price of something by 50% people would still hem and haw and try to get a lower price.  But give them something free . . . even the craziest, most worthless item . . . and they come in droves.

This was the mentality of one Thanksgiving promotion at the Gibson’s store in my hometown.  If you haven’t heard of Gibson’s, and I’m sure many of you haven’t, it was a chain that existed years ago in the Midwest and parts of the Mountain zones of the country.  Think Pamida or Sears on a smaller scale.  It’s like the old Ben Franklin stores from the ’50s and ’60s.  Think of it as a medium-box store, a smaller version of Target.  My father at the time was still a pharmacist and this was years before he’d started his own separate store.  He owned and ran the pharmacy inside that Gibson’s so he was privy to the goings-on.  Not involved in the day-to-day decisions of the rest of the store, but he knew what was happening.

The giveaway was simple: come to Gibson’s parking lot at the precise time on the exact day . . . several days before Thanksgiving . . . and you will get a free turkey.  Sounds pretty simple, right?  No big deal.  Think about all the turkey giveaways you’ve seen in your lifetime.  Frozen turkeys given out and the frenzy of people in a Rugby-style scrum trying to vie for position to get the best, largest, most succulent bird of the bunch.

Except these weren’t frozen turkeys.

The manager of the store had contacted a local farmer who was raising turkeys.  Now, the local farmer sold these turkeys, as you can imagine, for a good price to people in the surrounding area.  I would venture to guess he had a reputation for raising a good bird as I can’t imagine how the store manager might have gotten his name otherwise.  Still, the reality was he was happy to have sold a large number of birds to the biggest retail store in the county.

The day of the giveaway arrived and the Gibson’s manager wasn’t particularly sure how many people would arrive for the giveaway, I’m sure, but he needn’t have worried.  This was, of course, free merchandise.  My father, in an effort to either document the events to come . . . or perhaps he just thought this would be comedy for the next several decades, was in the lot ready to take pictures as the giveaway unfolded.

The farmer arrived in the parking lot in his four-door.  The Gibson’s manager and the employees tasked with implementing the giveaway were more than a little confused as the car arrived with no sign of the turkeys.  Yet I choose to believe that in the middle of their confused questioning they could hear the muffled “gobbles” coming from the rear of the car.

It’s worth pointing out, in case the PETA folks start to furiously pick at their iPhone screens and email me that 1) this happened decades ago and it was a far different time and 2) Gibson’s no longer exists and 3) cars back then had trunks so big you could fit a side of beef inside them . . . uncut.  (sorry PETA, but it is the Midwest after all, and I loves my steaks)

The farmer opened up the trunk and there, crowded into the expansive luggage compartment were as many turkeys as he could fit.  Bear in mind, this wasn’t like a city drive.  The farm was miles out of town and over gravel, sometimes washboard roads.  So by the time the trunk was opened these turkeys were already dizzied from the drive.  Add the confusion and the fact that, really, they’re just not that smart a fowl, they were more than a little dismayed.

The number of people in the parking lot was likely far larger than they’d either hoped or even imagined.  It’s here that details, at least for me, are a bit shaky.  Maybe the large number of people involved forced the manager to think they needed distance from the burgeoning crowd.  Perhaps it was the plan all along.  Still, the decision was made at this point, that they would take the turkeys up to the roof of the store and toss them into the expanding crowd.  First-come, first served.  On the roof, I believe, were the manager and assistant-manager of the store, proud of their achievement and the success of their publicity stunt.

The two men picked up the gobbling Turkey-day fowl, and tossed them over the edge of the roof.  It wasn’t a massive space, this was what would be the second story of a normal building.  It was a one-floor, medium-box store, after all.  They waited as the turkeys flapped their wings, I imagine in my head feathers fluttering off and floating to the ground, and tossed the turkeys over the edge, waiting for the first couple people to walk away with their prizes.

Except, that’s not what happened.

It’s worth pointing our here that turkeys have wings, feathers, and as such, can spread said wings and feathers.  This is what our fine feathered friends did on this day.  But rather than landing in the waiting arms of the shuffling crowd the turkeys glided . . . yards and yards away.  Some perspective here . . . this was a rather large parking lot.  Bordering the lot, with driveways in and out, was Nebraska State Highway 20.  Highway 20 eventually turned into Main Street, but the Gibson’s store was on the East end of town and as such was in an area where the speed limit was faster and the traffic more bustling.  Those turkeys tossed over the edge spread their wings and soared over the parking lot, across Highway 20 and into the lot of the truck stop and auto dealership across the highway.  This, however, did not deter the crowd there for the free turkeys and, in the middle of near-highway speed traffic, they chased those turkeys across the highway, into the neighboring lots and . . . well let’s just say it wasn’t a good day to be a turkey.

It’s here that someone got the idea that this was becoming more than a little dangerous.  The best thing now was not, though, to end the turkey giveaway.  No, the best thing now was to clip their wings.  If they can’t fly they don’t glide and nobody (well, except maybe the turkeys eventually) will get hurt.

So clip the turkey wings they did . . . and like Les Nessman’s bane in WKRP years later . . . the turkeys plummeted to the ground.  Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever actually lifted a turkey . . . not frozen even a store turkey’s pretty heavy.  Add in the giblets and the head and feet and all the other . . . umm . . . parts that are not in the turkey when you buy it frozen and it’s even heavier!  The turkeys, to borrow from the same Les Nessman, hit like bags of wet cement.  Some were caught.  Others slammed into the hoods of cars.  Windshields.  People.  Some of the people were chasing the turkeys and clawing at each other to get the birds.  Others hid or ran because of the turkey bombs flying from the roof.

Only two pictures that I know of exist from that day.  Even those are little help.  You see, my father, taking the photos from a safe distance, was laughing so uncontrollably that the photos are nothing but blurry blobs.  Still . . . you can see the dark blob of a turkey in midair . . . one photo showing them flying.  Another showing them falling like a stone.

Eventually, the store had to pay out hundreds of dollars in body damage and windshield replacement for cars.  I have to think some people were even hurt . . . and maybe a few weren’t but claimed they were anyway.  The free turkey giveaway probably did net an uptick in sales for the store for the day . . . but then were those sales enough to offset the damage?  I don’t know and probably never will.

Years later, watching the CBS network television show WKRP in Cincinnati what seemed an innocuous program about Thanksgiving, we all laughed harder than we’d laughed before.  As Les Nessman described the turkeys coming out of the back of a helicopter we all pictured that day in the Gibson’s parking lot and thought it was the funniest thing we’d ever seen.

Then we all wondered . . . had someone in Hollywood stood in a parking lot in a small Midwestern town and think up the line: “as God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly?”

…Second Guessing Me, Every Minute.

“Life Without You” by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble

It is late, insanely late, on Thanksgiving night. I had vowed that I wouldn’t, couldn’t, post tonight, there wasn’t a reason, I’d get through the day, it would be fine, everything OK. But I just hit my same routine. I sit here in my bedroom, a “Friends” marathon seemingly on multiple channels. (Who knew that show was on long enough to have a marathon of just Thanksgiving episodes, by the way?)

My theory had been that if I held Thanksgiving at my house, cooking it, putting everything together, doing the work myself, I wouldn’t have time to think about another holiday coming and going. I wouldn’t have to face yet another signpost flying by me knowing that Andrea has left the path and headed somewhere else.

Wednesday night I headed to Target to pick up some last-minute stuff for our dinner. I had not realized that – even though I’d posted one of those past, amazing Thanksgiving memories on this blog already – the day was already weighing heavily on me. The thing is, and I know I sound like some sort of strange, mutated version of the Cake Boss meeting Martha Stuart, Andrea did the holiday right, and I mean right. Things were decorated, the table set perfectly, the china, the silver, the wine and water goblets, everything in its place and set up just so. I did the cooking, nearly every year, but she was the brain behind it all, even determining the side dishes or the desserts at times – much to my consternation when it was a chocolate-crusted bourbon pecan pie with homemade vanilla whipped cream. Yeah, she had ideas, just ideas well beyond our station. Remember this, because it’s not just important, it’s a part of our everyday lives, something that led to a lot of problems for us as well.

I saw just how little I had to make it the Thanksgiving that Andrea would have done. The table would be decorated, the house feeling like Fall even if we were in the warmest of climates. I wanted nothing more than to channel my wife, the beauty and color, the vision of the world she saw. I found a good tablecloth, the other stuff and as I cooked, up until about 1am Thursday morning, I put the table together, nervous and annoying my oldest daughter because I thought I’d done a piss-poor job of putting the table together.

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The decorations and table settings for our Thanksgiving

I wanted to create a Thanksgiving that was ours, something that the kids could think wasn’t any different than years past. I also thought that if I made dinner myself, at home, I’d have so much on my plate – pun intended – I’d have no time to think about the fact that I’m doing this all by myself. That Andrea’s not here, so there’s no way the evening can be perfect. I had her parents, which is never comfortable for me, my sister-in-law (who is amazing) and her husband, three kids and all coming over. We had a 21 pound turkey, homemade bread dressing, homemade rolls, mashed potatoes and my sister-in-law brought over green beans and sweet potatoes. By 1am, I was completely exhausted and had made 3 pies and the dressing with the fixings for the turkey made.

The dinner worked well, my food palatable, the company was good and the kids on their best behavior.

But no matter how well I did things, it wasn’t beautiful. It was nice, it was decorated, but it wasn’t perfect. That’s what my wife brought to the table: perfection.

But don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t always happy with that perfection. Let’s call it what it was, too – an obsession. Andrea had to have straight A’s or she wasn’t happy when she went to Pharmacy school. She had to be able to get the outfits or table linens she wanted or she’d find a way to get them.

Where this was problematic for me was my own fault, my own problem. I couldn’t tell Andrea “no”. My kids can tell you I have no problem saying that to them. I can tell my work if I can’t do something or “no”, I am not able to stay late, what have you. But there was something about Andrea, a thought, a feeling, whatever spell she had over me, I did whatever she wanted or found a way to make it happen if I couldn’t. She was just so amazing to me I couldn’t refuse her. When she wanted to go back to school, regardless of the massive school loans or lack of her income, I delivered newspapers at 2am, worked my day job and gigged to make ends meet, and not very well. With a new baby, a house, all of it, we needed the money but didn’t have it.

On one particular week, I had to work my day job, gigged at a local bar, unloaded my gear, then headed home, showered, went to the warehouse, loaded the car up and delivered newspapers. I got home later that morning, around 6, showered again, ate a bagel or something, drank a ton of coffee, went to my day job, worked until 6pm, got home grabbed my gear, headed to the bar, gigged, finished up and was readying to go to the papers again. My brother was worried and wanted to ride along so I wouldn’t fall asleep in the car – by this point it was hour 32 I was up – and fell asleep in the car as I delivered papers, finishing with more than 20 undelivered in my car, got home, showered, then had to go back to work again. By the time I’d finished it all up, I’d been up nearly 48 straight hours. I started to see people in driveways that weren’t really there.

Was it painfully hard? Difficult to do to the point of burning out my memory synapses and causing me to walk around in a state of near constant exhaustion? Of course. Would I do it again if Andrea was there, wanting to better herself, show she’s not stupid and become a Doctor of Pharmacy again? Yes.

My biggest fault, the one I hated the most was the fact that, even if it was for her or my own good, I couldn’t tell her “no”. The look of disappointment, the drop in her voice, the anger or sadness that might accompany it was so hard for me I had no self control when it came to her. If she wanted to get something, I tried to find a way to get it. If she wanted to go out, no matter how tired I was, I went. If I was exhausted, after delivering papers all night and gigging through to the weekend and she wanted to grab my hand and keep me up so she could lay her head on my shoulder, I’d do it. I never wanted to see her disappointed, but it was the worst thing I could have ever done.

It’s not co-dependence. I didn’t have time apart from Andrea and obsess about what she was doing and wonder when I’d see her again. I missed her, of course, a lot. I didn’t have heart palpitations worrying about when I would finally be in her company again. The reality is I loved her. It’s really that simple.

The song I add to the beginning here is particularly heartfelt. I found myself able to listen to it, though it makes my eyes well up when I hear it. The song makes me emotional, but it doesn’t have that connection to Andrea because she was never a big fan of its writer, Stevie Ray Vaughan. She couldn’t listen to that much guitar and so little vocals. She was a jazz fan but not a blues fan. Whenever I had this song on the radio in the car she never knew it was him because it was such a soulful piece. It speaks of the loss of a dear friend, the description of life with them, then life without them.

He says what happened for me:
A long look in the mirror and we come face to face
Wishin’ all the love we took for granted
Love we have today

Life without you….
All the love you passed my way
The angels have waited for so long….
Now they have their way
Take your place….

Here’s the thing, whether you’re religious or not, I called her my little angel. I felt she was like the woman in the BB King song, my sweet little angel . . . I was sure she’d made me a better man and the angels waiting for her was just such an appropriate line. It hurts to think I had an angel on my shoulder that I could touch and feel, but that’s who she was. I wasn’t ready for her to leave. It’s really true how I feel like the love we had we just took for granted. I hear this and look at the table after we’ve eaten, that song playing on the radio while I cooked earlier.

If she’s a gaseous mist, or up in heaven, on another plane, meeting the souls of the greats, I hope after she found the spirits she missed all these years she stumbled upon a tall man with massive fingers, a black hat perched on his head him why he’s there, this man with a feather standing tall from his black Hendrix-like hat. The gentle, beautiful musician who came through so many hardships only to die too young whose personality and music connected with my soul – I dream he somehow knows how much she meant to me as well. I hope he smiles at her with the Strat slung over his shoulder and tells her:

We’ve been waiting for so long . . . come take your place.

Happy Thanksgiving. Fly on, Andrea, my sweet angel. Fly on through the sky.

 

Scenes of unimportance, photos in a frame . . .

If you talk to most real estate agents, you’ll be told how much they hate family photos and mementos hanging about, on the walls, propped up on the bookshelf. I never understood how having indications that you’re comfortable enough in where you are that you’ve made this part of your family; part of your life.

I always liked a line from an old Genesis song (I know, Phil critics, but I always thought he was insanely talented and oddly poetic, Susudio aside), even though it’s a lyric in a strangely creepy song. “Scenes of unimportance, photos in a frame, things that go to make up a life.”

To anyone else who walks into our home, looks on the wall, sees the photos hanging up, there’s no indication that there’s anything different. I hung up our family photos, the pictures taken by our friend who has a business called Photographer in the Family (her link is on the top of this blog) dotted throughout the house. It’s a snapshot of our lives, a rare moment without exhaustion after the twins were born, even Andrea smiling after half her face suffered paralysis by the virus attacking her nerves.

I worry about what happens next. Every day it’s like we grow a little stronger and our memory of Andrea grows a little weaker. We’ve managed so many major events in our lives, it seems like it’s impossible that in 3 short days it will be 8 months since we lost her.

We made it through her birthday, a day that was always unnerving for me anyway, but the next big holiday, the one that Andrea did up brilliantly every year is tomorrow: Thanksgiving. I’m having the dinner at our house, cooking the turkey, making my Mom’s famous dressing, all of it. But I ache as I make all these preparations because I know it’s not going to be the same, it just can’t be. I can put out the china, I can make the food (I always did anyway, no change there) but it’s her presence, that essence of Andrea that was always so pervasive in the holiday that’s gone.

Years ago, in that little house in Omaha, we had everyone over. My family, Andrea’s, her best friend, so many people that we put all the leaves in our dining room table. So many that you couldn’t get through the dining room to the kitchen, you had to go out the front door, around to the back yard and enter the kitchen by the back door. It was a crazy, mixed-up holiday, but it was beautiful. She had the table wrapped in gold, off-white candles burning with gold bows around their holders and white flowers on the table. Abbi was tiny, sitting in a chair at the table but so small you could barely see her above the level of the wood. It was insane, cramped and perfect.

Now we have to face these holidays without her. I’ve had to face them without her. The person who helped plan all these events, that woman’s touch to those scenes of unimportance, is missing. She’s not here to make the room bright. She hasn’t been for the major events this year.

Just a couple weeks after she died, I had to celebrate the boys’ birthday. I had no idea how I’d get through that day, particularly since Andrea was always so integral, so brilliant at coming up with ideas for their birthdays. In the end, I chose to have a simple party, just our family, their cousins and Aunt coming over. I didn’t want them to have to deal with everyone acting awkward and crazy and insensitive on what was supposed to be their day. They’d only just gotten back to school after the funeral and were dealing with everyone handling them with kid gloves. Nobody knows what to do, not that I blame them, when they see someone with such a senseless loss. Perhaps the better adjective is inexplicable?

There’s simply no explanation to why something like this could happen. Andrea didn’t get someone so angry they killed her. This wasn’t a stalker; not an ex-boyfriend; no drugged out oxycontin hooked thief shooting her for narcotics. She died in a hospital of an infection. One day she was here and the next, quite literally, she was gone, leaving the 5 of us to try and figure it all out.

People don’t know what to do, we don’t fit into one of their neat, easy categories. It frustrates them that we don’t fit into the box. Andrea wasn’t murdered, so they can’t be horrified. She didn’t have cancer so they can’t pronounce their support for a cure. She didn’t jump off a bridge so they can’t discuss her personal demons. Never mind him, he’s just the guy who lost his wife. Never mind them, they just lost their mom.

He’s a single parent now. That fits. Put him in that box.

We have a family friend whom I have gotten much closer to since Andrea passed away. The reason being that she faced the same thing – she lost her husband. She’s light years ahead of where I am now, physically, emotionally, mentally even, but has been invaluable in understanding the frustration and madness. She told me something I think is the most brilliant and insightful thing I’ve ever heard.

We aren’t single parents.

Do you get why that is? Those two words: “single parent” have a completely different connotation. In today’s society it implies choice. It implies that my four children are the product of a marriage that fell apart because the husband and wife couldn’t get along and it broke apart their home. It implies that there was a choice made, a thought-out decision based on the actions of two people.

I’m not a single parent. I didn’t choose this. I certainly didn’t want it. We may have had our problems, the valleys to our hills in the path of our lives, but at no point were we on the verge of divorce. I spent every waking moment they would allow in that hospital. I took care of her when she was sick. I clenched my teeth when she would get upset for what I thought were pointless reasons. I failed her on nearly every birthday. But I never thought about leaving her.

No, I’m not a single parent. I’m their Dad. I’m their parent. Out of the box.

What I worry about now isn’t planning the events or even making them happen. I can get a birthday party to happen. I can cook Thanksgiving dinner, maybe even decorate the table and make a nice presentation. No, I’m not worried about the event itself, I’m worried about what getting through that event or holiday means. I’ve told you before that I loved the Fall with Andrea. Each event, particularly Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas, prove not only that we can do this without her, it shows that we can. I have to do it, but I absolutely hate it.

We have these holidays because they’re supposed to be our family, but our family’s different now.

No longer do I look up and see those pictures and see them as scenes of unimportance. They’re not just photos in a frame – but they are the things that go to make up a life. Our life. It’s a snapshot of so much promise, so much foresight and anticipation.

We think of these things and those times and realize that the life we were seeing in those moments is not the life we’re living now. We keep those photos in the frames to remind us of how wonderful it was when she was around.

I can only hope that someday we can add to them, putting other pictures on the wall, the scenes of a different life.

I can only hope that we can have that anticipation again without the kids feeling like they are just so many scenes of unimportance.

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One of those NEW scenes of unimportance

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